Justin Andrews, The Dissident, 2012
Acrylic on linen
122.5 x 91.5 cm
June 26 – July 21, 2012
Beyond the Black Square
The documentation of Kasimir Malevich’s solo exhibition 0:10, The Last Futurist Exhibition of Pictures in Petrograd, 1915, yielded one of Modernisms iconic images. The black and white photograph shows twenty-one square and rectangular paintings of varying size, hanging on adjacent walls. A chair sits at the base of the right-hand wall, giving an indication of scale. At the top corner of the room, hung so as to form
a triangle against the room’s top corner, is Malevich’s Black Square (1915).
In his essay The Persistence of Abstraction, Bob Nickas comments on this installation and states that:
[It] not only gave Black Square a far greater authority but also left the distinct impression that it was the source from which all other paintings in the room emerged and by which they were held in place, a “black hole” exerting an intense gravitational pull.(1)
For Justin Andrews, the process of creating a new series of paintings has given him much time to consider the concept of black holes, the idea of Malevich’s Black Square-as-black hole, and his experience of the painting process and his relationship to an art historical lineage. In creating the works in Projector, Justin Andrews began as he has his previous series: by projecting fragmentary shapes onto a canvas to form an initial composition. Andrews digitally manipulated the resulting arrangements in previous works, but this time he has opted to build up the painting empirically, and by hand. The layers closer to the surface of the painting are somewhat translucent, revealing the layers below and the material qualities and evidence of the application of the paint — such as stray flecks — remain.
The result is more organic, but also exaggerates the illusion that the shapes describe a 3-D object that has been packed into a flat surface. This density of visual form can be related to the conditions required to create a black hole in the theory of general relativity too: the compacting of matter to the degree that it deforms spacetime.
A black hole, Andrews explains, is a region of spacetime from which nothing can escape, not even light (and hence the blackness). From a certain angle, each shape in Andrews’ paintings seem to be edging inevitably towards a corner, pulled by an invisible force. This brings to mind the concept of the event horizon — the ‘point of no return’ — at which the gravitational pull becomes so great as to make escape impossible, like water into a drain. In cosmology, at the centre of the black hole is produced something irreducible, an indivisible remainder.
Black holes are such exotic entities that they seem to gesture towards other ideas. One was put forward by the mathematician Roy Kerr in 1963, who suggested a way that black holes might be formed without a singularity at their cores, and if so, being enveloped by one would not result in being compressed into a single irreducible point, but might result in being transferred to the other side into a different time or even universe, through a ‘white hole’(2) — the reverse or other side of a black hole, which projects matter rather than drawing it in. As non-objective paintings created since Malevich’s Black Square, this is perhaps where Andrews’ works reside. They are at once something in themselves that are not answerable to questions of narrative or representation, but can also gesture freely towards many ideas, theories, and truths in the world beyond.
–Anusha Kenny, April 2012
(1) Bob Nickas, Painting Abstraction: New Elements in Abstract Painting (Phaidon Press, New York, 2009) p 5.
(2) A. C. Grayling, Ideas that Matter (Phoenix, New York, 2010) p 58.