This thing that hath a code but not a core,
Hath set acquaintance where might be affections,
And nothing now;
Disturbeth his reflections.
Ezra Pound; "An Object" (1912) i.
The Infinex Series
The works are an orchestration of individual shapes that are related to each other in various combinations in a contemporary context. Infinex is a word I associate as a title with "boundless possibilities, light, means, quality".
Like my modular / installation works of 1968 these new modular shapes again use the negative background wall space but in a more assertive way. They cut into the shape structure more to become shapes in their own right, for me they are an affirmation of non objective colour abstract painting that looks toward a new pictorial language and one which connects abstract painting to its' history. My aim in using structure this way was to provide another way of working other than an "image in a ground on a square or rectangular painting hanging on a background wall space".
The possibilities of working this way are infinite and a means to expand scale more readily. The variations of also working this way give a continual coherent unity of form and colour; synthesizing new ways for a colour abstraction continuum. Like the Structure series these new works rely on architectonic form and again relate to the creative structure of the Architecture Zahar Hadid and Frank Gehry whose individual forms are relating to each other in a variety of combinations.
(i) Abstract art --- a language ? Stephen Bann
TOWARDS A NEW ART
Essays on a background to abstract art 1910-1920.
.....Van Der Rohe dispensed with what he described in 1980 as the "chaos of meaningless and trivial forms" of the outer walls and capitalised instead on the strength and transparency of glass. For Ball, this "reconstructed the whole idea of what buildings are about. It was the culmination of idea following idea which extends itself all the time." Ball views his work in similar terms, envisaging not only the structural paradigm of a new series but the forms, colours and colour relationships within this paradigm, and how each work relates to the next within the series.
Laura Murray-Cree. "Sydney Ball": Artworld, Issue 5 Nov/Oct 2008 extract pp81-87
The refinement of Form and Structure and in my paintings the refinement of the vehicle that will contain the colour and maximize the intensity of the work.
This refinement has in turn enabled me to produce architectonic shapes ie.systemizing shapes that are explicatory in their structure while still maintaining a full intensity of colour that works in harmony with the shape.
In exploring the work of architects Mies Van Der Rohe and Zahar Hadid I find that in their own way they have used the refinement of structure to take architectural design to a new level that simplifies previous design concepts and has in turn created exciting architecture.
It has been my aim that in creating these shape structures I can achieve a new pictorial architecture that is different and contemporary.
A colour richness and intensity is the primary importance and that is achieved through the refinement of form and colour simplicity.
Sydney Ball 2007.
.....Ball returned to abstraction through a slow process of change that began around the turn of the century. "I wanted to incease the size of the image, to lift it up off the canvas, to use colour again in a major way.
Gradually (I let go) of the background calligraphy, making the central shape the important part of the picture."
A cliff face at an isolated beach near Eden on the south coast of New South Wales, made an impact.
"It was that drama again, the darkness of the shape coming down to the sea, very simplified, understated."
He made drawings of rocks on his property as a way of achieving the first structures. Other memories surfaced, including
"beautiful mesa shapes, structural shapes" on a 1965 bus trip through the Arizona desert. The resulting series, Structures 1,
was concerned with balance in nature - where one thing rest lightly on another and can be brought down with a touch.
Laura Murray-Cree. "Sydney Ball": Artworld, Issue 5 Nov/Oct 2008 extract pp81-87
The Stain paintings followed a sustained colour field period, which included the Band paintings 1963 -1964, the Canto paintings 1964-1967, the Persian series 1967-1968, the Modular constructions 1968-1969 and the Link paintings 1969-1971.
The shift to the "action" of the Stain paintings was a continuation of the on-going project of "working the field of colour (sic) and spatial relationships" and a number of American Color Field painters were influential to the development of the Stain paintings including Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis, Ken Noland and Mark Rothko
With the first group of Stain works (1971-1973) the ground was loosened up with the saturation of acrylic paint and daubed sequences of coloured dots. Transparent squares and rectangles were also used as shapes. The introduction of poured enamel areas helped create a surface tension between translucence and opacity. In the second phase (1974-1975) the surface area was "closed off" using layers of acrylic staining and finishing with oil and enamel paint This group of paintings relate closely to Claude Monet's late series "The House from the Rose Garden", in which the final surface is saturated with rich colour.
In the third and final group of Stained works (1976-1981) the surface was opened up again, raw canvas played against poured colour of acrylic paint translucent and solid, accentuated by splashes of enamel colour and subtle nuances which create the rigor of the paintings spatial relationship and structure.
I first met Sydney Ball one freezing November New York day in 1964 in the studio of Theodore Stamos, his teacher and one of the most intuitively lyrical of the abstract expressionists; I was instantly warmed by the radiance of colour in the paintings of Sydney Ball and by the fact that here, amid hardĖedge painting, hypnotic optical devices and the bright skeins and veils of Morris Louis colour, was an artist significantly different.
With others he shares optical elements, flatness, purity, uniformity of hue, colour field calmness and mathematical exactness, but Stamosís cool, quiet canvases,
sometimes of a vast white expanse touched by golden shadows or licked by a red flame, supply a clue to Sydney Ballís distinctiveness; he is concerned with colour as a sensation of light, not, as are the optical painters, with its retinal effects; his sensuous radiance results from the effects of the light created within the painting rather than from the effects on the eye itself. His work unlike that of the hard-edge and optical painters, is not concerned with the participation of a uniform spectator, but reveals the artistís creative experience.
This sensuous appeal of felt and experience colour contradicts the parity and makes unstable a seemingly symmetrical equilibrium, that in lesser hands may look so rigid. He is then in the modern tradition of Matisse, Albers, Rothko, Still and Newman with who colour qualifies, rather than opposes, colour and composes a space that is the basis of the emotional appeal. With Sydney Ball,space,however much it pulsate, evokes as he claims, a stillness and a silence,and,I think, a glowing mysticism both remote and immediate.
However much he looks at the commercial landscapes of signs, shopfronts and hoardings, his aim is not to redeem them ,to make them palatable (and what artist ever aimed to do that about an environment except one suborned by an estate agent?);they are relevant to his impressions of the openness of Australiaís natural landscape and the drabness of its colour.His painting like that of Stamos,Still,Rothko and Newman involve paradoxical as it may seem, an organic presence: Commercial signs shout themselves hoarse over one message; the paintings of Sydney Ball come in both coloratura and whispers.
I almost feel like apologising for being so analytical about such rapturous paintings, but must add a last word; the professionalism so evident is not part of a new academic efficiency but is demanded by the refinement of the sensibilities involved in the creation of these canvases..He is a valuable addition to the Australian art scene which he is already exciting and influencing.
Introduction to the catalogue of Canto paintings at the South Yarra Gallery 1966; By Elwyn Lynn, Sydney.
The Persian Paintings ( 1967-1968 ) were developed through an earlier awareness of Persian architecture of the Sassanian period and especially the development of the Islamic Empire in Persia, the most noted period being the Tamerlane renaissance.
The paintings have no definite meaning in the sense but were painted in praise of the Tamerlane period.
Sydney Ball 1969
Sydney Ball was one of the trail blazers of colour-painting in Australia. He studied
under Theodore Stamos at the Art Students League, New York in 1963 and through Stamos
came into contact with members of the New York School including Rothko, de Kooning,
Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler and Lee.Krasner. During this time he saw works by Hans
Hofmann, Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland whose large canvases and strong colour influenced
his work. His first colour abstract paintings named the "Band" Series were exhibited at the
Westerly Gallery uptown 57th St, New York in April 1964. They were of vertical lines of oil
colour on canvas, these bands of colour later in 1964 were housed in a circle within a square
and were the beginning of the "Canto" Series. Using the theme based on Ezra Pound's poems of
the same title, the circle was used as another vehicle to contain colour and as a mandala
symbol of infinity reflecting Ball's interest in Eastern philosophy and in particular his Zen beliefs.
Returning to Australia in 1965, Ball continued with the Canto paintings and an exhibition of these works followed at The Museum of Modern Art, organised by the Director, John Reed. Success of this series soon followed and after several exhibition's of the Canto's the Persian Series were begun, the curved bands of the works loosely emphasized Islamic Architecture, as well as the architectural decoration of Persian Miniatures. This group of paintings paraphrasing Islamic architectural motifs into rhythmically decorative bands of colour were a reductive "hard edge" process that allowed for the inner and outer spaces to become more "focal" as images and not merely as flat grounds supporting an image. Victoria Lynn in her introduction to a survey of Ball's prints 1964-1988, "A Jubilant Light", writes of the Persian series of prints: "Ball pushed the border decoration of eastern art into the centre stage as it were. What once framed a narrative became the compelling subject of the print, emptied of its history." (Sydney Ball, June 1997)
Patrick McCaughey, 'Sydney Ball and the Sixties', Art and Australia, vol.7 No 4, 1970;
Victoria Lynn, Sydney Ball: A Jubilant Light, Wollongong Art Gallery, 1989;
Swingtime - East Coast, West Coast Works from the 1960s-70s, The University of Western Australia, Exhibition Catalogue. 1997.