Can Contemporary Artists Draw, Asks Parasol Unit

Upcoming exhibition at Parasol Unit will examine the role of line in work of contemporary artists

A new exhibition at Parasol Unit will explore the work of 15 contemporary artists, whose work centres on using line in creatively challenging ways. Throughout the history of art, line as a basic element of artistic expression has been used by many artists to explore and express a wealth of feelings, thoughts and ideas. Lines of Thought will investigate the role of line – simply the running on of a point –, in contemporary practice.

The exhibition will feature work by: Helene Appel, James Bishop, Hemali Bhuta, Raoul De Keyser, Adrian Esparza, Özlem Günyol & Mustafa Kunt, Sol LeWitt, Richard Long, Jorge Macchi, Nasreen Mohamedi, Fred Sandback, Conrad Shawcross, Anne Truitt, and Richard Tuttle

Combining European and American traditions of post-war art, James Bishop’s poetic and reductionist geometry abandons the hard-edge abstraction of many of his contemporaries. 

Raoul De Keyser’s ambiguous, gestural minimalism seems not only to merge various contradictory elements – figuration and abstraction, gesture and geometry – but also to inspire long contemplation of it.

Being of the same generation as Bishop and De Keyser, Indian artist Nasreen Mohamedi’s sparse work remains surprisingly under-recognised in the west. Her work is characterised by a total and coherent commitment to the language of abstraction, while her austere drawings evoke an atmospheric and delicate sensibility. 

One of Britain’s most influential living artists, Richard Long has put his journeys in nature at the heart of his work since the mid-1960s. Even when exhibited indoors, Long’s works have a strong, organic feel to them that reflects the artist’s connection to the landscape. 

The Indian artist Hemali Bhuta’s often site-specific installations function both as ephemeral objects and documentation in ways that can seem contradictory. Her dramatic and impressive installation Stepping down, 2010, includes several thousand stalactites that simulate candles and engender a cave-like experience. 

The artistic concerns of the younger generation are infinitely varied. The Turkish team, Özlem Günyol and Mustafa Kunt make clever use of line to comment on national identity and geopolitical issues with, for example, the background lines of different passports and the meaning of lines that represent borders between countries.

American artist Adrian Esparza, born and raised in El Paso, Texas, also comments on political divides, garnering much of his source material and inspiration from his borderland experiences. In his newly made work, Esparza mounts a Mexican serape [blanket] on the wall, then partially unravels it. Inspired by historic landscape paintings he guides the cotton thread through a grid of nails to create a primarily geometric design. The artist’s process of deconstructing the source results in a vibrant optical experience which simultaneously unveils the history it represents. 

Refusing to be pushed into any category of art history, Jorge Macchi makes works that provoke thought about everyday questions and offers startling perceptions with a minimum of form. 

Helene Appel uses selected gatherings of everyday items to make meticulous abstractions that inspire contemplation.

Walking the line between art and science, Conrad Shawcross’s sculptures explore subjects that border on geometry, philosophy, physics and metaphysics. 

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