Jon Groom’s diverse practice ranges in scale between the intimate and the expansive, in
Whilst Groom’s economic abstract language can be seen to derive from the aesthetics of minimalist painting, sculpture and architecture, his work operates at a more subjective level than this might suggest, for it has over time become noticeably more imbued with a sense of the spiritual and humanistic. In this, colour and surface are crucial. Groom has cited how studying Rothko’s newly installed Seagram murals at the Tate in the early 1970s proved a key moment for him, the point at which he understood more deeply than hitherto the potential for colour to evoke an emotional response. Another important source of inspiration was space and colour in the architecture of the Luis Barragàn, whose work Groom studied during a residency in Mexico City in 1997. Later, towards the end of that decade, there began a deep interest in Eastern philosophy and spirituality, the impact of which became evident in the increasingly meditative nature of his work.
Of Groom’s four works on the Art UK site, the earliest is Untitled II (1979), from a series of shaped canvases collectively entitled Vertical Wall-Bound Arcs, eight of which were shown in the artist’s first London show, at the Nicola Jacobs Gallery in 1979. Some of these – as is the case in the example here – consisted of a single canvas, whilst others were formed from two adjoined canvases set at slightly tilted angles. On each is drawn a fine arc, akin to a wire set in tension, that disrupts and makes play with the overall formal structure. Of this group of works, Groom has written:
'The paintings are about 6cms deep, and are very object-oriented. The
In comparison, two works from the early 1980s, Clay (1981, oil on paper) and The Moorish House V (1982) are structurally more complex, their geometric forms as though folded or closely locked together, and both with a single curved edge providing a sense of directional movement. Each is from a series of works: those titled Clay suggest the human clay; whilst a group made in parallel titled Unclay imply the body unbound, released. The Moorish House paintings were based on an essay by Albert Camus, from which Groom wrote in a notebook a quote that provides a clue into the paintings’ formal intersections: ‘Watching the sea, very far away, flat, serene, where tug boats trace great straight lines fanning out in shudders of foam – Then the calmness of the waters joins that of the sky.’
From the 1990s onwards Groom’s work became formally simpler, centred on square or rectilinear shapes, and hence more focussed on sensitivity to interrelationships of shape, edge and colour. Equally, there is an emphasis on surface, with subtly inflected textures achieved by mixing minerals into the paint. An example is Between the Light #10 (2006), in which finely-judged formal repetition is modulated by immensely delicate vibrations of layered colour. Groom was amongst the first customers of Kremer Pigments, a company that opened stores in Munich and New York which sold pigments and minerals in powder form: 'I always wanted the extreme physicality of surface to be so material that they were transformed into the ethereal; so by experimenting with minerals like silica, quartz and other mineral deposits in powdered form the paint has a sort of stone like quality. I was after a type of paint that did not read as paint.'
Commenting on Groom’s work in 1983, Chris Titterington wrote of: ‘the need to make reference to the immaterial as a natural concomitant of the material – of the spiritual in the corporeal.’ This it seems to me encapsulates the essence of Groom’s work and helps to explain its power; as does a final statement from the artist himself: 'I think the success of my paintings – at least I hope – is that they read not as
'Angles of intent', including Jon Groom's work is open from 18th November to 16th December 2017, and January 9th to 27th 2018 at Galerie Nanna Preußners, Galeriehaus Hamburg, Klosterwall 13, 20095 Hamburg, Germany
For more about the artist visit: www.jon-groom.com
Quotes by Jon Groom are from an email correspondence with the author, September 2017
Beate Reifenscheid & Robert C. Morgan, Jon Groom: Between the Light, Prestel, 2006