Deft and Joyful

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We’ve all experienced those times when making the effort to get to a show is tough.  After a round trip to Grimsby (210 miles) another hike down to Coventry as the evening drew in wasn’t favourite.  But I really wanted to see Visual Stream, a solo show by the painter Jeff Dellow.  And it was a real pleasure.  Over recent years I can count on the fingers of two hands (and I see a lot of shows) outings of abstraction by individual artists (they tend to be as rare as hen’s teeth given the predilections of our current curatorships) and fewer still that give one the rarer still feeling of complete satisfaction and – joy – an extremely precious commodity in the contemporary art world.

It’s the first thing that comes at you in this well selected (by fellow painter Matthew Macaulay) show that presents a small selection of Jeff’s little panel paintings and a goodly number of the larger canvases is a joyfulness and playfulness in the opportunities that abstraction offers.  And the colour palette is as joyful, vibrant, diverse and equally as exuberant as the handling.

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There are a range of tropes at work of course, but these are varied and diverse…just sufficiently repeated to bring the stylistic consistency to the whole but never dull or lazy. Every so often you spot another, different and original painterly handle, a flick of the wrist, a smear, another kind of grid played off against a box or a plane, and so on.  An endless variation of the painters thinking, an expansive repertoire based on quite a few decades of concentrated looking and absorbing what paint can do and how it can be deployed without resorting to mimesis.  There is deep time locked into these pictures, that despite their alarming freshness, also embed a lifetime of intensity in the consideration of abstraction.  The show runs in the Lanchester Research Gallery, in the Graham Sutherland building on Cox Street, Coventry until 2nd February 2018 – if you care about abstract painting in the present you need to get along there!

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