By Ear: Katy Dove and Victoria Morton
Until April 1; Tramway, Glasgow
Glasgow artists Katy Dove and Victoria Morton have never collaborated
before, but now that the Tramway has brought them together, the combination
seems blindingly obvious. While Dove is known for her gently shifting
animations, and Morton for her exuberant oil paintings, the two share
a world of innocent visual wanderings.
The scene is set in Tramways enormous gallery space, designed
in collaboration with Collective Architecture. A huge screen of transparent
black gauze cuts diagonally through the space, dividing the gallery
into light and dark without blocking the view from one to the other.
Inside each space sits a cube: one turns out to contain a darkened
cinema, the other a bright gallery space.
Dotted all around are paintings by the two artists, projections, and
free-standing canvases. Some are tucked behind others, and your journey
is not clear from the outset. Contrasting sounds waft through the
air from unidentified sources, like the chimes and pistons of a toy
factory. You meander from work to work, your own movements echoing
the floating explorations of the artists in their own unconscious
Everything is shifting, overlapping, made of light. Katy Doves
projected films, are of course, pure light. Having scanned her unassuming
little paintings into animation software, she shifts them around,
multiplying and layering them in a constantly changing ballet of light.
Mortons paintings, often intensely luminous with the use of
fluorescent pigment, are a mass of overlapping patches of colour,
always transparent, as if light is emanating from the very canvas.
A host of early Modernists come to mind; Joan Miro in Doves
linear doodles, the hesitant petal shapes painted in flat, faded,
not quite definable hues. Wassily Kandinsky in Mortons symphonies
of colour, controlled cacophonies of form and space. The Futurists
in Mortons shifting, animated half-figures, their outlines multiplied
And perhaps most significant of all, the two artists owe their treatment
of light to Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. Their work is thoroughly imbued with
it. With his Transparent paintings, Moholy aimed to produce
pictorial space from the elemental materials of optical creation,
from direct light. The overlaying of transparent shapes and
colours brought depth into Moholys flat, abstract pictures,
and added an extra dimension to his kinetic sculpture.
The exhibitions design plays a large part in this journey between
light and dark. Your experience of light is constantly fluctuating
as you move around; best of all is the presentation of Mortons
canvas, Filanda Painting, on the back wall. Surrounded by darkness,
the canvas is picked out by a precise rectangular light which seems
to come out of the painting rather than fall onto it. The painting
itself, with its hot yellows, oranges and reds, evokes the sunny colours
adopted by Paul Klee on his visit to Tunisia.
The hint of an architectural frame, and the fleeting suggestion of
elusive figures in a doorway, dont quite anchor the painting
in real space, but they do give it the quality of a dream space, floating
inside some unconscious mind.
In a brand new painting made this year, Compartments For Isis, Morton
continues this exploration of inner space. At the top of the canvas,
the rough outlines of doors and furniture can just be devined in the
mass of colour. Closer to us, a door leads into a winding corridor.
Neither space seems to have outside walls; everything is on the inside.
Between the interior spaces lies a wild stream of colour and shape,
an abstract crowd of mental noise. To the lower left is the suggestion
of a human figure, flattened by the buzz of activity, and a bleeding
mass of charcoal drips, like unfinished thoughts trailing off the
Though Mortons paintings share the elusive, meandering spirit
of Doves films, there is one overarching difference between
the two womens work. While Doves compositions are relatively
straightforward, Mortons are extremely sophisticated. Despite
the apparent all-over abstraction, in Mortons paintings you
can find a formal pictorial structure more akin to the classical logic
of Nicolas Poussin than to modern painters. Real space slips in and
out of grasp, but its shadow is always present.
While Mortons large canvases hold their own in the large Tramway
space, Doves new film, Stop It, struggles to command attention.
Projected at a cinematic scale onto the white brick wall, it should
be magnificent. But the artists films, like her paintings, are
intimate offerings, best shown in small, enclosed spaces. Then, the
slowly gliding landscape of painted shapes would hypnotise us, like
clouds scurrying across the sky.
Dove and Morton, seen for the first time side by side, have much in
common: which of course makes comparison inevitable. While Doves
drifting forms seem to emerge unpremeditated from her wandering hand,
Mortons dreamscapes are orchestrated with educated precision.
Both usher in a new kind of surrealism: gentler, calmer than the boyish
fantasies of 80 years ago.
Black, Sunday Herald 18.03.07