PROJECT 02 OPEN GROUND
22-05-16 > 10-07-16.
The paintings of Robert Holyhead (b. 1974, UK) are striking in their clarity and lightness. Monochromatic, half-transparent painted surfaces are kept in check by a white ground that forms an inextricable part of the work. At first sight, the paintings may seem abstract and minimalist, but on closer viewing, one sees that these terms are inadequate descriptors. Abstract? Holyhead says he wouldn’t know how to go about making a purely abstract painting; the world is distinctly present in his work. Minimalist? These paintings can just as easily be called opulent.
His paintings, of which he makes only about ten a year, evolve out of watercolour drawings in which the artist conducts a continuous process of discovery and investigation. These drawings comprise the heart of Holyhead’s artistic practice and can be seen as detailed investigations into colour, form, and the behaviour and capacities of paint; into space, scale, and the unity of the image. From these studies, Holyhead starts to select particular sensibilities that have potential but whose transfer to canvas nevertheless carries risks.
Open Ground showcases a selection of Holyhead’s paintings and drawings. Rather than being designed as a balanced retrospective, this exhibition is the result of the collaborative efforts of a longtime Dutch collector and the artist, who have selected some of their favorite works from the past decade. They chose this period not because ten years is a nice round number but because it was about that long ago that Holyhead first felt that his painting was going in the direction he wanted it to. This coincided exactly with the time in which the collector became acquainted with Holyhead’s work, drawn to its extreme freshness, hopped on a plane, met the artist and bought some of his work.
This juxtaposition of works made at different times, borrowed from collections all over Europe, is unique, as Holyhead has never before exhibited works from different years together. Open Ground provides insight into the richness and unity of the artist’s exceptionally coherent oeuvre. The exhibition show us the quest that has driven the artist for a decade and that has brought about these concentrated, light-filled, individualistic works that – through their simplicity, their unity, their rich imagery and their measured creation – formulate answers to the question of what painting can be.