David Wallage, in his 'Time Lines' exhibition, continues to extend his practice with paintings that push against strict adherence to principles often employed in minimalism while retaining an aesthetic allegiance to those same concerns. Donald Judd and Agnes Martin immediately spring to mind when looking at this work, yet that implies a rigidity requiring a purely self-referential stance, Wallage deftly bypasses this through his subtle manipulations of paint, glass and stone. While Judd and Martin maintained a certain truth to materiality, ‘this is formica, this is canvas, this is acrylic paint…’ Wallage’s art leaves the viewer, instead, in a suspended state, ‘is this plastic, is this tape, is that glass?’.
The paintings in this show gradually reveal their nuanced surfaces and colour applications rather than remaining aloof - hints of landscape with greens, greys and blues are discernible with time. Car detailing, plaid fabrics, gravity, all are suggested, but despite this nod to the 'real world', the paintings are, in fact, heavily invested in mathematical considerations and measured amounts of paint and plastics. Wallage’s obsessive note-taking and test strips, which are more akin to a laboratory than a studio, (my apologies to hard-edge abstractionists), avoids indulging in thoughtless repetitive stripes or grids, instead formulating compositions by employing pigment stains as starting points.
Each stage of the process in creating these works is carefully planned and recorded in notebooks with precise calculations and purposeful application, yet each painting clearly ‘survives’ the apparently strict doctrine of his exacting technique. Slippage invariably occurs in the work, and this is one of the pleasures of looking at these paintings; not in the sense of a missed measurement or a marred surface, but the application of materials: ink, pigment, polymer, linen, frit, stone, despite heavy manipulation, do reveal themselves.
Although elusive at a distance - they read as formalist constructions, a closer viewing does not expose the expected tick marks, taped edges or scalpel cuts; instead, a background, serene in appearance, is revealed. Gentle rivulets of paint, freely applied, are gradually subsumed by the application of multiple layers of clear acrylic polymer making their appearance akin to old parchment repeatedly dipped in wax.
Horizontal bands of light - fuzzy edged denoters floating across the surface, hovering millimeters above the background, appear suspended and not necessarily tied to the whole, while acting in concert with the established pattern. Every band manages to levitate - appearing both in and above the painting, it is truly a remarkable piece of artistic engineering and results in heightened optical stimulation. In his work Wallage takes advantage of the latest evolution in acrylic paints experimenting extensively to create surfaces that appear deep, soft and waxy. The buffed surfaces, tactile and tempting, contribute a gentle vibration, not easily grasped.
These apparently effortless works are anything but. Wallage spends hours spraying and sanding these multi-layered works. Adding and subtracting before adding again, indeed, there is a meditation both in the work and in its production. His knowledge of plastic sanding techniques and abrasive grits is similar in approach to methods used in high-end French polishing. Accordingly, his output is carefully limited and works do not leave the studio unless thoroughly scrutinized.
Dr. Michael Mark