In unmersion, the shallow space of painting rubs up against the direct and physical intervention of sculpture. Fascinating that Tjalling de Vries, painter, should have recourse to such heavy lifting. Cleaving, raising, then placing a one-and-a-half-ton slab of concrete floor to reveal round stones beneath is quite something. Though massive, it looks drop dead elegant and feels delicate even.
Tjalling's paintings are always finely calibrated objects. The fundamentals of painting – stretcher, support and mark-making – are increasingly manipulated to allow light and form to play not only on surface, but also in the shallow space between paint skin and wall. Transparency is important. So in the Sea Mind paintings we revel in the ability to see through and beneath. Reemay, a stable durable polyester, is the ground for these smaller paintings. It admits light into the realm of stretcher and wall beneath – enabling colour from printed impressions of wood grain and corrugated cardboard to resonate quietly within. At times the wood stretchers are also coloured, which adds further luminosity.
Similar painterly concerns inform Tjalling's sculptural works. In Grave Mistake, the drama of displacement is obvious, but the feeling is of lightness and precision. The 'gestural' marks, important throughout the Sea Mind paintings, are predominantly light in tone and energise the edges from printed image to stretcher. They look of the hand, but are in fact masked and almost mechanically layered in their density. Still, they are lively and rhythmical in feel. (The mechanical aspect to Tjalling's mark-making is a constant – witness the carefully repeated drip lines in both Flood and Swamp, for example.)
Playing (in the back gallery) alongside the smaller paintings is Reicharm, a kinetic sound and light work – titled with thanks to musician Steve Reich. The clicking of car indicators synchronized with circles of light plays across the wall. The evolving rhythms, sequencing and syncopation are mesmerizing. The repetition feels both ordered and not. The visual cadence is all but musical.
Unmersion is a revelation. Hard not to be immersed in Tjalling de Vries's considered use of space, and in the ease of his ability across a range of materials and scale. This is a vocabulary of art generous in scope, but focused on the gentle and telling reveal.
Press release courtesy Jonathan Smart Gallery.