Portmanteau Commentary: Texture on Canvas at Art Basel 2016

One of the most exciting patterns to observe for me during this Art Basel was the large amount of pieces which revolved around the recurring theme of relief texture and three-dimensionality on a two dimensional platform, straddling the line between sculptural object and painting, and thus working with a reduced palette monochrome simplicity to enhance the focus on structure.

herman de vries "v 71-72", 1971. Relief, wood and white paint. Gallery: Borzo Gallery. Art Basel 2016

Lucio Fontana's early iconic supernova slit or stab of the 2D canvas to birth the 3 dimensional, 4th wall-breaking awareness of spatialist materiality was omni-present throughout the Art Basel 2016. Everywhere I looked there was a Fontana for sale.








Fontana's spatialist pieces everywhere in combination with the wide range of structural canvas pieces throughout different art genres made the current popularity and demand for of this type of art overwhelmingly clear.

Aside from Fontana's slashes greeting the Art Basel visitor left and right of almost each isle, textured canvas art pieces ranged from 1934 up until now, and were often smaller, atypical pieces of work of the artists, showing us even more clearly how selective and precise the demand follows the art market, and will pick through historical, unusual works to suit the aesthetic yet name-dropping tendency of a typical art collector.

herman de vries "v 71-72", 1971. Relief, wood and white paint. Gallery: Borzo Gallery. Art Basel 2016
For example, it was interesting to see herman de vries (lower case to honour his request) in such structural, monochrome, geometric form after having seen his circle of roses at the Venice Biennial 56 last year. I did see his more usual usual pressed leaves, and in one gallery the brown squares more associated with the nature bound artist, but was pleasantly surprised when finding these variations of his work. Even when working with relief and only white, a natural movement of the wind is evoked like mathematical beauty and precision.

herman de vries "v 68-57", 1968. Relief, wood and white paint. Gallery: Borzo Gallery. Art Basel 2016

The reason textured paintings are among my favourite type of art is because of its combination of aesthetic simplicity in order and structure, the importance of materiality, inherent questioning of platform limits, and the poetry of visualised mathematics. This could also be seen in the names of relief texture canvas pieces, which often focused on numbers and detailed material.

Jan Schoonhoven "R72-73 - M10", 1972. Relief, paper-maché and white paint. Gallery: Borzo Gallery. Art Basel 2016
Klaus Staudt "Fließend", 2014. Gallery: The Mayor Gallery, London. Art Basel 2016
Gerhard von Graevenitz "Homogene Struktur mit pos. elementen", 1960. Gallery: The Mayor Gallery, London. Art Basel 2016
Gerhard von Graevenitz "Homogene Struktur mit pos. elementen", 1960. Gallery: The Mayor Gallery, London. Art Basel 2016
Many galleries which showed relief texture canvas pieces often also showed two more of my favourite types of work: OP Art and Constructive Art. Luis Tomasello's wonderful pieces with a hint of shadowed neon colour hidden beneath the impeccable structures had me excited from all sides.

Luis Tomasello "Atmosphère Chromoplastique No. 990", 2011. Gallery: The Mayor Gallery, London. Art Basel 2016

Luis Tomasello "Atmosphère Chromoplastique No. 990", 2011. Gallery: The Mayor Gallery, London. Art Basel 2016

Luis Tomasello "Atmosphère Chromoplastique No. 960", 2010. Gallery: The Mayor Gallery, London. Art Basel 2016

Luis Tomasello "Atmosphère Chromoplastique No. 960", 2010. Gallery: The Mayor Gallery, London. Art Basel 2016

Luis Tomasello "Atmosphere Chromoplastique 240", 1970. Gallery: Galerie Denise René, Paris. Art Basel 2016

Luis Tomasello "Atmosphere Chromoplastique 240", 1970. Gallery: Galerie Denise René, Paris. Art Basel 2016
Blanchet "CCCCXXXIV", 2015. Plexiglass incision drawing light. Gallery: Galerie Denise René. Art Basel 2016

Luis Tomasello "Atmosphere Chromoplastique 240", 1970. Gallery: Galerie Denise René, Paris. Art Basel 2016
Ben Nicholson "White Relief (AS)", 1934. Gallery: Mitchell-Innes & Nash. Art Basel 2016

The oldest piece aside from Fontana's was Ben Nicholson's "White Relief" which had detailed cracks of age in the wood, a beautiful detail only visible in person and up close, a stark detailed reminder of passing time.

Piero Manzoni "Achrome", 1958 - 1959. Gallery: Dominique Lévy. Art Basel 2016
John Wood and Paul Harrison "Crowd", 2016. Plywood, plastic, paint. Gallery: Von Bartha. Art Basel 2016
One of the most beautiful pieces of the entire Art Basel was this political "Crowd", kept from the perfectly drawn empty half. The only horizontal piece in this list, it may rest upon a podium, but is no less a detailed, monochromatic, structural, textured piece of work upon a canvas-like surface.

John Wood and Paul Harrison "Crowd", 2016. Plywood, plastic, paint. Gallery: Von Bartha. Art Basel 2016
Carla Accardi "Frammento di un labirinto", 1955. Casein on canvas. Gallery: Galleria dello Scudo. Art Basel 2016
The casein gloss of the red upon the matt black was an unexpected surprise which made me itch to touch the surface and feel the texture of Carla Accardi's "Frammento di un labirinto".

Carla Accardi "Frammento di un labirinto", 1955. Casein on canvas. Gallery: Galleria dello Scudo. Art Basel 2016
I walked around wide eyed in the booth of Galerie Alice Pauli: Pierre Soulages' textured, monochrome, large scale paint variations and patterns graced their wall. As mentioned earlier, most pieces were light to underline the texture - his pieces are black to bring out the texture through reflective light.
Pierre Soulages "Peinture", 2014. Gallery: Galerie Alice Pauli. Art Basel 2016
Pierre Soulages "Peinture", 2014. Gallery: Galerie Alice Pauli. Art Basel 2016

Adriana Verejão "Black Mimbres II", 2016. Oil and plaster on canvas. Art Basel 2016
Like the cracks in the Brazilian dry earth, this painting seemed familiar to me before I had even approached it close enough to realise it was in fact by a Brazilian artist. The pattern is not random, as natural as it seems, but calculated in its replication of nature. Just like herman de vries' geometric leaves in the wind, there is observation of organic order in mathematically precise structures here. 
Adriana Verejão "Black Mimbres II", 2016. Oil and plaster on canvas. Art Basel 2016
Bram Bogart "Quoi en Avril", 1960. Mixed media on canvas. Gallery: Borzo Gallery. Art Basel 2016


Kwang-Young Chun "Aggregation 16-AP033 (3230)", 2016. Mixed media with Korean Mulberry Paper. Gallery: Landau Fine Art. Art Basel 2016
Works like "Aggregation" and "Or 2" are texturised in the truest sense of my understanding. Each piece prepared and placed together like a thought out puzzle, the shapes and shades may look 2D but as they are drawn not with paint but actual pieces, the experience of viewing these pieces in person is uniquely different from seeing a picture.

Kwang-Young Chun "Aggregation 16-AP033 (3230)", 2016. Mixed media with Korean Mulberry Paper. Gallery: Landau Fine Art. Art Basel 2016

Kwang-Young Chun "Aggregation 16-AP033 (3230)", 2016. Mixed media with Korean Mulberry Paper. Gallery: Landau Fine Art. Art Basel 2016
Roni Horn "Or 2", 2014: powdered pigment, graphite, charcoal, coloured pencil and vanish on paper. Art Basel 2016
Roni Horn "Or 2", 2014: powdered pigment, graphite, charcoal, coloured pencil and vanish on paper. Art Basel 2016
In contrast we see the following drawing and painting of texture-like folds and shadows so life-like that one had to stand next to it to be certain it was in fact not folded.

Robert Longo "Untitled (Wall of Ice)", 2016. Charcoal on Mounted Paper. Gallery: Galerie Hand Mayer. Art Basel 2016

Tauba Auerbach "Untitled (Fold)", 2012. Acrylic on Canvas. Gallery: Richard Gray Gallery. Art Basel 2016
OP art is similar, but goes one step further. Although I am personally very fond of OP art, it was rare at this Art Basel and seems to have declined in popularity since the culturally predominant psychedelic hype of the 60s-80s. Although there is texture and depth to OP art pieces, it is not the focus, but the means with which to create illusion: it's performative and theatrical in its communication, though luckily not in its aesthetics. As such the material is no longer a primary aspect of the work, it is the perspective and viewing of the spectator that is a focal point - and thus, OP art differentiates itself from textured art - it invites to look, as a 2D canvas painting does, as opposed to evoking an itch to interact and experience by touch.

Ullrich "Goba", 2016. Gallery: Galerie Denise René. Art Basel 2016

Cruz Diez "Physichromie 447", 1969. Gallery: Galerie Denise René. Art Basel 2016 

Cruz Diez "Physichromie 447", 1969. Gallery: Galerie Denise René. Art Basel 201

Cruz Diez "Physichromie 447", 1969. Gallery: Galerie Denise René. Art Basel 201
Cruz Diez "Physichromie 1916", 2014. Gallery: Galerie Denise René. Art Basel 2016

Juan Genovés "Platearium", 2015. Acrylic on Board. Gallery: Marlborough. Art Basel 2016

Juan Genovés "Platearium", 2015. Acrylic on Board. Gallery: Marlborough. Art Basel 2016
Juan Genovés "Platearium", 2015. Acrylic on Board. Gallery: Marlborough. Art Basel 2016
I will conclude with Juan Genovés' "Platearium", a piece of work which drew constant crowds of fascinated viewers leaning in to verify the optical perfection of paint blobs. His piece's popularity was a perfect indication of the patterns of elements currently dominating the art market and which stood out in the selection of art works at the Art Basel this year: it gives us a combination of structure, texture, a hint of optical illusion, monochrome linearity and calculated representation of natural laws of random distribution.

Thank you to BL for the ticket.