by Carla Scarano D’Antonio
An intriguing exhibition of two very different but equally interesting painters, Geoffrey Pimlott and Colin Merrin, both members of the Royal Watercolour Society, was on display at the Lightbox in the Art Fund Prize Gallery for a very short time, before the closure of the Lightbox due to coronavirus safety concerns. Pimlott mesmerises the viewer with his bursts of colours and apparently controlled but unpredictable shapes and lines. Merrin’s acrylics and collage works are political statements scattered in face landscapes. The exhibition merges and alternates the two styles, challenging the viewer in their variety and different approaches both in technique and content. While Pimlott prefers watercolour and gouache, a style that evokes fluidity and flexibility, Merrin opts for acrylics, ink and collage of newspaper cuttings, asserting a more definite view. In the former, the poetical freedom blurs the edges of the geometrical shapes and isolated marks; in the latter, the face landscapes are a clever pretext for comments on current events.
Starting with life drawing and landscape painting, Geoffrey Pimlott studied at Reigate School of Art and Design and at Wimbledon College of Art. He subsequently moved to abstract landscapes that express interior and exterior spaces using intense colours, geometrical shapes and gestural marks. His work is a process that suggests to the viewer a visual presence, a poetical world that expands beyond the picture. In his artist statement, he remarks that “nothing is redundant” in his work, which needs just to be “observed; nothing more!”. Nevertheless, Pimlott’s pictures have much more to say to the viewer. They delineate an apparently well organised and predictable thinking in the abstract structured forms and skilfully juxtaposed colours. But the shapes blur at the edges, blots of colour suddenly surface the painting, straight lines are drawn parallel, maybe meeting somewhere outside the picture. This is clear in ‘Red Turquoise, 2019’ and in ‘Untitled 1’. In ‘Red Turquoise’ the yellow, green and red that intersect in the surface in straight lines or stripes are questioned by the transparencies of the watercolour effect and the red spots suggest a more open and freer vision. ‘Untitled 1’ is a symphony of colours and variegated shapes, round and squarish, with alluring pinks and oranges, and occasional black spots. It conveys a positive, multi-faceted attitude, revealing openness and hope. More sombre pieces seem to be ‘Five Diagonals, 2019’ and ‘Cobalt, 2019’, while ‘Untitled 3’, my favourite piece, combines two pictures in one in a harmonious rendering both in colour and shape. It conveys a sense of looseness and controlled freedom at the same time, in the occasional marks and unexpected pink and oranges that balance well the greens and greys. The effect is soothing and poetical.
Colin Merrin’s collaged drawings and paintings are ‘facescapes’ that intend to explore our humanity in connection with the social, emotional and political events that surround and influence the individual. His artistic career started at Maidstone College of Art, Kingston University and at the Institute of Education, University of London. His landscape paintings evolved in time, concentrating and exploring the human aspect rather than trees, rivers and buildings. Faces become his new landscapes, with newspaper cuttings and other texts incorporated in the pictures. The writing is more or less visible, commenting on the current events of the time. They are maps that guide the viewers, challenging their views on the political environment, suggesting ambiguous viewpoints as in ‘Warnings from the Rocks, 2020’ or ‘Dancing with Putin’. There are no definite declarations and the statements are half erased or covered by the painting; they remain as indefinite as politics. ‘We live in circular times’ is collaged in ‘Warnings from the Rocks’, a time of uncertain economic future. Merrin’s technical process of acrylic layering and collage expresses the richness of the texture of his work, highlighting the reasoning behind each picture.
The exhibition gives an excellent idea of two painters at the crossroads, displaying their mature work with important pictures that challenge the viewer with their different approaches to art and life. Their unique visions express multi-layered aspects of the human condition in a world in which people are both vulnerable and positive, frail and strong in their constant struggle to survive and convey creatively their views and dreams.
Two Painters at the Crossroads, Geoffrey Pimlott and Colin Merrin, The Lightbox, Woking (this exhibition was due to run in the Art Fund Prize Gallery from 17-29 March before the Lightbox was closed because of the coronavirus)