Channa Horwtiz's practice was defined by a deployment of self-imposed rules, experiments with numerical sequence and explorations of systems and line. The artist's fourth exhibition with Lisson Gallery showcases a more playful side of her rigorous practice and features a selection of drawings in ink, coloured pencil, casein and gold leaf alongside rarely-shown, large-scale acrylic on canvas paintings.
Working in obscurity for the majority of her fifty-year career, Channa Horwitz maintained a resolute and distinctive schematic language that informed each body of work and the deep inquiries from which they developed. The exhibition focuses on works from 1984–2004, a period when the artist created from an already-ingrained set of parameters determined in the twenty years prior. Horwitz's first artistic inquiry, Language Series, set the foundations of her guiding principles. The series introduced repetitive patterns and numerical groupings that were organised sequentially based on combinations of eight pictograms. In the 'Sonakinatography' works, which followed in the late 1960s, the artist used her mathematic compositions to explore ways to track movement and time within her visual philosophy. Throughout Horwitz's career, each new body of work evolved from the previous series. The resulting interrelated explorations in the years to follow yielded the 'Variations and Inversion on a Rhythm', 'Flowings,' 'Structures', 'Eight Expanded' and 'Canon' series previously exhibited at Lisson Gallery London, and the 'Canon Moiré' and 'Rhythm of Lines ll' series that are the subject of this presentation.
The 'Canon' and 'Moiré' works in the exhibition, which share a common methodology and use of systems, exhibit a clear lineage to Horwitz's first series. Around 1984 she realised that all of her work came down to eight angles of lines. Her subsequent exploration with varied dyadic combinations from her vocabulary of eight angles resulted in the 'Moirés' body of work. This led to works that balanced a new relationship between a restraining methodology and a densely patterned and vibrant surface, such as Canon Twelve, Moiré Number 2 (1985) and Moiré Matrix (1985). In these works, eight different starting points on individual angles are assigned a specific colour, a system similar to the processes in 'Sonakinatography'. New rhythmic patterns are created at every intersection creating colourful vibrations across the surface.
The Moiré pieces included in the presentation also provide a clear line forward to the Rhythm of Line II series of the 1990s. In these works, lines and squares are used to plot intersecting angles creating new patterns, colours and shapes, such as in the 1992 Moiré on Yellow and Moiré on purple with 1 & 6. The works evolve further as the viewer moves through the exhibition where more complex compositions with bold colour and heretofore uncharacteristically thicker lines are put on display. This culminates in the artist's playfully complex visuals and expansive system as exemplified by the 1993 2-5 7-4 and the 1994 2-8 1-4.
In an essay that accompanies the exhibition, Nigel Prince, Director at Artes Mundi, concludes: 'It is this weaving together and cross referencing between series of works that is so characteristic of her practice during various moments throughout her career. As such it sits in distinction to the usual superficial consideration of reductive rigidity that artworks employing systems might be expected to follow as a predictable, neat or more straightforward linear development. And yet collectively successive and progressive series demonstrate that through Horwitz' lifetime devotion to visually arresting and systematic, elaborate works, what is revealed is the freedom present through supposed constraint and the multiple levels of consciousness achieved through methodical and logical patterning'.
Press release courtesy Lisson Gallery.