Andrew Christofides

Andrew Christofides distinguishes 'abstract' from 'non-representational' art: where non-representational works do not refer beyond themselves, he supposes, abstraction is an interstitial mode in which an artist can tread between the visual forms of the world and something deeply other.

Christofides’s new show ‘Parallel Universe: A Paradise of Images,’ at King Street Gallery, works between these modes of mark- and meaning-making. Christofides explores what it might be for a painting to ‘mean’ without having to ‘refer.’ Intensely interested in order, pattern, and slick, clean logics of spatial organisation, these new paintings enquire about the kinds of meaning that painting can access – or, indeed, create – even while it resists objective representation.

This line of enquiry has drawn the centre of Christofides’s practice for decades, over his periods in London and Rome, his tenure as Head of Drawing at the College of Fine Arts, and his nine exhibitions with King Street Gallery since 1997. However, this exhibition finds the artist approaching questions of painterly meaning and abstraction in an especially expanded way. This is to say that while the paintings themselves are interested in repetition, and their conceptual concerns are long-held interests of Christofides, there has yet been room made for multiple new ways of thinking and painting in these works.

A number of images borrow from, or refer obliquely to, iconographic codes of visual meaning-making. Take, for example,  Patriarchs (2019), which uses patterns borrowed from the vestments of Greek Orthodox priests on two shapes which are very nearly human figures, and sets out a space to the left of the picture which echoes the structure of a church’s floor plan. Other works are interested in lettering. Written Word (2018) is perhaps the most intuitive example of graphological representation in the show – yet even this work remains unmoored from any one particular regime of codification. Just as black and white figures are arranged in horizontal lines, like lines of a typewritten document, so to do these marks verge on something more calligraphic, or even hieroglyphic: though they’re arranged like letters, they ‘re shaped like something which only just evades the human.

Certain shapes, patterns, and unanchored signs recur throughout Christofides’s new set of paintings. This very repetition may well be what secures – ironically – the detachment of these signs from any firm signified meaning. There is a refusal of solid representational ground in these works,  and an impulse instead toward the expansive, the imaginative, and even the spiritual. This paradise of signs is a representational heterotopia: a parallel realm in which signs and symbols gesture to something quite other than their meaning in our ordinary lives – and, it’s a utopian one, in which possibilities only multiply the more we look.

EXHIBTION
Parallel Universe: A paradise of images
16 February – 13 March 2021
King Sreet Gallery, Sydney

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