FLOATING OVER LOVERS IN CLOUDS AND SIGNS
Cosmic vibrations Centred on saturations Housed in the manor of mirrors, before Duke street, after grazing stardust Ancient angular angels, reverberating form and time (place) Fields of Pantone, awash with searing light Digitally adorned then disabled Utilitarian hands, combining We focus, between beauty’s warmth and the sublime’s affliction Shiver for me ◊ To focus is to acclimatise your eyes to circumstance, to do away with darkness in favour of light, narrowing your eyes to discern, squinting at everything but the sun — searing unrelenting light. To focus is to also centre your attention, to engage your blinders — be on the straight-and-narrow, consider and take to task a single element, with an equally concise solitary goal, that of monotheistic perfection. A focused mind is ripe for obsession, ready to be infected by the tantalising need for submission to an idea, to be overwhelmed by the rich complexity of total commitment. The focused eye also shares this need for commitment, to grasp that which it studies, tormented until clarity is revealed. Thus the act of focusing is intertwined, or dual: first you must focus visually — squinting if necessary, then you must allow for the mind to engage with this observation, and finally focus your attention towards unpacking and understanding what the eyes reveal. This great reveal can provide hidden knowledge, the beating heart of something that was at first obscured by blurred vision and a distracted mind. Perhaps the entwined duality of focusing can also be played out in reverse, say in the circumstances of the artist. The artist may at first focus on their conceptual commitments, producing objects charged with content for viewers to be drawn in via their aesthetic sensibilities. It is an opportunity to create outwards, projecting away from the centre (conceptual focus) to the exterior (aesthetic focus) — the opposite trajectory to that of the viewer. The use and prioritisation of each focal point is set by the artist. At one end of the spectrum there are those whose aesthetic focus appears to subsume much of the conceptual focus, when in-fact the concept is proffered through the aesthetic (thinking of abstraction, minimalism and other modernist movements). The other end utilises a simpler aesthetic focus in order for the inner conceptuality to be the true essence of the work; while somewhere in the middle there exists an example rich in exterior and interior focus, a more harmonious pairing. This duality of focus, both on the aesthetic (exterior) and the conceptual (interior), is embraced and skilfully executed within the art of Jonny Niesche. The plurality of colour field combinations Niesche has concocted over the past five years are the truest form of contemporary painting, using new materials and methods fused with current as well as historic ideals and considerations. Housed in stark modernist forms — assembled from acrylic mirror, wood and steel — the vivid colours contained within the sheer-like fabric (voile) thoroughly enjoy the vibrations they create. Seemingly these paintings are made for their own delight, amused by the at once tender, then delighted eyes that gaze upon them. In this sense Niesche’s work, a careful unity of an amalgamation of hues, forces the viewer to find aesthetic focus. These colour combinations reverberate and reflect within themselves, distortions that on occasion are further extended with the use of layered voile or mirrored backing. Niesche is a master of colour and distortion, a mad monk looking for the divine combination that will provoke sensuous feelings from the viewer, to be both strained and delighted before his work. The devices that Niesche employs to house his contemporary hues offer a parameter analogous to the narrowing of one’s eyes, providing the colour distortions with literal framing via these modernist forms. Echoing postwar avant-gardism’s sensibilities and phenomenological meditations, Niesche plays with the viewer’s focus afresh with a honed materiality, frequently employing the use of acrylic mirror to the frame sides and even their verso. The viewer comes into focus whilst gazing into the painting — finding the mirrored side — and are now being looked at, no longer the looker. The focus is flipped from object to human. Niesche heightens this with his spinning paintings, seemingly floating in space these human-scaled works gently oscillate between the hazy fabric and the mirrored surfaces, reflecting both viewer and space. The viewer’s eyes are being trained, focusing as they never have. Herein the focus ventures inward, for the colours always reference more than just themselves and their combinations, but stem from the conceptual focus underpinning Niesche’s practice. The hues that contort the physical art of focusing are but fragments of a larger narrative, for instance, generating a colour palette from the hues connected t0 David Bowie’s first persona Ziggy Stardust, or those emblematic of the makeup of Debbie Harry. These cultural icons are dissected by Niesche, he takes samples from them to use as starting points for a body of work. These totems of popular culture are fused with those of 20th century art in an endless ode to those who came before: Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Kenneth Noland, John McCracken, Blinky Palermo, and a myriad of others. Niesche muses on Judd’s critique of paintings flatness and how Flavin’s fluorescent tubes spoke of colour and space, he also looks to the furniture and industrial design of postwar Italy, and contemplates the theories of continental philosophy and French epistemology. It is this conceptual inward focus that gives his aesthetics their bright and unique powers, and an embrace of the dualism of focus is what makes Niesche’s prowess so impressive.