Finbar Ward utilises painting as a working material for sculpture. Although his work has sculptural attributes, it is born out of the language of painting, using materials which point toward the traditions associated with the medium and, by so doing, explores the potential of painting as a relevant practice today. Ward engages in a critique of the omnipresence of images in contemporary culture through the treatment of painting as a physical reality, rather than as a representation of reality – he argues for the notion of painting as a subject in itself. It is this ongoing questioning of the status and validity of painting today that drives the artist's work.
In Absence is a new work comprised of over 300 uniform linen supports protruding from the walls of the gallery. The replicated surfaces are made up of cobalt violet oil and thick layers of gloss enamel.
In the past, Ward has employed an instinctive relationship in the making of an object, allowing room for spontaneity and failure in the development of the work. However, with In Absence, these preceding modes of working have been replaced with a systematic and rule-abiding approach to production. This formulaic system allows the artist to react directly to the environment, creating a body of work that can be read as one site-specific installation. It responds to the qualities of the gallery – enhancing the unusual, and potentially dramatic, architectural features of the space.
Ward provides the viewer with two integral views of the work. The first being the repeated white linen surface – this mass of white considers the impact of near-nothingness and invisibility. The second view becomes apparent only as one moves through the work, as the ‘back’ of the works are revealed. This required participation in the understanding of the painting makes it a physical presence that occupies the entire gallery.
In Absence manifests Ward’s desire to reduce and strip back. The painting physically embraces the room and moves the viewer through it. The invariable treatment of each support accentuates the physical attributes of the work. The viewer’s sensibility is heightened and details in texture, material and light are made visible. This work is a continuation of Ward’s endeavour to keep the audience looking for longer.