In an essay taking archaeology as fine art’s analogue, Tania Kovats identifies touch as the essential means by which a site’s form and meaning is grasped, altered and maintained by its inhabitants. Prehistoric white horses carved into chalky Southern English hillsides let slip stories of ‘repeated mark making, scouring and remarking the landscape through time.’
Deb Covell’s abstract paintings concentrate this process. Attuned to everyday traces, a scratch on a metal bicycle pump, handwritten notes, or grease spots on kitchen splash-backs, she grants the banal and overlooked great visual care. Covell re-inscribes found gesture with pigment, working, editing and reworking in layers. Often remaining, like the land itself, as works in progress, the paintings appear to strike a balance between visceral expression and the cool ‘breathing space’ of formalized zones.
Significantly, Covell remarks that she ‘owes as much to the beautiful tones of Kate Bush as to artists like Ryman or Stella.’ Known for her complex, layered sound, Bush’s compositions work effortlessly across simultaneous tracks as well as through linear time. In this way, the archaeology of each piece is revealed, rather like Covell’s collages that make visible every tier of their construction.
In song, breathing space is natural. Covell’s pauses augment her work, as a musical structure gains meaning from moments of silence.
This is the third in a series of experimental exhibition texts commissioned by Platform A Gallery for the group show Fuze, 2011. Quotes taken from Tania Kovats, ‘To live is to leave traces’, 2007, and from a conversation between Deb Covell and Becky Hunter, April 2011.