»Blowing hot and cold with the emotions«

Scotsman –

Two shows at the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh provide a considerable contrast in emotional temperature. Downstairs, Lucinda Mackay’s paintings conform to an Expressionist mode while, upstairs, cool New Works by Jonathan Gibbs have been conceived quietly and objectively in a Constructivist mode.

Gibbs, who has previously exhibited with Demarco and the 369 Gallery, creates propositions that vary in scale but are always elegant and refined, reticent rather than Minimal and of a poetic quality that compounds a feeling of kinship — no more than that — with the vision of Ben Nicholson.

It is also predominately graphic. Line plays major and minor roles here, making a series of brief appearances rather than a continuous performance — curving, looping, undulating, straightening, activating the picture plane in a myriad of ways.

Often it plays within a schema, a rough graph of stacked containers, where it develops variations that eventually build an overall structure of balanced weights and tensions. These dashes are accompanied by occasional dots or blobs and backed by whisperings of tone, subtly textured changes effected by using graphite, pigment or scrape.

Additions of colour occur under strict control — brick red, gunboat grey, sky blue — and smaller images may even become quite dark, although grounds generally remain light or mid-toned. Works on canvas make clever use of unprimed strips in collage and figurative fragments — a leaf, a fish — mingle with the abstract components almost subliminally here and there.

The strong graphic element in his poetic manipulation of a restricted visual language is further confirmed by a group of little wood engravings. Deftly composed and finely wrought, they are largely figurative and have their roots in British illustration as it appeared in the 1930s — the female nude whitely outlined on black (Eric Gill), ship and harbour shapes syncopated by black and white accents (like First World War camouflage), kitchen pieces or still life replete with fish of all kinds and recalling the emphatically patterned art of Robert MacBryde.

by Edward Gage
March 11, 1985