The exhibition title refers to the linguistic concept of the Shifter where the personal pronouns You’ and I’ shift in meaning based on the person uttering the word. It is as if this programmatic conversational shift of authorship has an inherently predatory nature, the ultimate linguistic camouflage for which Rucklidge is attempting to find a visual equivalent, much like pointing and uttering this’ or that.’ Within this exhibition there is a masked order of conversation, shuffled within the gallery space; a first painting seeding a separated second; seeding a disenfranchised third that clones itself in reflection into a diptych, which then bifurcates. Several of the paintings then seed new forms via torn digital scanning and abrupt mechanical shearing, and so on within the space until the final work slips into its camouflaged slot.

Despite the use of Shifting and Shuffling as central (dis)organizational metaphors for the exhibition, within all of the paintings there is an attempt to find a visual focus for the sense of unrest that feeds Wilhelm Worringer’s urge to abstraction, to render the natural model with the line drawn absolutely straight, in response to a marked tendency toward maximum crystalline regularity.[i] At one pole, there are life denying inorganic crystalline forms, geometric constructions modeled from the mill cut linear units of Poe and Lovecraft’s uneasy sheds of hidden America. At the other pole there is the urge to empathy, which allows the mimetic impulses of organic shapes (the signature of a confidence in the external world) to bud within these geometric forms. At another level Rucklidge has attempted to confront the edge-center problem by seeding these forms from one painting to the next sequentially. This is a way of introducing a temporal aspect to the works in the series by linking them beyond the equally probable limits of the canvas. This visual cloning allows geometric containment to ferment an interior wildness of form, whose character is to dispute the internal edges and to some degree leap beyond the canvas edge from painting to painting. Nascent wild forms sprouting, expanding and cooling into crystalline hard edges.

Technically, the early seed works of this show follow the procedure of the Tchlein paintings of the 14th and 15th century from the Netherlands. These paintings were made of distemper on linen cloth; a fussy technique involving layered applications of pure pigment and the rendered glue of animal bones. Raw, faded, sunken, matte, crumbling with an inherent scent of neglect, castles and power. Using this technique relates to the hunt and all its metaphoric implications: sighting, baiting, tracks, traces, escape, ammunition, stalking, camouflage, waiting, and ideally the feast. This pretty much sums up any artist’s daily checklist; a famished borderline detective.

Rucklidge’s vision is an exhibition where repeated forms and surfaces would be shifting and hunting each other across the gallery. The paintings would refer and relate to each other in a predatory stalking manner; the variants of basic forms reasserting themselves within new backgrounds and contexts (a pictorial natural selection). The initial referent forms being geometric and acting as seeds in the picture plane and then becoming amplified using compositional devices. The crystalline character of the seeding geometric forms then relates to the instinct for the Thing itself,’ most powerful in primitive man:

The Geometric line is distinguished from the natural object precisely by the fact that it does not stand in any natural contexttaken out of the ceaseless flux of the forces of nature they have become visible on their own’ (Lipps, sthetik, 249).

That geometric line should slice just like the bolt of an arrow out of the blue.

This hunt dovetails nicely into the Modernist search for the Sunken Treasure’ and with the Maian concern with the outmoded and the nonsynchronous:

The marvelous is not the same in every period: it partakes in some obscure way of a sort of general revelation only the fragments of which come down to us: they are the romantic ruins, the modern mannequin’ (Breton, Manifesto).

ANDREW RUCKLIDGE received his MA in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Arts in London in 2003. He has shown internationally at The New Contemporaries (London), Store Gallery (London), John Connelly Presents (New York), Frieze Art Fair (New York), Zoo Art Fair (London), The Armoury (New York), NADA Miami (Miami), VOLTA (Basel), Art Chicago (Chicago), Berliner Liste (Berlin), Art Cologne (Cologne), DC Dusseldorf (Dusseldorf), as well as the SCOPE art fairs and TIAF in Toronto. In 2013, he received both the K.M. Hunter Visual Artist Award and the Laura Ciruls Painting Award. His work is in collections such as UBS (London), Zabludowicz 176 Collection (London), Kunstmuseum (Gotland), Soho House (London and Toronto), Google, Bank of Montreal, and Scotiabank. Rucklidge currently lives and works in Toronto where he also teaches in the Department of Painting and Drawing at OCADU.

The artist gratefully acknowledges the following in the production of this show: The Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, Canada Council of the Arts, Christopher Cutts Gallery, K.M.Hunter Artists Award and the Laura Ciruls Painting Award, and last, but not least family and friends.

Read The Language of Abstraction: Andrew Rucklidge’s You and I are Shifters by TERENCE DICK, an essay published alongside ANDREW RUCKLIDGE‘S exhibition.

[i] Wilhelm Worringer, Abstraction and Empathy (Chicago: Elephant Paperbacks, 1908), 42.