There is a fascinating dynamic that working from an architectural subject provides; however freely the painting material flows and however close to abstraction I go, the persuasive presence of an underlying geometry and logic seems to follow. (Martin Goold)
Visual Art has always taken inspiration from Architecture; you can find Italian frescoes, dating back as far as the 1st century BC, which mimic the marble columns of buildings. Famous artist-cum-architects include Michelangelo who, along with creating some of the most influential frescoes and sculptures in the history of Western art, also designed St Peter’s Basilica. Giovanni Battista Piranesi may be best-known for his prints of Italy, but he also worked for the Magistrato delle Acque, an organisation responsible for engineering and restoring the country’s historical buildings, and in 1766, Piranesi created a design for London’s Blackfriars Bridge.
More recent figures such as Antoni Gaudi and Le Corbusier have further highlighted the intersections between Art and Architecture; few of us could confidently separate the artistic from the architectural elements of Gaudi’s highly-decorated Sagrada Familia, or Le Corbusier’s Notre Dame du Haut. The closeness of this relationship is less surprising when we consider that the Royal Institute of British Architects only reclassified Architecture as a science in 1958, before which the subject was predominantly taught in art schools.
Mall Galleries latest Selection on Buy Art | Buy Now showcases how today’s artists are reflecting this age-old alliance. Architectural vs Abstract features artwork by celebrated artists such as the 2018 winner of the Henri Roche Award, Martin Goold; three-time winner of the Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize, Peter Clossick; 2018 FBA Futures exhibitor, Gail Seres-Woolfson, and Sarah Spencer NEAC. Spencer conceives architectural elements in painting as “a vehicle for playing with light and shadow"; "buildings filter, reflect and absorb the atmospheric light”, she says. The sunlight in Spencer's Il Convente Dei Carmine, albeit unseen, is a central presence in the work. Another artist interested in renaissance architecture is Diana Sheldon: “I love classical architectural detail and painting buildings from an unusual perspective", she says, "especially in Italy, where you find a special contrast of light and shade which is particularly rewarding”.
While many of our artists create faithful representations of architectural structures, others use architecture as a springboard into abstraction. Gail Seres-Woolfon became fascinated with the urban landscape while training at The Art Academy in London. Her works in this selection, Urban Suspension and Girl Walking, explore how the individual creates and interacts with the metropolis. Urban Suspension deconstructs urbanism, presenting a chaotic assemblage of abstracted materials, where emerging shapes suggest the potential for future order, design and construction.
My paintings explore the experience of moving through the city and the rhythms, space and architecture around me. Through a process of layering and abstraction, observation and reimagining, I build environments with colliding planes, illusory depth and dancing lines, alive with uprights, angles and the possibility of encounter. (Gail Seres-Woolfson)
Dan Rice famously claimed that ‘there are three forms of visual art: painting is art to look at, sculpture is art you walk around, and architecture is art you can walk through’. Girl Walking ironises this simplistic distinction; it is a 2D urban scene which reaches towards three-dimensionality, in which a female figure seems about to walk out of the composition. The artist compels us to consider whether architecture can be defined by its functionality: the experiencer's ability to 'walk through' it. Would the work be any less architectural if the ‘girl walking’ walked out of view? Even in its title, Girl Walking foregrounds this tension between viewer and experiencer, spectacle and environment, artistic and architectural design.
This is a fascinating idea to reflect upon, and one for which Mall Galleries Buy Art | Buy Now is ideally placed, having access to such a diverse range of artistic styles and subjects. Take a turn through Architectural vs Abstract and consider how each artist presents a subtly different dynamic between the individual, art and architecture, as they invite you to imaginatively look at, walk around, and walk through their constructions.