John Hurrell – 10 June, 2010
Sure Madden can amaze with an exuberant profusion of scattered and minute components that seem to burst out of exploding forms, or surprise with Blakean molecular textures enclosed by inert or fluttering bodies, and there are plenty of treats - but much of it is standard John Heartfield joins Magnum in the Surrealist jungle. Collage in this form is exhausted now. It is too commonplace a genre.
An Exploding Crystal Cave Freezes Time (telegraphing polymorphic rainbows into the mouths of the mute)
19 May - 19 June 2010
This current exhibition by Peter Madden shows him using his signature collage method to test some new approaches, such as placing coloured planar fields and distinctly demarcated zones within three brightly painted gallery walls. Here his intricate images involve more than just his usual magazine images, he’s interested in other kinds of paper too: graph, computer print outs, printed colour and hand painted.
Elucidating the eco-global theme that he is passionate about, some of Madden’s characteristically fragmented images therefore surprise by also including a touch of geometric Constructivist Modernism, especially within the huge wall frieze that is the title work. Yet for all its colour and open flat surfaces, possibly intended as a metaphor and peppered with variously sized vertical rectangles (some tiny) of compressed figurative combinations, the totality of this composition is too diffuse. The varied elements, his form of surrealist/eco-activist journalism, don’t lock together well. They are simply too spread out. Though the details often intrigue when zeroed in on in isolation, overall they are not sufficiently compact. They don’t cohere.
The fact remains Madden is a much better sculptor than collage maker. That is, when he is working with real 3D space, not illusory 2D. Sure he can amaze with an exuberant profusion of scattered and minute components that burst out of exploding forms, or surprise with Blakean molecular textures enclosed by inert or fluttering bodies, and there are plenty of treats - but much of it is standard John Heartfield joins Magnum in the Surrealist jungle. Collage in this form is exhausted now. It is too commonplace a genre.
When Madden really shines he reduces the volume of paper. When you look at the works in this show that use transparency and real space as a form of flattened sculpture - particularly his large overlaid Perspex sheets that are framed, such as The Conversation or The Dream - you get an artist that thrills with layerings you can actually look through. Density and air work hand in hand. Your eye enjoys the inventiveness of his compressed and chaotic subject-matter, and how things merge, then pull apart, then keep spreading.
Such works celebrate intricacy and multitude in a space that lets the elements shift in relation to each other and the gallery wall, as you move from side to side. The lack of paper opacity gives them a freedom to hover and scatter in a fluid manner conventional collage does not enable. In comparison the painted wall work incorporating plain coloured paper oblongs and discrete bursts of image complexity, because it is rigid and spaced far too far apart for any dynamic consequence, shows that Madden has lost control compositionally. It remains an unsuccessful albeit brave experiment.