TOMMA ABTS – Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London, W2, (June 2018) – It isn’t until you get in really close to the layers and the fine fine details of those paintings of Tomma Abts that you really start to enjoy the richness of her paintings, their crisp warmth, their subtle shifts in weight, that carefully precise use of colour, it isn’t until you get in really close to the the tricks she plays with paint (is tricks the right word? Probably not, she isn’t trying to trick, clever rather than tricky, beautifully clever). The beautiful gradual line of those layers, her use of colour, wonderful sense of clour, there’s something about a painter who works in layers
– one of the most significant artists of her generation and the winner of the 2006 Turner Prize, Abts is known for her acrylic and oil paintings whose extraordinary magnetism belies their modest scale –
Last night saw the rather busy opening of the first Tomma Abts solo exhibition in what you would consider a public institution in this country, a show at the rather beautifully relaxed Serpentine Sackler Gallery over in the green of London’s Hyde Park – a little off our usual backstreet artist-led tracks, establishment shows like this really don’t need too much coverage from us, you know we’re more about those artist-led shows and DIY gallery events the mainstream arts press tend to ignore – a gathering of Tomma Abts paintings all gathered together with space to breath really does deserve a mention on these fractured pages though, she is a painter who, when you do get in close to those layers, she is a painter who really excites. Yes, there is a magnetism, once those lines and those colours have pulled you in you are kind of lost there, there really is a beautiful magnetism. Those paintings may well be modest in size but these are big big paintings, the size adds to the power, adds to the experience, the intimate encounters with those colours, you find yourself making angles just to check that canvas actually is flat. They are modest paintings, they’re not about energy, they’re polite, comfortable in a positive sense, almost delightful, delicious, gradual, so wonderfully balanced, methodical, a process, – “It is a completely open process, starting from a point of nothing, with no guaranteed outcome, every single time. I am not making process painting; the process is always directed at the final image, and the precise definition of it.’ (Tomma Abts)
These aren’t paintings that come jumping at you, they don’t confront, they don’t demand, they leave it to you to choose to pay them the attention they deserve, they’re transcendental, cerebral, you might even say sensual, they’re beautiful and it is hard to resist reaching out and touching them (I didn’t). These are paintings you could very easily spend time with, live with, they’re about space, so much space in those modest pieces – and this is a show so beautifully spaced – just beautiful paintings and a beautifully hung show is a very impressive building – located in a former 1805 gunpowder store, five minutes walk from the Serpentine Gallery, this really is a beautiful space to explore art in.
This is a show you really should try to see in the flesh, you need that sense of canvas hanging on wall, you need to get in close, a coffee table book or a print won’t do it, this is a show you should see if you can.. (sw)
The exhibition runs at the gallery until September 9th (before the whole thing heads for the Art Institute of Chicago). Serpentine Sackler Gallery is at West Carriage Drive, London W2 2AR, entry is free. “Tomma Abts is a visual artist known for her abstract oil paintings. Abts won the Turner Prize in 2006. The artist currently lives and works in London, England, Abts was born in 1967 in Kiel, Germany”,
Click on an image to enlarge or to run the slide show…