‘Oceans and Other Paintings’, Stephen Lacey Gallery, London 1999

 

The title of the Harmonic Constant series derives from the term used by oceanographers for the sets of co-ordinated measurements that are used to predict tides and, refers also, of course to the measured intervals that constrain the deployment of the triads of colour/tone up and down the paintings.Their severely vertical format relates them to the earlier Totem paintings, which work by means of similar, but less complicated visual strategies and to the more recent Chromatic series whose ordering device is slightly more complicated. In each case the optical effects are achieved by a fairly loosely applied mathematical rhythm, a programme more intuitive in its origins, however, than systematic. Subtle distinctions of saturation of hue and density of colour ensure that as the eye plays up and down the columns it encounters differing intensities of optical pressure.The perceptual outcome is of a soft and subtle radiance that is unique to Gammon s painting and justifies his ambition:’I try to make my paint like light.’These paintings have great decorative charge they bring to the spaces they enter energetic light and colour. Like the Ocean paintings they proclaim their, objectiveness (their unorthodox formats emphasise this aspect of their presence) but only to intensify their expressive ‘vital import’ the power of the image that they carry to the eye. They seem to absorb light in order to regenerate it as intense colour, as layered atmospherics create beautiful sunsets. This is one response; there may be any number of others: these are not paintings of specific things in nature, but signs, like a score for its harmonies. ‘Impressed by the vastness of Nature’ wrote Mondrian, in the sentence that followed that above, ‘l was trying to express its expansion, rest and unity.’ That is what art is for:


‘It was her voice that made
The sky acutest at its vanishing ...
And when she sang, the sea
Whatever self it had, became the self
That was her song, for she was the maker’

Mel Gooding, London, December 1998

Mel Gooding, © 1998

Notes and references
The epigraph is from Stravinsky’s ‘Poetics of Music’, (Harvard, 1942) chapter 3; the later quotation is from, Chapter 2. All quotations from Nick Gammon are from a personal communication with the present writer. Elizabeth Bishop’s Sandpiper begins: ‘The roaring alongside he takes for granted/and that every so often the world is bound to shake.’ The Idea Of Order at Key West is from Wallace Stevens, ‘Collected Poems’ (Faber and Faber, London,1955); all subsequent poetic quotations are from this great poem. John Milner is quoted from:’Mondrian’ (Phaidon, London,1992) The term ‘vital import’ is from Suzanne Langers’ Problems of Art’ (Routledge and Kegan Paul, London 1957) chapter 5:’ ... “vital” because it is always some mode of feeling, sense, emotion, consciousness that is conveyed by a successful work of art; “import”, because it is conveyed. Vital import is the element of felt life objectified in the work...’

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