Text by Alice Miller
Peter Suchin: A Critical Contagion in the Quiet of the Night is the first solo exhibition to be mounted at &Model gallery, and the work of Peter Suchin is certainly deserving of this precedency. This rich and diverse exhibition gives the viewer much to feed on. Exhibited over the three floors of &Model‘s elegantly unfinished building is a generous array of material across a variety of media. Much more than a conventional exhibition of artworks, this is an exhibition of an individual. One is most likely to encounter Suchin through his critical writing, to be found in the pages of the Guardian, Art Monthly and Frieze, amongst many others. Here we are presented with a sizeable selection of Suchin’s large-scale acrylic paintings, which are intermingled throughout the galleries with various other components of Suchin’s practice. Placed alongside abstract canvases are equally large print-outs of Suchin’s critical writings, several display cases holding an assortment of books from Suchin’s personal library, as well as tables of notes, scribbles, drawings, collages, and other related Suchin ephemera. The presentation and arrangement of these cross-disciplinary materials gives each component of Suchin’s practice equal importance and encourages them to be read in relation to each other, enacting a breakdown of hierarchy between the painted image and the written word.
There are several instances in the exhibition when text and image coalesce, most notably in the form of the scribble. A recurring element throughout the exhibition, the scribble is present within Suchin’s manuscripts and drawings, and more explicitly in the works Index, Scribble, Snapshot, Tract and From Scribble To Script. Presented as much for its looping spidery forms as for its critical content, the scribble seems to bridge the gap between the written word and the painterly gesture, providing a moment of convergence between Suchin’s art making and his art writing.
It evident that Suchin is just as articulate in paint as he is in words, yet what Suchin’s paintings speak about is gleefully ambiguous, as they remain highly resistant to description and interpretation. Suchin overwhelms us with image, creating dense and vertiginous compositions that delight as much as they confound the eye. Representing nothing tangible, the paintings offer no discernible space or structure. Instead, through complex patchworks of paint and a multitude of jumbled marks, Suchin gives us amorphous bodies of colour. Knotted and restless, these abstract daubs appear to jostle for space upon the canvas, and it remains unclear as to whether these forms are coming together or breaking apart.
Like his writing, Suchin’s paintings have rigour and intensity. Rather than being quick outbursts of spontaneous gesture, Suchin’s intricate compositions seem highly worked upon – precise and deliberate creations of seemingly chaotic and colourful vistas. Suchin’s paintings may display a kind of unstable abstraction, with their fragmentary and shifting forms that refuse to be pinned down, yet in their ambiguity they open up a space for myriad readings and give us never a dull encounter.
Image courtesy of &Model.
Alice Miller is a History of Art postgraduate and writer based in Leeds.