(selected by Judith King)
'Hints of the surrounding geography of the Lake District vegetation, a mountain-top, and the roof of a cottage are evident in several of the new paintings. The effects of climate and the elements also have a strong influence within Sturgis abstract compositions, and there is an emphasis on the importance of natural light. The mist and fog of the winter lakeside have restrained his palette in these new paintings: they are more subdued tonally than in his previous work, such as 'Special To You' (1999), painted in Italy.' (1)
Judith King writes, 'Daniel Sturgis' paintings seem effortless; beautiful in their execution they resemble kaleidoscopic patterns of flowers, explosions, microscopic cells, a flattened audience. Yet these seemingly benign landscapes of pleasure hide mutations and discord'.
Crafted in flat acrylic paint, the paintings are made from a vocabulary of elegant and eccentric pre-designed shapes and colours, sequences of layered planes and repeated shapes 'that move between opticality, geometry and realism.' There is a performative element to the paintings, 'similar to viewing a moving image, as there is a certain disruption as the eye glances across Sturgis disquieting surfaces, which act as metaphors for a continuing series of events a syntax of visuality and interpretation.' (2)
In Abstract Logic, published to accompany Sturgis' recent solo show at the Wordsworth Trust, the Lake District, Kathy Kubicki writes: 'Sturgis explores abstraction in a very contemporary way, but resists the purely processed-based methods of other painters of his generation who are more easily slotted into the tradition of modernism and abstraction. Within Sturgis' work there is also a realisation that art does not mean that a complete abandonment of the object must take place; instead, it exchanges one set of objects for another and examines them in a different way, exploring the ways of being the - ontological structures - of the objective world. ... The painting acts as a window to a realm where art lives and content occurs.
[The paintings] intelligently celebrate the utopia of modernism and the constant oscillations and interferences of the post-modern world. A hard-edged rendition of memory, but one that isn't straightforward, Sturgis' paintings live on the edge of reality. Meaning occurs in the spatial relationships between shapes and coloured areas of canvas; there is also an air of optimism here. All this corresponds with a commitment to painting and its continuing possibilities'. (3)
Disruption, Repetition, Pleasure
Sturgis is interested in the relationship between decoration, narrative and abstraction, examining the ways in which different responses or interpretations can be provoked the desire to project into the two-dimensional image:
There are elements within my paintings that use both narrative and decoration. You may think when you look at the paintings that they are just decorative. There is a question of where decoration ends and abstraction begins. Thats interesting, if you can make a painting that is about decoration without purely becoming a decoration. (4)
Furthermore, commenting on the 'openness' of the paintings, Terry R Myer writes, 'I'm convinced that Sturgis has the art historical backbone to support the leaps of formal, spatial and representational faith that his work performs. He has thought a lot about not only the manner in which the language of abstraction has moved (just another time, it could be argued) from the exclusive realm of high modernism to the more inclusive space of design.
Fully contributing to the current discourse in which abstraction can itself be understood as a subcategory of representation, the goal of Sturgis' paintings is that they remain fundamentally open, even accommodating, when it comes to a viewer's interpretations. Or, as he put it to me, 'the use of repeated motifs helps the work be open by sometimes alluding to representation - and sometimes not- as well as being in principle simple and thus allowing in the mind of the viewer at least an active role in mental re-ordering or correcting. The illusion to repetition and order is of course only that of an illusion and difference is always present'.' (5)
During a lecture given in 2004, Sturgis led his audience through a mapping of art historical viewpoints, encompassing Whistler, Mannerism and the late Baroque, Barnett Newman, and Philip Guston, before arriving at his own paintings which he showed to the accompaniment of Michael Nyman's score from the Peter Greenaway film 'Z and Two Noughts' (1985). Sturgis explains,
'There are aspects within Michael Nyman's piece with which I am comfortable when showing it alongside my work. Its to do with endless repetition; it slightly changes, its harmonious yet seems quite discordant at times. It borders on something being pleasurable yet not pleasurable. When I first saw the exhibition that included this music, I enjoyed it being the wrong thing to do. (6)
In his discussion of narrative and abstraction, 'Sturgis drew on Susan Sontag's definitions of 'camp' as a strategic model, in the sense that campness presents one kind of narrative, but under the guise of another, taking up an exhausted vocabulary from one style or era and then re-presenting it in a way that provokes a discrepancy between style and content, disturbing the normative patterns of visual consumption.
He emphasised the importance of the seduction of images, and raised the question of what might occur once one-as-viewer succumbs. The talk ended with a scene from Jaques Tati's film, 'Playtime', in which normal everyday patterns of behaviour and circulation suddenly operate in a different mode, subject to disruption, irregularities, and - on the part of the viewer at least - pleasure.' (5)
Daniel Sturgis (b. 1966) graduated from Goldsmiths College (MA, 1994) and has shown widely in Europe, with solo exhibitions in London, Athens, Stuttgart, Amsterdam, and Rome, and most recently at the Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere, Cumbria (2005).
His paintings have been included in notable survey shows in public institutions such as Perfidy - surviving modernism (Kettles Yard, Cambridge, 2000); Complementary Studies: Recent Abstract Painting (Harris Museum, Preston, 2001); Painting as a Foreign Language (Sao Paolo Biennale, 2002); About Painting (Galerie Hollenbach, Stuttgart, 2004). His work is included in major public and private collections such as the Government Art Collection and the Saatchi Collection.
Sturgis, who is based in London, has a forthcoming solo exhibition at Galerie Hollenbach, Stuttgart in 2006. He is represented by Apartment, Athens and Galerie Hollenbach, Stuttgart, Germany.
1. Kathy Kubicki, 'Painting, abstraction and representation in the work of Daniel Sturgis', Abstract Logic, Grasmere: The Wordsworth Trust, 2005, p. 10
2. Kubicki, p. 10
3. Kubicki, pp. 9-10
4. Daniel Sturgis, interview with Sharon Kivland and Lesley Sanderson (Eds.), Transmission Speaking and Listening, Sheffield: Sheffield Hallam University, 2004
5. Terry R Myers, 'Divided We Unite: The Paintings of Daniel Sturgis', Terry R. Myers New York: Cynthia Broan Gallery, 2005
6. Sturgis, Kivland and Sanderson
7. Sturgis, Kivland and Sanderson
Abstract Logic, Sturgis' most recent body of work, was inspired by the Lake District, and Romantic connections between landscape, abstraction and the sublime. The paintings were made over the autumn... read on