Peter Halley, Six Prisons, 2009
Acrylic, Day-Glo acrylic and Roll-a-Tex on canvas
66.5 x 84 inches
June 3-27, 2009
Waddington Galleries presents an exhibition of seven new paintings by Peter Halley. The paintings show the continued development of a select group of forms that Halley has been engaged with over the last three decades: “cells”, “conduits”, “windows” and “prisons”. Three of the paintings, “The Unseen” (2009),”Dust” (2009) and “Forever” (2009), draw on the duality of two identically sized cells, placed one above the other, connected in varying ways by conduits. Each element is defined by a single solid vibrant colour. In “Six Prisons” (2009) the cells have no connecting channels, no inflow or outflow. The refined motif of the prison is repeated six times with each prison window painted the same colour as its surrounding background. This gives the appearance of each cell existing within its own autonomous space and opens a dialogue between the individual and the serial, between the painting’s open minimal composition and its confined subject; between the flamboyant Day-Glo paint and its serene application.
Peter Halley has stated that his methodical working practice is organised on the same principles as that of an architect’s office. He begins each work by making a line drawing on the computer. After he has produced a finished drawing he starts to work with colour, using a traditional paint and brush to make a small study. Each colour component of the drawing is then noted so that the study can be translated into a larger painting. A painting such as “Dust” (2009) originates from a small drawing of several inches and is scaled up to a canvas of over six feet.
Based in New York, Halley has explored the connection between 20th Century geometric art and the structure of the modern city since the early 1980s. At that time, the ground floor of the building where he lived on 7th Street had a plain stucco façade and windows fitted with iron bars – this image would become central to his visual language. Halley stated he wanted “to make abstract geometric paintings that had a subject and the abstract square in my painting became a cell or prison, a kind of physical enclosure.” Halley’s paintings not only allude to the underlying geometry of the City, designed on a grid plan of right angled-blocks, but also echo the physical surface of municipal buildings with his use of Roll-a-Tex. As seen on the painting “Forever” (2009), Roll-a-Tex is an additive that, when mixed with paint, adds texture to fill cracks and cover flaws on walls and ceilings. Here the raised surface of textured paint contrasts with the adjacent areas of uniform flatness. It appears as a deep, rollered layer of acrylic “icing” – a contemporary, almost industrial reminiscence of Braque’s practice of mixing sand with oil paint to achieve a rich, tactile finish.