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15 July - 15 July 2024

Press Release

Peter Adsett’s work engages in a direct dialogue with the language of Modernist abstraction. Taking as a starting point the perfect geometry of the square canvas stretcher, each of his works in sympathy letters aims to break the confines of this nominal frame. Adsett’s use of black is critical to this undertaking. Constructed from layer upon layer of deep, muddy green, his ‘black’, in effect, misbehaves according to the rules of painting that determine it will always recede, thereby undermining the conventions used to construct a representational image.
There are no images in Adsett’s works, only paint. There are no edges either: the near-black sections are impossible to pin down, visually warping and convulsing at the points where blocks of paint meet. In fact, Adsett treats paint as a material – rather than colour or tone – calling to our attention the specific qualities by which different materials affect our bodily engagement with a work.
Adsett begins this process by applying cloying layers of acrylic wash that suffocate the ground of the work such that surface and material are constantly collapsed in upon themselves – not assimilated into a single entity, but rather caught in an antagonistic space of negotiation. Viewers of Adsett’s works are likewise lured into this volatile realm in which the unfolding of the work becomes an active dialogue. In seeking out implicit information by which to decode the work (as one would an image), the viewer is insistently challenged to locate any such concrete parameters: edge, colour, tone, shape, surface are always compromised.
Adsett positions our constant recourse to this slippage as a kind of mourning for the loss of that which is given or explicable. In attempting to read the images – a process fraught with impossibilities – the viewers’ negotiation becomes part of the temporal, performative operation of the works. In effect Adsett’s paintings challenge the protocols by which we have come to understand the medium. Dichotomies like black/white, material/representation, and figure/ground are all targets in his interrogation of how paintings function. However, it is in the interstices between oppositional categories that Adsett’s practice resides.