Push Me Pull You 2016, a site-specific installation across three of Platform A Gallery’s south-facing, full-height windows, is an intriguing departure for Alex Charrington, an artist who has long explored relationships between juxtaposed printed colour. This playful new work lends its name to the exhibition (Charrington’s first solo show for Platform A) and expands his practice into a haptic experience of reflected, luminous colour. Dependent on daily weather conditions, light shining through layered vinyl film colours the gallery floor, the walls and the viewers themselves. Charrington’s interest in Chevreul’s theory of ‘simultaneous contrast’ (how adjacent colours affect one another) is in full flow here. There is a sense of the use of complementaries and yet the work’s lozenge shapes, with curved or stepped edges, seem to throw up rogue chroma. How does that olive green happen? Is that the same blue here as there, where it appears more intense? Walking back and forth across the work complicates, rather than unlocks the riddle.
Transparency and opacity offer and hide views of the row of buildings opposite the gallery and it slowly becomes apparent that the artist has responded to their facades. Glimpses of the upper floors of Philip Webb’s 1891 building (for Middlesbrough ironmasters the Bell Brothers) are particularly pertinent. The scalloped roofline and curved window shapes of this, Webb’s only commercial building, draw parallels between ‘The Father of Arts and Crafts Architecture’ and the works in the Platform exhibition. While Webb’s collaboration with William Morris included the design of fabric, ceramics and stained glass, Charrington’s practice often nods to the patterns found on domestic textiles or urban street furniture.
On the gallery walls hang prints, demonstrating both the meticulous exploration of geometry and the subtle indications of the artist’s hand for which Charrington is best known. Opposite the windows are Colour Study (XV) (XI) (XIII) and (X) 2011. Coloured gouache stripes of differing widths are paired together bar-code fashion with gaps of white space between, where the stripes seem to vibrate against one another like the prongs of tuning forks. The studies’ written descriptions are intriguing and (XV) has for example: ‘Colour pair on Yellow Red ground. Pair positioned either side of white space and fades to neutral grey in rhythm of 1234, 2345, 3456, 4567, 5678 where 1 = Blue Red and 8 = Neutral Grey’. Here we see Charrington testing his materials and his perception by rigorously documenting adjustments made in mixing colour. This produces a rhythm, a sense of movement that can also be seen in a larger work on linen, Viridis 2014, which was previously exhibited in Chance Finds Us 2014, at Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art.
In a show with so many gems it would be easy to miss Yellow Horizontals 2011 a small gouache study and yet this work is emblematic of Charrington’s practice. Its stacks of tiny ‘blocks’ are in fact made up repetitions of a favoured device, the arc. None of the stacks include yellow and yet yellow appears to be present. Looking closer makes the colour even more transient, appearing and disappearing in the gaps between others, as they push and pull against one another.
Alex Charrington was born in London in 1981 and lives in Newcastle upon Tyne. He received a BA Hons and MFA from Newcastle University in 2005 and 2015 respectively. Solo exhibitions include New Adventures in Robotic Watercolour Painting, Globe Gallery, North Shields, 2008. Group exhibitions include You Shall Know Our Velocity, Baltic Center for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, 2006. Chance Finds Us, mima, Middlesbrough, 2014. He has undertaken public art commissions for Gateshead College, Newcastle Building Society and Sunderland County Council. He is represented by Platform A, Middlesbrough.
Image: Alex Charrington, Jerusalem