Open Frequency 2010: Neil Clements selected by Stacy Brodrick

Open Frequency 2010: Neil Clements selected by Stacy Brodrick Neil Clements, Built. Lacking, 2008. Neon sign, oil on canvas. 76 x 76 cm. Credit: Ruth Clark

Stacy Boldrick of the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh profiles the work of Neil Clements


Conceptual and formal references to post-war American art and culture, art history and critical theory inform the work of Neil Clements, but ultimately it is the viewer’s relation to the work that completes it – the subjective encounter in a particular context.

In 'Moat' (2009), a rectangular sheet of aluminium, overlaid by polyester resin and marble flour is placed on the floor in front of a wall. The title is a reference to a continuous low marble barrier used by the painter Ad Reinhardt to prevent the fragile surfaces of his paintings from being touched in an exhibition at Dwan Gallery, Los Angeles in 1963 (In a statement accompanying the exhibition Built Lacking, doggerfisher, 2009, Clements cites Michael Corris, Ad Reinhardt, Reaktion Books, 2008: 164) . Clements uses Reinhardt’s barrier as a starting point for a work in which he brings together layers of three different materials: one reflective, one translucent, and one almost immaterial. 'Moat' offers the viewer an encounter with a defined space between the wall and his or her body, remaking Reinhardt’s ideal position.

The history of the position of the viewer in relation to artwork is central to Clements’ practice. The concerns and formal characteristics of the work of Reinhardt and like-minded artists like Robert Barry, Larry Bell, Robert Irwin, Ellsworth Kelly and Frank Stella are also clearly present, but so is the wider context of cultural production in the 1950s and 60s, as is the context of contemporary culture. Thus the shaped canvases of '’58' (2009) and 'XV***' (2009) reference specific designs of Gibson guitars and Stella’s shaped canvases, products of the same era, to produce a ‘culturally porous’ formalism.

Clements paints in thin layers of oil on canvas, aluminium, and stainless steel to make works with an exceedingly slick surface. The combination of painted and untreated surfaces in works such as 'Orbiter' (2009), a partially painted stainless steel cube that rests on a transparent perspex pedestal, produces perceptual effects dependent on its viewing conditions. These sculptures specifically reference Larry Bell’s glass cube sculptures from the early 1960s; however, Bell was interested in ambiguity, illusionism and interior volume, whereas Clements asserts the exterior of the cube in his use of stainless steel and painted forms, redefining each surface so as to reconfigure the idea of the form as a whole.

Clements’ interest in the subjective encounter, the dynamic between the artwork and its context, is apparent in the installation of his work. Recent exhibitions have included the installation of pairings of similar looking works. 'Built.Lacking.' (2009) consists of a black sign featuring linear forms rendered in neon light, plugged in, and a painted image of identical forms (without the lead). Presentations of pairs of other works also force comparisons. This subject is the title of 'Forced Comparative' (2009), a double slide projection of two different images of cowled women, two cultural products from the same historical period, one from music, and the other, visual art. Clements’ pairings, like his practice, generate a sort of ‘thick description’: a multitude of questions and answers, the contexts for which produce a multitude of meanings (Clifford Geertz: 'Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theoy of Culture,' in The Interpretation of Culture: Selected Essays, New York: Fontana Press 1973: 3-30).

Stacy Boldrick, 2010


Artist's biography

Neil Clements (b. Northern Ireland, 1982) studied at Glasgow School of Art, where he completed a Research in Creative Practices MA. He lives and works in Glasgow. Solo exhibitions include Prop Man, Log, Bergamo (2010), XV*** at Anne Mosseri-Marlio Gallery (2009/10), Zurich and Built.Lacking. at doggerfisher, Edinburgh (2009), Revelation of Doom, Konsortium Gallery, Dusseldorf and Paranoid, Fridge Gallery, Glasgow (both 2007).

Selected group exhibitions include Warehouse of Horrors, SWG3, Glasgow, Heavy Metal Mouth, Edinburgh (both 2009); Altered States of Paint, Dundee Contemporary Arts, Neil Clements/Morag Keil/Alex Dordoy, Grimm Fine Art, Amsterdam, Claire Barclay/Sara Barker/ Sally Osborn/Jonathan Owen/ Albrecht Schäffer, doggerfisher (all 2008); Belief in Flowers, Mein Blau Gallery, Berlin (2006). Clements was selected for the New Work Scotland Programme, organised by Collective, Edinburgh, in 2005.

Neil Clements is represented by doggerfisher, Edinburgh and Grimm Fine Art, Amsterdam.


About Stacy Boldrick

Stacy Boldrick is Research and Interpretation Manager at The Fruitmarket Gallery, where she is responsible for programming talks and seminars and for writing and producing interpretative materials for exhibitions.

After completing an MA at the University of Pittsburgh and a PhD in History of Art at the University of Manchester, Stacy was Research Co-ordinator for the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, where she curated Homes for the Soul: Micro-architecture in Medieval and Contemporary Art and, with David Park and Paul Williamson, she curated Wonder: Painted Sculpture from Medieval England. From 2002 to 2007, Stacy co-ordinated research projects between institutional partners in VARIE (Visual Arts Research Institute Edinburgh) and was an occasional lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. With Richard Clay she edited Iconoclasm: Contested Objects, Contested Terms (Ashgate, 2007). Stacy is an Honorary Fellow in History of Art at the University of Edinburgh, and writes about medieval and contemporary art.

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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.