In his inaugural show with Gow Langsford, James Cousins presents a body of painting that both draws from and expands on concepts explored in his earlier practice.
Aligned with his early grid-based and recurring image works of the 1990s, Cousins recent work employs wellworn distant utopian landscape imagery, informed by the practice of Gerhard Richter, at the same time engaging with mechanistic-like process painting forging an entirely contemporary shift. At the heart of the works is a tension in the tenuous integration between the meeting of paintings material workings process and its illusional subject. Cousins’ earlier works offered a strong differentiation between the figurative, and the object, the filter or screen through which we are drawn to view the work. The new pieces introduce a more complex type of emergence: here, the abstraction and figuration are intertwined and enmeshed. Irresolvable tensions arise between the original form and the surface.
Cousins states: The grid, once submissive to horizontality and verticality, now maps multiple events; the canvas is now a site of indeterminacy brimming with possibilities whilst continuing to exercise a form of homage to late modernist practices and processes, recent work exchanges end game reductivism for other possibilities. Morphed or corrupted logic reinvent the processes inherent in earlier work with a new divergence and opulence. Cousins’ process in creating the works employs both traditional and contemporary painting technologies. It is a labour-intensive, delicate and precise working of layers of paint and vinyl. A path of paint, created by the tipped canvas, initially determines the foreground pattern of large arcs. As such, the works are to a degree, self-determining. What appears to be entirely mechanistic is instead, a more complex mapping of the surface. The vinyl employed in this process, creates an artificial skin which is later peeled away to reveal the layers of paint beneath. While passages through to the background picturesque in the works can be glimpsed, the surface patterns of fractured colour seemingly form a wrinkle in the matrix and force the viewer into a double take.
Though this process may be learned, the procedures employed at various levels fuse and begin to impose upon each other, reversing and exchanging established order. The un-learned order of the finished works create a
mysterious and contemplative effect, evocative of a once necessarily romantic sublime that in a new age has collapsed in upon itself, promised utopias are exposed as a sham, in the construction of space for other beginnings.