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A Kind of Bliss: Polly Apfelbaum, Katy Dove, Len Lye, Lily van der Stokker

A collaboration between the Mead Gallery and The Drawing Room, London

Sat 29 May – Sat 26 Jun 2004

“Colour is like a closing eyelid, a tiny fainting spell, a kind of bliss”.
Roland Barthes

The title of this exhibition comes from an essay by Roland Barthes in which he discusses the work of the artist Cy Twombly. Barthes argues that in Twombly’s work ‘colour, like the event, is new every time. It is precisely the stroke that makes the colour – as it produces bliss’. He links colour with the act of drawing, suggesting that colour is activated by the ‘gesture, the pleasure of the gesture’.

Colour is usually associated with the process of painting and its reliance on the medium of pigment to describe tone or form. The four artists in this exhibition employ the use of colour through the act of drawing to describe a personal and sensory experience of life. Using line and form in harmony with colour rather than in opposition, they attempt to marry the formal and conceptual in works that make conspicuous the trace of the artist’s hand.

‘A Kind of Bliss’ presents an intentional cross-generational dialogue between artists of international standing. Polly Apfelbaum draws with dye and scissors. She creates sumptuous colourful compositions arranged on the floor, spreading outwards and around surfaces to challenge traditional boundaries. In Lily van der Stokker’s wall paintings of candy coloured shapes, succinct words and sentences spill out from the surface. She often uses items of furniture or built constructions to position the work within the space. Len Lye’s experimental film work serves as an introduction to the contemporary work. His innovative technique of drawing directly onto the film has subsequently inspired many artists. Katy Dove shares a similar sensibility in her use of line, colour and musical notation to build colourful abstract compositions. Notwithstanding difference in generation and gender, both use an intuitive combination of line and colour to create playful, hypnotic animations. All four artists in this exhibition share a visual language made up of pictorial elements: line, form and plane that can be compared to a musical score.

This exhibition marks an important collaboration between The Drawing Room and the Mead Gallery. The Drawing Room is a non-profit gallery whose programme addresses contemporary drawing in all its forms. The Mead Gallery’s programme is concerned to contextualise contemporary work and connect it to the work of the last forty years which is held in the University’s collections. We share a commitment to supporting the development of new work and to creating exhibitions that engage ideas and experiences of contemporary living.

Exhibition supported by Arts Council England and the Mondrian Foundation