Grouping these four artists together under the heading of 'Drawing Rehearsals' is to construe the work as functioning, “in the same open ended manner as working drawings”. This is explained in the introduction to the exhibition, and is qualified by their various outcomes not being predetermined, with compositions simply emerging during their processes.
Upstairs Hartley Mills seems to have found a balance between the ecstatic state of Chung and anxiety of Bushby. His is an abstraction that seems to have understood the history of Pop Art within his reinvention of the gesture as somewhat funny and cartoonesque. The title of this show is a perfect fit to the way he thinks about and frames up his art. All works are usually titled as some kind of painting trying something on, or rehearsing a look, such as Painting with Blinders, Tower Painting, Cut Painting, X Painting, Deco Painting. ‘Painting’ is also sometimes substituted for the word ‘study’, as in Curve Study with Blinders, Bazaar Study, or there is a sculptural object installed as a Drawing Study for Painting, which in this case is his eighth iteration (VIII). Sculpture as a physical drawing, in the service of painting, is a sophisticated and quirkily disruptive use of signifiers. This one made of thick plywood-batons in the shape of the letter pi, rests against the wall in an italicised lean, with dark-blue velvet wrapped around its two ‘stems.’ It is largely unpainted, except for small spots of green over the plugged and filled nail holes, orange on one square-end of the horizontal arm, and pink on the other. Small bands of paint ring the upper and lower ends of the velvet, as if standing-in for rubber bands pretending to hold it in place.
Drawing Study For Painting VIII is not the only sculptural addition to his painterly language. Two pictures, as their names suggest, sport ‘blinders’ like costume accessories. Perhaps, because of a sense of caricature I thought them reminiscent of the ears on animal onesies. Yet these are triangular and rhomboid wooden flaps nailed to the top of each of these paintings. They serve to extend the painting into space, as well as bring our attention to the sides and edges. As they are meant to do on a harnessed horse, these additions suggest containing the train of attention, maintaining focus without distraction and bearing witness to the work’s concentration. The sense of deliberation where the surfaces are marked with only what they need, and nothing more, reveals their critical emergency as painting, and their emergence, in Verwoert’s sense, of a criteria of critically contingent responses. What is impressive is the lightness of touch, despite such considered surfaces.