THE THICKENING

DENNIS HOLLINGSWORTH

The space of art has become and surpassed, an infinitely flat plane.  Now that our Information Age has firmly taken root, “meat space” seems to have given way to screen space. The measure of life these days is via the byte and pixel where face to face meetings have been displaced by surgical masks and Zoom. Amidst the tsunami of flatness …or to apply the metaphor more precisely, the moment when the tide unnaturally ebbs exposing the beach, everyone feels a creeping disquiet.                                                

More than twenty five years ago, artist Dennis Hollingsworth had realized that the art world had arrived to this evaporative conclusion. Critic Clement Greenberg, despite his famous criterion of flatness, was only one car in a long train of Modernist projects immensely preoccupied with the task of disintegrating the Classical and therefore Enlightenment legacy.  Never mind that the fruit of such a tree had come to a conclusion with the achievement of Sol LeWittʼs late 1960ʼs formulation that art can be a set of instructions.  Artists afterwards took this instead to mean that art should be information, a virtual “material” to be plumbed like water, engineered through a systems of piping. By the time the Berlin Wall fell, as the Cold War ended and as Francis Fukuyama declared an end to history, Hollingsworth pushed back against the repeated pronouncements of the “death of painting”.  He decided to explore the nature of the embodiment of art, the corporeality of painting.                                                                                      

It was as if Hollingsworth, back in 1995, had discovered a hidden pull down menu in the application of painting. The revelation was an array of specific physical forms presented by paint in wet impasto.  His ensuing years were engrossed in the project of exploring this added dimension, where painting is simultaneously medium and message, where painting is a unity of apparent opposites such as representation and abstraction. Thickness is about the embodiment of the art object, of how it exists in time and space. Thickness is about the capacity of the fattening and fullness of experience not taken for granted.

 

The art works comprising this exhibition span Hollingsworthʼs recent decision to extend the arena of thickness not only from the plane of the support forward to the viewer but also backwards through its constitutive elements to the wall. Thickness is about an arena of physical properties of masses in tension and compression. Thickness can also include the plasticity of canvas, wood and wire. Where once art movements had unfastened in critique the binding force of media (South American abstraction of the 50ʼs, French Support /Surfaces artists of the 60ʼs, the successors of Abstract Expressionism in NYC), now Hollingsworth taps into his foundational education in architecture to fully explore the constructive possibilities of painting. 

 

Two of the works in the exhibition date to 2010. In the works, we can observe his multicolour palette, almost fauvist, combined with the psychoanalysis of creation, giving rise a work full of symbolismand emotions, in which sense the freedom and contention, the free will and pure mathematic, the chaos and the harmony of fantasy.

 

Three of the works in the exhibition date to 2016.  At that time, masking took over the task of drawing inherent in painting. Figuration relied on letter and number forms, providing a multitude of formal relations as a resource.  Hollingsworth has maintained a weblog since 2003.  This online diary is his source of titles for his works.  La Presa refers us to a drawing of a dam breaking open, signifying an end to a period of quietude.  In Años de Gloria, the domination of a red field questions his longstanding reliance on canvas-minus-gesso. Crossing the redness with the descending name Lorenzo, Hollingsworth points to both the famous MotoGP star and the nickname for the sun.  In his painting Quinto pino, he asks what it means to be alive as the paint spans latitudinally to the far flung.  

 

The two larger paintings in the exhibition are twins that meditate on the cascade of mountain to sea, a love letter to the artistʼs summer home in the Costa Brava. Consciousness arises from an awareness of contrast. Hollingsworth prefers to tack back and forth in the winds of painting in order to advance.  In the case of these paintings, he is dropping his longstanding use of his “monads” (the hemispherical spiny elements typical to his work), relying instead on palette knives to carry the task of the painting.  The skipping of impasto on impasto emulates the oxygenated fluidity of the subject. An avid snorkeler, two sites at the littoral base of Cap Tossa serves as his muse, the sensations of shifting waves and vista guide the tools of painting.                                                                                                                              

Dennis Hollingsworth

 

View the exhibition in 3D