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— Catalogue Essay by Charles & Kate Nodrum

Andrew Christofides

Studio Archaeology

28 May – 18 June, 2022  

In this exhibition, we take as a starting point the artist’s recent series of circular paintings - more precisely, circles inside squares.  The circle in the square was explored in the 1960s by Sydney Ball in his Canto series and Alun Leach-Jones in his Noumenon series and in virtually all these cases the sheer interlocking symmetry of the two fundamentally geometric forms was enough to imbue the works with a sense of authority and calm. 

Next, we included smaller versions of these works - on paper, as well as studies.  Seeing three “generations” of a painting is not only a reminder of the long term thought and development behind a large finished painting, but also a fascinating insight into the artist’s working mind and the connection between his apparently geometric compositions and the readings suggested by their titles.  In the four studies for Followers, 2019-20 (no. 9) we see the patterned section of repeating Greek crosses within circles transforming in shape and placement from a rectangular strip running the height of the image, to a central circle – and back again: studies I and IV develop into the final painting of the same title, as well as the smaller Sceptics, 2020 (no. 15), while studies II and III develop into the large painting Death of Faith, 2020 (no. 8).  The fact that Sceptics and Followers are virtually the same composition in different colours but suggest polar opposite attitudes in their titles offers one thought provoking message – further complexified by the fact that the circle is used in both the circular studies of Followers but also in Iconoclast II, 2017 (no. 16): in the former, one could interpret faith as an inviting and inclusive orb, while in the latter, one could interpret faith as a wrecking ball plunging down between the two different types of crosses.  The circular shape in Iconoclast II is in fact the dome of a church, part of a greater abstracted and simplified church floor plan: the church is flanked by two religious patterns, as if squeezed between two opposing sides of the iconoclastic debate.  The clusters of overlapping ovals and rectangles in Followers, Sceptics and Death of Faith represent Greek Orthodox patriarchs, with the check pattern referencing that of their ceremonial vestments.  Christofides came to Australia from Cyprus at the age of five with his family, and his first return journey to his place of birth as a young adult was a profound experience; the history and culture of the Orthodox Church, village life, and the archaeology of the island have emerged in his work ever since. 

The religious context of the above works connects thematically with the Written Word paintings (nos. 17, 20, 21) which can be seen as depictions of an open book in an unknown script whose neat but chunky forms contrast starkly with the seductively sinuous calligraphy of the Arabic script.  The ‘script’ in these paintings is generated by a numeric pattern plotted on a grid - a process invented by the artist, and a variation of the sort of mathematical formulae (generally taking the Fibonacci series as a starting point) that he has been using and adapting for various pictorial goals since the 1980s in both paintings and relief construction works. 

Andrew Christofides is amongst those mostly abstract artists (including for example George Johnson, Roger Kemp and Leonard French) described as ‘symbolic’, ‘iconographic’ and/or ‘emblematic’ which is a way of differentiating his type of abstraction from pure or non-objective abstraction which strictly avoids any reference to the world.  Christofides’ abstraction is geometric, but every shape, colour, pictorial element and pattern has a meaning – and, as we see in this exhibition, often a long history of usage in his work.  For example, the checkerboard pattern is used to break up areas of space as well as encourage a sense of receding depth.  The ‘T and O’ composition of Grey Painting No. 81, 1997 (no. 30) and Invasion of Logic, 2019 (no. 22) originates in Medieval European maps.  By contrast, the rounded cluster forms surrounding the central circle in Intuitive Science, 2020 (no. 5) originate in the representations of islands in ancient Japanese Buddhist cartography.  From their early use in the late 1990s, the artist saw their organic form as a contrast and complement to his hard edged and mathematically derived geometric work and, as in the case of Night Thoughts, 1999 (no. 29) as the dream thought itself.  In the following the artist describes the two aspects of Intuitive Science: 

The central part contains numerically generated images which are quite rational.  All the elements, the grid upon which they float, and the way that they visually relate to each other is predetermined and calculated.  They have a precision.  The outer circle contains the more organic elements which seem more varied and ‘felt’.  This is the intuitive side of science which is felt but is nevertheless as important as the predetermined side which we put so much faith in.

Within my work these contrasting types of images may seem to contradict each other stylistically but I see them simply as being opposing in form and it is from this opposition that I think potential meaning is generated.  In conversations I have had with Paul McGillick (who is a linguist) we have talked about opposites and opposition being a source of meaning in language. 

A tour of Andrew Christofides’ studio is to discover a history of colours, patterns, shapes and compositions re-used and re-formulated to create new visual delights with new meanings.  It is to begin to understand the artist’s visual vocabulary; a unique and personal language written in geometry.  Studio Archaeology, 2018 (no. 26) is the culmination of this idea and encapsulates the nature of this entire exhibition. 

Charles & Kate Nodrum, 2022

Since its establishment in 1984, the Charles Nodrum Gallery’s exhibition program embraces a diversity of media and styles - from painting, sculpture & works on paper to graphics and photography; from figurative, geometric, gestural, surrealist & social comment to installation & conceptually based work.