GUEST ROOM/CONTEMPORARY ART | BRUSSELS, BELGIUM | JUNE 10 – JULY 17, 2010
Guest Room/Contemporary Art is the brainchild of Nicolas Lemmens and Olivia Delwart. Situated in a quiet neighborhood on top of a hill in what is known as upper Brussels (there are two levels to the city), the gallery is a small white cube facing onto the street; it is open Wednesday and Saturday from 2:00 to 6:00 pm, and by appointment. The artist’s bio and checklist, as well as copies of catalogs, are lined up on the inside window ledge and are easily visible to the passerby who stops to look inside the window (it is lit up at night until 12:00 p.m.), and is curious to know more. According to Lemmens, the literature is meant to get people interested, without putting any pressure on them. After all, if you step inside, you would literally be coming for your second look and, one assumes, a more intimate engagement.
The eighth exhibition (or Guest #8) was of the drawings of Patrick Michael Fitzgerald, an Irish artist who lives and works in Vizcaya, outside Bilbao, Spain. In an e-mail conversation with Chris Ashley, an artist who directs Some Walls a curatorial and writing art project in Oakland (CA), Fitzgerald wrote: I still believe that painting can respond directly to the world of things, experience, and “reality” on its own terms. Many of the drawings were done in 2009, while Fitzgerald was an Artist in Residence in Andratx, Majorca. Done in colored pencil, ink, and collage, all the drawings are vertical and approximately 12 by 9 inches. The inspiration behind them seems to be the place where they were made. The starting point for the “Andratx” drawings, as many of them are titled, is something ordinary—a tree, evening light, and shadow.
Using a vocabulary that consists of a few vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines (a skeletal geometry) juxtaposed against ragged and rounded shapes, and perfectly cut, collaged circles, and pristine cut-out spaces, Fitzgerald responds to something palpable in the world. The often-layered space, while alluding to nature, also conveys drawing as an accumulation of decisions, as well as a visual indication of time past. One both sees and sees into these drawings, with the layering reiterated by the use of collage in the form of the perfectly round circles. For Fitzgerald, drawing isn’t only a surface waiting to register the artist’s marks; it is a thing. In some cases, it isn’t hard to make an equation between the drawing and its title, but to try and locate the works only within the discursive realm is to miss their strength.
Fitzgerald believes drawing is a construction that explores the tension between structure and dissolution. In Andratx (Pools, Thoughts), 2009, he partitions the drawing with three red lines into three areas, with the one along the bottom further divided by a diagonal red line rising from near the left corner. The diagonal, interacting with another right above it, turns the areas they enclose into tilting planes, and, at the same time, introduces a spatial possibility that Fitzgerald builds upon with a bluish-purple form across the drawing’s lower half. Rounded brown shapes packed closely together share the same plane as the bluish-purple shape (the pool?). Over this field, Fitzgerald attaches perfect circles done in different shades of blue, gray, and magenta, as well as two cut from a printed page of blue and black. These circles compel us to read the drawing tactilely, as well as visually. They pull our attention in, even as they become a disruption.
For all the deliberate thought that goes into these drawings, they feel neither restrained nor governed by an overriding goal. In fact, they feel like something the artist found. Each drawing is made up of a different group of colors, and the shapes and marks feel intrinsic to the drawing. Sometimes the way a bar-like shape overlays another evokes the possibility that the artist used tape to decide where something goes; this recalls for me the late works of Piet Mondrian. By responding to his immediate environment, Fitzgerald shares something with two older abstract artists, Raoul De Keyser and Thomas Nozkowski. Fitzgerald’s works do not suffer by comparison.
Fitzgerald’s vocabulary is basic—there is nothing elaborate or stylish about his lines and circles, rough and ragged shapes. He relies on colored pencils, ink, and collage—nothing fancy. And yet—and this is why Fitzgerald seems to me to be on the verge of becoming an important and singular artist—the work comes across as taut and fresh, brimming with an awareness that the act of seeing is a construction, at once fluid and disrupted.