Gow Langsford Gallery is honoured to present this exhibition of works by Geoff Thornley from the collection of Dame Jenny Gibbs. This is the first time these paintings have been exhibited together outside of the Gibbs’ residence and the exhibition provides collectors a unique opportunity to acquire a Thornley masterpiece with impeccable provenance.
As founding Director Gary Langsford notes: When Gow Langsford Gallery opened in 1987, Jenny and Alan Gibbs had already been collecting for a decade. Jenny became a regular visitor to the gallery, and I learned that we both shared a passion for formal abstraction and minimalism. We had many conversations around the great American minimalists such as Donald Judd, Carl Andre and Robert Ryman, among others. Jenny was particularly interested in the relationships that existed between these international artists and those artists practicing here in New Zealand.
One of the leading young New Zealand abstract painters at this time was Geoff Thornley and Jenny decided to collect Thornley's work in depth. Over the next several decades, Jenny acquired what is arguably the most significant private collection of Geoff Thornley's work anywhere in the world.
Thornley (b.1942) is a protagonist in pure abstraction in this country, having worked within the genre for over four decades. This exhibition showcases a significant time within the artist’s oeuvre, from the beginning of his geometric, mixed-media practice in 1972, through to the Constructions era from the late 1970s to 1990. As the name suggests, the Constructions period showed the artist honing his use of form and colour. In 1974 his mixed media on paper series, Albus, began an exploration of an increasingly simplified composition, allowing a newfound focus on materiality and surface quality. The resulting works had a quality of light and space that hadn’t been seen before in his work, and one that exists within his work today.
Into the 1980s, with the Construction series, Thornley shifted into using oil paint, which has become a mainstay of his practice to date. Using a monochromatic palette, the surfaces of these works almost belie the medium with his imperceptive brushstrokes. The paintings exist within the different realms of dimensionality, both a flattened conceptual surface and a tangible object of materiality. When Thornley began this series, he was greatly influenced by post-war American art practitioner Donald Judd’s 1965 text ‘Specific Objects’. This essay was fundamental for a cultural shift in art-practice at the time, towards a non-pictorial and minimalist practice.
“Thornley has commented on his feeling, about the time the Constructions began… of wanting to escape reference, allusion, and illusionistic effects altogether.” (Gus Fisher Gallery, 2007, Geoff Thornley Constructions 1978-1982 [exhibition catalogue])
This exhibition shows a period of Thornley’s work which was aggressive in its architecture. He embraced Piet Mondrian’s concepts of compositional tension, whereby each element battles with the next for autonomy. It shows how he continued to evolve through subtle shifts in structure, form, and colour, as he forever questioned his medium.
- Text by Imogen Cahill
*Please note there will be no opening event for this exhibition.