“Un artiste doit se rendre compte, quand il raisonne, que son tableau est factice, mais quand il peint, il doit avoir ce sentiment qu’il a copié la nature”

 Matisse (“notes d’un peintre” 1908)

To describe Lex van Lith’s most recent paintings is to talk about a process of painting that reveals the strategy of its making. That is the adjustment of part to whole; the construction of the scaffold of one related brushmark-grouping against another, its sinewy form spreading towards the picture edge affirming the authority of the delimination of the rectangle.

Brushwork is often identified with a sinature but what van Lith is earching for his assertion of the brushes identity is a more objective way of mark-making. On that resolves the distiction between mark and shape, form is defined through the brushedge profile. While resisting any associative shape –signs there is a definite sense of the body in these paintings, hat of arm and wrist.

Van Lith has moved from a tighter, almost planned way of working, allowing little room for adjustment once the main paint areas are established, to a free more improvisory way of working. The channelling of one big paint area into another, rather like the course of a river moving through a landscape, has given way to a looser more broken assembly of brushmark form. He has also bgan to leave areas of primed canvas open. Though not activated in the sense of being “painted in” these areas have a spatial value within the organisation of the total picture space.

The works on paper which provide the formative background to the new work are lighter in touch, mor linear in feel. The white ground operates as a reflective field “behind” the drawing, yoking the scribbled-dispersed forms together in much the same way snow brings out the unity of the landscape it envelops.

In the paintings-proper hives of brushwork probe finger-like towards the picture edge, broken-off trajectories of the painters movements, leading our eye out of the boundery of illusioned space while also pulling it back into the thicket-density of the brush-weave space.

There is a tension here between a search for a more open structure and the build-up of a paint surface that threatens to close down the space and localise it on the surface. A tactile sense of space sits uneasily with talk of the opticality of painting but our sense of form comes as much through our experience of touch as through the registering of sensations on an optical nerve.

The intermixing of colours on the canvas brings the suggestion of volume, of light moving through a landscape.

Looking again and again at these paintings something is alerted to our filing-cabinet-head but itsoon flickers out again as the painting asserts its own fictive identity to remind us we are all equally thing in nature.


Vincent McGourty, 1994