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CLIVE WILSON BLUE NOTE

Oct. 19–Dec. 11, 2021

ONLINE RECEPTION OCT. 24, 10 AM PST / 1 PM EST / 6 PM UK GRIFFITHMOON.COM/RSVP

Griffith Moon Curatorial



CLIVE WILSON BLUE NOTE

Oct. 19–Dec. 11, 2021

ONLINE RECEPTION OCT 24, 10 AM PST / 1 PM EST / 6 PM UK GRIFFITHMOON.COM/RSVP

Griffith Moon Curatorial



Griffith Moon Curatorial Clive Wilson: Blue Note* Curated by Michael Wilson Oct. 19–Dec. 11, 2021 Online Opening Reception: Oct. 24, 1 PM EST / 6 PM UK with artist and critic David Batchelor Viewing Room

Clive Wilson (1938–2020) made paintings for a scant eight years or so, in the early 2000s, but he applied himself to the project with striking rigor, bringing the clarity, balance, and exactitude vital to his professional practice as a graphic designer—as well as his art-school training—to bear on a highly focused approach to geometric abstraction. This exhibition, curated by Wilson’s son Michael, brings together twelve of his paintings for the first time. The designs of Wilson’s paintings derive from pixelated sections of photographs, but the artist’s improvisations with color and pattern assure that no readable imagery remains, even when shapes seem to swim just beneath the surface. The structure of the grid—that mainstay of modernism, with its implications of the mechanical and the urban, the rational and the planned—is applied throughout, but is subject to continual modification. Sometimes the grid is straightforward, at others it seems to flicker in and out of focus as chromatic harmonies and dissonances assert themselves. One of Wilson’s primary influences was another designer-turned-artist, Swiss-born Richard Paul Lohse (1902–1988). His compositions evoke Lohse’s plan-like grids and flat hues, but also reflect a more subjective approach in which formal logic is less important than internal fluctuation and subjective impression. (Also important to Wilson was his approximate contemporary, Bridget Riley [b. 1931], particularly her shimmering color paintings of the late ’80s onward.) Variations on the color grid are scattered throughout the history of modern and contemporary art, their purposes varying with context, but Wilson’s particular take on the form demonstrates an instinctive sensitivity to color’s subtle, often unexpected, and perennially hard-to-define emotional effects. In life, Wilson was a quiet man; these paintings are the keys to a latent energy and joy. * In jazz and blues, Wilson’s favorite kinds of music, a blue note is a note that—for expressive purposes—is sung or played at a slightly different pitch than standard. Michael Wilson is an editor and writer based in New York. He is the author of How to Read Contemporary Art: Experiencing the Art of the 21st Century (New York: Abrams, 2013) and has contributed to journals including Art Monthly, Artforum, frieze, and Photograph. He has organized exhibitions at venues including Churner & Churner, New York; Locust Projects, Miami; Site Gallery, Sheffield; and Cover Up, London. David Batchelor is an artist based in London. He has exhibited internationally at venues including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Tate Britain, London; and Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh. Batchelor has also produced several public artworks, including Sixty Minute Spectrum, a chromatic clock on the roof of the Hayward Gallery, London. Batchelor is the author of several books including Chromophobia (2000) and The Luminous and the Grey (2014). Griffith Moon Curatorial is an independent curatorial project which collaborates with curators to offer a virtual exhibition and discussions with contemporary artists. Griffith Moon Publishing is based in Santa Monica, California and celebrates the works of contemporary artists in the form of exhibition retrospectives, artist/writer collaborations, and innovative storytelling. Inquiries: love@griffithmoon.com griffithmoon.com IMAGE: Clive WIlson, Untitled, undated. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 16 inches



Plotted and Pieced by Michael Wilson

Clive Wilson, my father, made paintings for a short time—only about eight years or so, following the family’s move from London to Cambridge in the late 1990s. But it was as if the project had been simmering in his mind for years, and he applied himself to it with striking rigor and focus. While his wife Jennifer, my mother, approached art making as an enthusiastic amateur, experimenting with numerous materials and methods before coming home, in her later years, to simple portrait drawing, WIlson seemed to have his entire oeuvre planned out before ever making a mark. His first works, from about 2000, are as completely realized as the last, from seven or eight years later, and I only remember ever seeing two or three abandoned efforts. I wonder now how often he was thinking about painting


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“Their characteristic grids are derived from pixelated sections of photographs, but improvisation with color and pattern assures that no readable imagery remains, even when shapes seem to swim just beneath the surface.”


CLIVE WILSON BLUE NOTE

while going about his job as a graphic designer; it’s clear that the discipline involved in that work, as well as its principles of clarity, balance, and exactitude, influenced his later practice. The scale and format of these paintings varies, but the medium is always acrylic and the subgenre is always geometric abstraction. Their characteristic grids are derived from pixelated sections of photographs, but improvisation with color and pattern assures that no readable imagery remains, even when shapes seem to swim just beneath the surface. The fundamental underlying structure of the grid—that mainstay of modernist aesthetics, with its implications of the mechanical and the urban, the rational and the planned—is applied throughout, but is also subject to continual modification. Sometimes the grid is straightforward, at others it seems to flicker in and out of focus as color harmonies and dissonances, or more organic compositions,

begin to assert themselves. Precise masking assures a consistent hard border between one rectilinear parcel of color and the next, but the eye finds echoes and conjunctions nonetheless, ushered toward a coherent whole. One of Wilson’s primary influences was another designer-turned-artist, Swiss-born Richard Paul Lohse (1902–1988). Wilson studied painting at St. Martin’s School of Art (now Central St. Martin’s) in London in the mid-1960s before finding work as a graphic designer at city advertising agencies and eventually going freelance (a big change to the family’s routine that I remember from childhood as a subject of intense discussion). Lohse, for his part, joined Zürich agency Max Dalang in 1918 and established his own agency some years later. As a painter, he moved from late-cubist still lifes to geometric constructions and, by 1943, flat planes of colored elements arranged in systematic mathematical relationships. Wilson’s paintings


echo Lohse’s grids and flat hues, but also reflect a more subjective approach in which precise logic is less important than internal fluctuation and subjective impression. Also important to Wilson was British artist Bridget Riley (b. 1931), particularly her color paintings of the late ’80s onward. In fact, the shimmering subtlety of Riley’s palette is much closer to dad’s than is Lohes’s harder, more restricted range, which is often concerned with a quasi-scientific investigation of the spectrum. (I also remember with fondness the full-scale reproduction of Riley’s black-and-white Op-period canvas Fission [1963] that hung in our London home for many years.) Of course there are other instances of color grid painting scattered throughout the history of twentieth- and twenty-first century art—from Paul Klee and Piet Mondrian (dad titled one painting Oxbridge Boogie Woogie after Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie [1943]) to Ellsworth Kelly and Gerhard Richter. But just as objects trouvés have been presented by

different artists with different ends in mind, so variations on the color grid continue to serve diverse purposes. Wilson’s particular take on the form demonstrated an instinctive sensitivity to color and its subtle even unnamable emotional effects. These were not works that could have been made using random selection (as were “4900 Colors” paintings of 2008) or by another artist, or even with a different manner of application; they are entirely his. Wilson was a quiet, rather shy man who endured disability and ill health with stoicism; it’s in these paintings that his underlying energy and joy find their true expression. * In jazz and blues, Wilson’s favorite genres of music, a blue note is one that—for expressive purposes—is sung or played at a slightly different pitch than standard. —Michael Wilson


“Sometimes the grid is straightforward, at others it seems to flicker in and out of focus as color harmonies and dissonances, or more organic compositions, begin to assert themselves.”


“In jazz and blues, Wilson’s favorite kinds of music, a blue note is one that—for expressive purposes—is sung or played at a slightly different pitch than standard.”


POSTSCRIPT

Wilson’s funeral in was staged in the midst of a regional lockdown that made it impossible to gather indoors after the event, and the weather was so wet and cold that November afternoon that an outdoor get-together wasn’t practical either. In the end, my nephew Tom and I found ourselves taking shelter under a nearby bridge, sharing the wine and picnic food I’d brought just in case, and enjoying the first proper chat we’d ever had (I hadn’t seen him since he was a kid). Tom had chosen one of the larger paintings from those that I’d brought to the funeral and we expended some effort making sure it didn’t blow away. At one point a couple out walking their dog passed us, then stopped and turned. “That’s a lovely painting,” the woman remarked, “Do you mind if I take a photo?” In that moment of simple, spontaneous appreciation, it was impossible not to feel my father’s presence.


Untitled, 2008. Acrylic on canvas, 20 x 20 in.


Untitled, 2008. Acrylic on canvas, 20 x 20 in.


Untitled, 2002. Acrylic on canvas, 39 x 39 in. Collection of the Gait family


Untitled, 2008. Acrylic on canvas,18 x 18 in.


Untitled, 2008. Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24 in.


Untitled, 2008. Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 in.


Untitled, 2008. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 16 in.


Untitled, 2002. Acrylic on canvas, 32¼ x 40½ in. Collection of Jaquet Mallinson


Untitled, undated. Acrylic on canvas, 9 ½ x 11 ¾ in. Collection of Michael Wilson


Untitled, undated. Acrylic on canvas, 9 ½ x 11 ¾ in. Collection of Christian Rutherford and Saara Marchadour


Untitled, 2007. Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 in.


Plotted and Pieced, 2006. Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 in. Collection of Tom Gale


Original makeup by Wilson’s carer, Jack Oliver. This design, inspired by Wilson’s painting, was produced for the third episode of the BBC/Netflix television series Glow-Up: Britain’s Next Make-Up Star (2019).



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Photo: Jennifer Wilson


CLIVE WILSON BLUE NOTE

CLIVE WILSON 1938–2020 Clive Wilson was born in Coton, Cambridgeshire, in 1938. He attended Cambridge School of Art (now part of Anglia Ruskin University) and Saint Martins School of Art, London (now Central Saint Martins), where he studied painting. After graduation, he worked as a graphic designer in London, initially for advertising agencies, then independently. He worked extensively for charities—particularly Scope—and his career spanned the transition from print to digital media. After his move to Cambridge in 1996, and his subsequent retirement, Wilson took up painting again and began producing the body of work sampled in Blue Note. He exhibited at the Old Fire Engine House in Ely, and with Cambridge-based online project nobleArt. He also participated in Cambridge Open Studios. His work is in several family and private collections. Wilson died in Eaton Socon, St. Neots, Cambridgeshire, on October 25, 2020. Since his death, his work has also appeared on the TV contest Glow Up: Britain’s Next Make-Up Star, serving as the inspiration for a design by Jack Oliver, a former care worker of his at Nelson Lodge, who participated in the programme’s third season in April 2021.


CLIVE WILSON BLUE NOTE

Oct. 19–Dec. 11, 2021

ONLINE RECEPTION OCT. 24, 10 AM PST / 1 PM EST / 6 PM UK GRIFFITHMOON.COM/RSVP

Griffith Moon Curatorial