Form as Content.
Content as Form.
It’s a quandary.
The previously discredited contentious investment in Formalism’s insular bickering, a monastic essentialism both irritating and pompously magnificent in its vague certainties, has seemingly and ironically been given a new lease of life by the emergence of parallel Formalisms; quirkily reductive morphologies tweaked to carry their producer’s fingerprint.
Currently housed in the Baltic Centre For Contemporary Art, Gateshead, North-East England, ‘One-Time Pad’, a sizeable Thomas Scheibitz retrospective of work done over the last five years, is a fine example.
Scheibitz plays with an apparently feigned essentialism which is in reality as indebted to the functional forms of bottles and containers as it is to Cezanne’s pictorial building blocks. A restricted alphabet and architecture of basic dunce-hat cones, cubes and rectangles cross-fertilizes 3D sculptural assemblages and large painting / drawings which use occasionally mixed and unrefined toxic primaries.
The paintings graphically parade a space which is impossible outside conventional geometries, the spatial concision making even the smaller, human-scaled pictures ones that imply forms temporarily congealing or being reassembled: not exactly fluid but completed by instability and absence.
The material weight of paint is never foregrounded as heavy, shitty, coloured muck and only really exposes itself as a light scruffy scuffing coating some of the free standing sculptures; the convenient trope of the mannered ‘painterly’ taken to task as a vehicle of expression.
Scheibitz ammunition is actually both obvious and irritatingly archaic: Modernism’s tenants of reductive functionality; decoration as boisterous seduction; paintings perceptual mobius loops - so why does the exhibition work so well?
The shows title, ‘One-Time Pad,’ a type of encryption apparently ‘alludes to the coding process the artist employs in his work, which the viewer is invited to unlock.’
In reality it’s not a matter of ‘unlocking’ the ‘encryption’ processes alluded to in Scheibitz’s promo blurb, the hybrid oddness of the works comes from a friction between presumed conventions of artistic application, parallel complexes of codes coexisting, eroding certainties and leaving the viewer stranded in an interpretative wilderness.
And that no longer seems a bad thing but strangely liberating.