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Spectral in its illusory delicacy

As If is a solo exhibition of new paintings and works on paper from Tom Chamberlain at Coleman Project Space.

The artist says: “As a kind of uncertain desire, painting opens up a space between what appears to be present and what lies beyond it. Something else becomes available in this interval – before disappointment or impossibility or immobility – that can exist as a kind of fog or shimmer.”

Chamberlain’s meticulously made abstract paintings push process to the limits of maximalist endeavour to conjure a space that is almost spectral in its illusory delicacy. In a time when technological capture is the principal means of proving experience, they might be said to purposely defy rather than appeal to the visual capabilities of the lens. 

However paradigmatic his approach, which aligns these works with minimal abstract painting, as accumulative meshes and minute “constellations”, they appear to evade attempts to locate them within a system. Like a moment of murmuration in an amorphous sky, they offer little sense of material or representational security.

 Describing this nuanced encounter, Chamberlain cites Roland Barthes’ discussion of the neutral, the idea of the temporal “shimmer” that exists beyond the edges of representational tropes. That in-between state, like dusk, Barthes says, where you can see the “grain of the world” more vividly than you might in daylight. Chamberlain also mentions Ed Ruscha’s ‘The End’ drawings, for the way they make palpable the exquisite space between the end of the film and lights up. 

This work takes its time, to make and to read. “Their slowness amounts to a kind of resistance to certainty as they fill up with or frame things unknown. As if this could somehow contain the out of reach and allow us to be both here and elsewhere.” Perhaps, Chamberlain suggests, acceptance of not knowing brings us closest to the phenomena that disturb the legible axes we plot in the pursuit of understanding.

Coleman Project Space, 94 Webster Road, Bermondsey, London, SE16 4DF from 6th – 28th July.

Times: Fri Sat Sun 12 – 6pm.

Preview: Friday July 5th at 6 – 9pm


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