Open Frequency 2009: Alex Charrington selected by Paul Stone
Alex Charrington, Untitled Compass Drawing (IV), 2008. 32 x 32 cm. Watercolour on paper
Artist and curator Paul Stone profiles the work of artist Alex Charrington
Alex Charrington’s meticulous paintings and drawings are made using his ‘painting machines’. Process based in the truest sense, his relationship with his materials – he mixes his own pigments – and the method of their application is integral to his work and not just a means to an end.
Despite their mechanical origins, the starting point for many of his works stems from an art historical perspective – for example, ‘Untitled at 6RPM’ (2006) is part of a series of works that draw their inspiration from Renaissance panel painting, with all its associations of ceremony and ritual. Using a mechanical turntable, Charrington applies multiple layers of paint to a gesso ground to build up the final image. The labour intensive manipulation of these materials produces rhythmic structures that gently resonate within the resultant simple geometric abstractions.
For the series ‘Yellow, Red and Blue in x, y, z’ (2007) Charrington worked with a robotics engineer to use a programmable ‘industrial manipulator’ that takes the pre-programmed coordinates from Cartesian space and transcribes them through paint onto a revolving canvas, overlaying the mechanical dialogue produced by the two contraptions.
The relationship between Charrington’s work and those of Op/Pop Art is undeniable. Yet whilst acknowledging a debt to these historical predecessors, his work can be seen to go one step further, making the leap from a hand-rendered to a machine-based creative process, though all the time conceding that behind the programming lies the influence – and aesthetic choices – of a distinctly human and individual mind. Likewise, there is nothing sterile in the reception of the work by the viewer – the work’s precision does not exclude a purely visceral immersion in the pleasures of mark making, colour and texture. Dense and shimmering, the surfaces of the works draw you in and transcend the technicalities of their construction.
Paul Stone, 2009
Alex Charrington (b. 1981, London) studied at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne (2001-2005). Recent solo exhibitions include New Adventures in Robotic Watercolour Painting, Globe Hub, North Shields (2008) and New Paintings, Xsite Architecture, Newcastle upon Tyne (2006). Selected group exhibitions include Draw Line Follow It, Allenheads Centre for Contemporary Art, Allenheads (2008), The Opposite of Vertigo (curated by Locus+), The Drawing Room, London (2007), and You Shall Know Our Velocity, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead (2006).
Alex Charrington is based in Newcastle upon Tyne.
About Paul Stone
Paul Stone has been based in Newcastle upon Tyne since 1986, moving to the city to study Fine Art at Northumbria University, both on the BA and MA courses. Having exhibited as an artist since 1990, he curated his first exhibition at Newcastle’s (now defunct) Zone photographic gallery in 1993. His involvement in other projects includes time as a Co-Director and Curator of Waygood Gallery and Studios, Newcastle (1997-2001), Newcastle Curator for the LMN (Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle), a cross-regional project consisting of exhibitions in each of the three cities (2000), Curatorial Advisor to HART, Hull (2001), co-curator and organiser of Vane Export (Stockholm, 1999) and Outlanders (Newcastle, 2001) for BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, as part of their B4B pre-opening programme. He was awarded a Crafts Council Spark Plug Award for curatorial research in 2009 and is also an Editorial Production Assistant for a-n The Artists Information Company
Stone has been involved with Vane since the organisation’s foundation in 1997. There are three phases to the history of Vane’s activities. The first consisted of four large-scale annual events acting as an umbrella for a number of diverse exhibitions across the city of Newcastle and the surrounding region (1997-2000). The second was a series of curated exhibitions, often involving working with invited national and international partner curators or galleries (2002-03). Having staged the majority of exhibitions and events up until this point in temporary venues, the third phase was the opening of a permanent gallery space in Newcastle city centre in July 2005. The gallery presents around six exhibitions a year and participates in a number of international art fairs.
Open Frequency keeps you in touch with new developments in contemporary art practice from across the UK. The artists are selected and profiled by leading curators, artists and writers, presenting the work of artists to watch out for over the coming year. Open Frequency represents a forward-looking glance today of the artists who will be setting the agenda tomorrow.