Surface Tensions – Reaching Near Perfection

Tenably, Patrick Thibert’s exhibition at the DNA Artspace on Dundas Street (March 4 – April 16, 2016)  could be viewed as an exacting combination of outstanding artistry and superb craftsmanship. Right from the time you enter the gallery, the work in its entirety holds the viewer in a visceral moment fused with clarity, intensity, and serenity. This happens without knowing the intention of the artist or the process that is applied in supporting this intention.

As a sculptor for more than 30 years, in this exhibition, Thibert brings his mastery of materials to near perfection.

The exhibition consists of 24 pieces, all created between July 2014 and December 2015. In these wall pieces, Thibert has moved away not only from his on-the-floor or out-of-doors sculptural structures, but well into abstraction with the works entirely void of image. Instead, the focus in each piece is on simplicity in composition, and the visual play that happens when only the very basic elements of art are placed on a flat surface to create the art itself. Primary in these works is the relationship of line to surface. Lines are placed in juxtaposition to each other and/or to other geometric shapes or surfaces. For the viewer, the artistic experience is found in the play of the tension created between these basic elements. Thibert sees the work as reductive, abstract geometric compositions and what happens as art is the dynamics that unfold within the reductive composition.

In the study drawing Press No. 3, for example, the focus is on a square, or rather a near square, surface which is positioned within a larger squared frame. The work is brought to life with the strong diagonal line on the side that unbalances the basic composition, and creates further tension when placed against the sharp edges of the square that run in counter directions. The horizontally-textured surface of the square itself is placed against a fastidiously-drawn textured linear background. Again, in the wall piece, Divergent Harmonies No. 1, a thin linear surface slices through a large jagged geometric shape that dominates the picture plane. The tension in this work is the play between the linear surface and the jagged edges of the geometric shape which is placed in a larger rectangular shape and set slightly off centre in the picture plane. The eye is held and challenged by the interplay of balance and tension placed against texture, line, and shape.

With every aspect of the creative process, Thibert holds fast to the simplicity of this reductive aesthetic experience. Through Thibert’s superior craftsmanship and exacting execution, the composition is infused and presented with a sense of importance and wholeness. Sharp, clean, crisp straight edges and curves are the result of dedicated hours of intense labour as the artist lifts, carries, saws, and cuts large sheets of plywood, copper, and tin, and bends and plies long lengths of aluminum while all the time measuring and calculating and measuring again. As a sculptor for more than 30 years, in this exhibition, Thibert brings his mastery of materials to near perfection. The result plays back into the artist’s intention of focusing the viewer on the reductive composition. “The framing creates a line, and then there exists the relationship of line to the edges of the field.” We see this in Linear Composition No. 11 where the use of obtuse and acute angles in the framing create an interplay with the right angle linear shape that dominants the centre, or rather near centre, of the piece.

Further elevating the reductive aesthetic composition is the application of the patina solution, the use of chemicals applied to surfaces. Ferric chloride, ammonia chloride, ferric nitrate, liver of sulphur are among the acid biting chemicals. It is in this stage that the art becomes painterly. The acid solution is often brushed on using various kinds of brushes including not only normal paint brushes, but also horse brushes, wallpaper brushes, and wire barbeque brushes. Resulting from the brushing process are vertical and horizontal lines and textures and flat areas of tension. But the acid is also poured or sponged on the surfaces and surfaces are worked sometimes over and over again through sanding, burring, scraping, gouging, polishing, and washing. The successful application of the patina solution is directly related to the prepared aesthetic mind of the artist working very much in the moment. Thibert sees this applying of patina as a dialogical process between the artist and the surface of the work. “It is a dialogue that has to be clearly spoken and quickly responded to as you take the process in the direction it needs to go. And you also have to know when to stop.” In Linear Composition No. 8, the patina is applied so proficiently that the result is that the three copper surfaces become near perfect tonal chromatic colour fields resting harmoniously together. But Thibert also allows for the unpredictable in this application. Things might bubble, or crust, or indeterminately bite into the surface of the copper, as is quite visible in the surface of Divergent Harmonies No. 3 where the patina has bitten into the copper creating a strong textured surface. For Thibert, this indeterminacy is all part of the way that the patina solution graces the work, adding a certain richness in terms of texture and line. It is in this final process that the reductive composition is sealed.

With this concentrated focus on the most basic of compositional elements intensely supported by the pristine workmanship of the artist, the viewer is held in this reductive aesthetic moment, and with each piece, in that moment, the work becomes a vehicle of transcendence. The subject (the viewer) and the object (the art work) become blended in oneness, and space and time become expansive and indefinable. The specific moves to the infinite. When this happens, it is difficult to deny the sheer power of Thibert’s art.

Patrick Thibert: RELIEFS & DRAWINGS continues to April 16, 2016
DNA Artspace, 123 Dundas Street, London, ON
(519) 435-1234

This post originally appeared on The Yodeller (no longer in publication).



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