Curwen Gallery

Arts Review –

The predominant colours throughout this exhibition are shades of blue — lapis, aquamarine, slate-grey through to grey-grey, curiously reminiscent of Alfred Wallis’s coastal paintings of St Ives with their ink-blue ships and houses. Gibbs’s paintings are more or less abstract, though by this, his second one-man exhibition at the Curwen Gallery, there are hints of figuration — kitchen interiors and still lives, and the pervasive presence of an overhead lamp casting an unearthly glow overall.

The works are in oils, chalk, charcoal and pencil on canvas, paper, board and linen, and there is also a selection of recent woodblock prints. The connecting thread seems to be a compulsion to divide his support into loose rectangles, rather in the manner of Adolf Gottlieb’s early paintings inspired by North American Indian sand paintings. This notion is reinforced by the work (none are titled) in chalk and charcoal on linen which has the look of a Navajo blanket.

Gibbs manipulates shapes with a quiet confidence — curves, ellipses, squares, leaf forms, incised and overlaid with brush marks, which tread a delicate tightrope between figuration and abstraction. His particular forte is the ability to mobilise the picture space: the forms push and pull against each other, advancing and receding, teasing the eye and compelling a close scrutiny. It will be interesting to see whether he advances further into the natural world or retreats back into what has been described as »atmospheric abstraction«.

by Mary Rose Beaumont
19 June 1987