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Brown And Blue by Alan Green


Like several other artists represented in the CNAA collection, Alan Green 'tried to avoid painting' in the early 1960's, producing collages and assemblages. These developed into more formal relief-constructions which continued alongside field-paintings until 1967. Green's response to Minimalism can be seen in his subsequent grid-paintings. Their shuffling of one's eye around the gridded surface became translated into a series of 'block paintings' (1972-73), where apparently casual paintwork and airy colours played against a surface of implicitly orthogonal regularity. These developed into' columns' in 1973, as blocks merged.
Juxtaposition of blocks, which could be read alternatively in terms of space and surface, gave way after 1974 to a unified field where readings of surface and space became focused on the painting's edges. Paintwork became a workaday sequenced layering of coloured matter. 'Brown and Blue' marks a key transitional moment in Green's development, when the thinner handling of the 'columns' is still present but he is now simply juxtaposing two surfaces and making evident the painting's history in terms of paint-layers around the margins. Green's field-painting does not involve the sublime sense of the unlimited evident in American colour field painting (such as Newman's); emphasis on the limits of the painting (as opposed to a sense of exhilarating spread) and on its strictly human scale became central.
According to the notional diagrams that Green included in a 1980 statement (Aspects, No.12), surfaces henceforth would simply be formed, occupied, erased, emptied, enclosed, fixed, cut, separated, joined and extended. There is certainly a link with Minimalism in this basic diagramming of situations, but particularised handling and scale at least remove the alienating effect of fetishised finishes and grandiose installation. Green uses the philosophy derived notion of 'proposition' for what he calls the 'physical/visual concepts central to the establishment of a factual language' but crucially these 'propositions' (unlike one brand of Post-Minimalism) are not seen as becoming tangible 'until a paint form is found to give them substance.'
Green claims the traditional autonomy of the modern artist, stating that 'today the most that can be reasonably hoped for is just to make an art statement.' At the same time his 1980 statement related the super-abundance of 20th century art movements to his decision to work within one artistic option, and this implicit rejection of unlimited progress was linked to the ecological possibility of exhaustion of certain world resources. Thus artistic autonomy sustains itself critically by taking a moral stance on restriction and economy, of which artistic practice becomes supposedly the indexical trace. This in turn opens up such practice's claims to testability in terms of metaphoric readability and effect.
Artist:Alan Green
Artwork type:painting
Material:aqueous on canvas
Measurements:1524 x 1524 mm
Technique:painting
Date:1974
Rights owner:Alan Green
Rights status:UK HE use only
Institution:Council for National Academic Awards

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