Hales Gallery is pleased to present Great Outdoors, new works by Ben Ravenscroft.
Ben Ravenscroft's new paintings on aluminium develop the artist's complex enquiry into painting's founding material and aesthetic categories. Ravenscroft's paintings may not be figurative, but neither do they align with traditional notions of abstraction. Instead they provide surfaces for unpicking the actions of being a painter, examining how process and technique constrains or enables the possibility for spontaneity and originality in a painting. Ravenscroft's approach yields paintings that while tirelessly analytical, nevertheless teem with unexpected visual event and paradoxical aesthetic effect - a tight-rope walk between method and happenstance, between lucid self-awareness and enthusiastic affirmation.
Ravenscroft's approach focuses on how random or spontaneous acts become fixed starting points for new acts of speculative experiment, which themselves provoke further possibilities: Ravenscroft 'primes' his surfaces with loose, rapid, all-over strokes of an ordinary white metal undercoat, yet this apparently spontaneous and gestural patterning effectively provides a strict framework for what follows. Overpainting these strokes with layers of carefully chosen glazes, Ravenscroft elaborates compositions that use the primer as both figure and ground simultaneously: patches of colour emerge from 'behind' the whitish strokes, while others are demarcated by colour glaze, breathing coloured life into paint that would otherwise remain blank, indistinguishable and seemingly unfinished.
But Ravenscroft further destabilises this by playing with the conventional attitude that regards colour as a positive value. By layering contrasting colours of glaze, he builds up areas that darken steadily towards blackness, a contradictory undertaking that provokes questions about how we appreciate visual over material values in painting; Ravenscroft's technique invests time and labour into an apparently self-destructive process of negation, and yet these blacks reveal a rich, if elusive tonal depth. In these paintings colour, depth and gesture are here intentionally separated and then reconnected, swapping places in a constant spiral of cause and effect. Eschewing easy gratification and visual gimmickry, Ravenscroft's painting pursues a more idiosyncratic and more redemptive goal, of generating new, positive forms out of the constant negation of painterly ideas, turning end-points into the foundations for new departures.