Gabriel Hartley’s drawings and sculptures demonstrate a sustained interest in the intersection of lines at various pressures. Metal strips and clumps are twisted and crushed into one another with apparent spontaneity. Wavering pastel lines intersect and form abstract webs, their chalky hues both softening and harmonising their otherwise scratched, crumpled and spray-painted compositions.
Hartley consistently drives the structure of his work towards a central point of tension. Marks and materials are arranged to depend on each other, undulating around voids and negative space, converging into knots that, in spite of their arbitrariness, enact extraordinary displays of control. Their rhythm is primitive, relentless; shapes emerge within shapes, layers overlap and textures build, forming visual sentences that hint at an aesthetic journey, as well as an alluring net of associations. On occasion, the forest of his metaphor parts before a shape that appears vaguely familiar – the slender back of a giraffe, a shoal of fish, and the entanglement of two figures. These glimpses, although brief, offer a path through the turbulence, a means of navigating the abstract and often spatially ambiguous surfaces. The element of ambiguity is created in part by the use of spray paint mixed with a thick substrate of oil paint, offering a highly textured finish of simultaneous flatness and depth. Hartley explains: “I really enjoy the energy of primitivism. Since this tradition now feels so familiar in art, I want to make it feel new again, raw and dynamic. The starting point of a work is an image or object, which then becomes abstracted. My reaction to the source either copies and mimics parts of it, or acts to deny and change its presence entirely.”
“I make a lot of sculpture and think about painting in a sculptural way; the work has lots of different layers and the paint becomes a material, like plaster. By using spray paint with the oil, a new light source is given off and shows the different excavations within the paint, bringing out layers that have been masked or covered up.”
Gabriel Hartley (b.1981) lives and works in London. He holds a BA in Fine Art from Chelsea College of Art andDesign, London and a Post Graduate Diploma in Fine Art from the Royal Academy Schools, London. Recent solo shows include Splays, Brand New Gallery, Milan (2013), Slap, Praz-Delavallade, Paris (2012), Totaled, Foxy Production (2012) and group show the Instability of the Image, Paradise Row, London (2013). He is represented Foxy Production, New York and Praz-Delavallade, Paris.