The gestural vigour of Peter Lamb's latest paintings suggests inspiration from Abstract Expressionism and even from the automatic techniques used by the Surrealists. But exposure to the warren of marks that complicate these surfaces relates the artist's ideas more closely to the American painter Cy Twombly who, while an admirer of Jackson Pollock, was also a critic of Pollock's painterly style to a level as self-identifiable as a signature. For Twombly, urgent and untranslatable furrows cancel individual expression to the point of anonymity. Random and repetitive, Twombly's marks contest the lure of the heroic artistic presence with an 'anti-gesture' that confronts the flatness of a painting's surface with complex clusters of lines and forms that alternate between clear and hidden areas.
Lamb also promotes inscrutability about meaning with concentrations of strokes, shapes and textures. Gestures are his own and, conceivably, other people's; authorship cannot be vouched for throughout an expanse of painting. Some elements are clearly not actual, physical registrations but marks that have been photographed, with the photograph then worked upon by being overlaid with new matter. What is more, the photograph reproduces shapes that could fall outside the general ambit of aesthetic consideration.
Adopting as his ground photographs of his studio floor place, Lamb's source material exists in an ambiguous position with the actions that take place once the photograph has been selected, enlarged and made ready to support collage and painting. After all, that original image is directly representational, depicting a place that exists, but is subsequently emptied of its figurative identity when the artist isolates particular geometric elements in an abstract way.
Lamb conflates two sorts of space. There is the actual space of the studio that was photographed and there is the illusory space presented by the reproduction. That second space is an allusion to, or memory of, the original place depicted by the mechanical process initiated by the digital lens. The flat surface of the print becomes the ineluctable plane of Modernism, a material expanse upon which shapes that are a representation of reality have been mechanically produced. Lamb's subsequent over-painting frees itself of the volumes and perspectives to project, with gesture and material, into the space of the spectator.
© Martin Holman 2012