Tom Gidley: U + I = Parade (3 stars)

Tom Gidley: U I = Parade

Tom Nolan

Artist moves away from figurative paintings with this arrangement of studio experiments

Tom Gidley’s exhibition at the artist-run space Rhubaba is a humble arrangement of little formal experiments with clay and paint. Like much contemporary art, the aim is to crystallise the artistic process before a neat conclusion emerges: an attempt to catch the act of making in the act.

Gidley achieves this with a considered irreverence towards his chosen materials. Clay is halfheartedly nudged into forms that hint at figuration or recognisable shapes that tickle the senses; oil paint is thinly sloshed around until it comes tantalisingly close to revealing a sense of space. Ultimately though, meaning slips away in the act of looking and the elusive forms remain stubbornly unfathomable.

It’s best just to let go and take pleasure in the 'thingness' of the ornament-sized objects. Paintings and sculptures are made from the same basic material blurring the boundaries between them. Tattering slabs of clay posture as canvases on the walls and are as smooth and fragile as sheets of rolled out pastry; the crude forms that sit atop immaculate white plinths could be enlarged versions of sculptures made from the off cuttings.

Gidley’s underworked sculptures are reminiscent of Rebecca Warren’s monstrous forms, except more reserved and on a smaller scale. They invite us to peer in close, to move round the amorphous blobs of clay until our minds eye is forced to recognise something tangible within. A crude gesture where the clay has been hacked looks like a perfectly rendered pair of feet on which the totemic figure kneels.

U + I = Parade holds your attention long enough to find tidbits of meaning in the airy arrangement of studio experiments, but there is a nagging feeling that something’s missing. Perhaps it’s because Gidley is testing the parameters of his practice – there’s no sign of his figurative paintings here – but U + I = Parade feels like a peek inside his studio, not a polished exhibition.

U + I = Parade, Rhubaba, run ended

Tom Gidley: U+I=Parade

Work exploring the materiality of clay.