Carol Robertson at Stallan-Brand Architecture + Design

The small gallery attached to Stallan-Brand Architecture + Design offers a sympathetic ambience for Carol Robertson’s minimalist geometric paintings. The artist’s segmented planes of color evoke the precision of architectural space. Her primary motif, the circle, is a striking if elusive feature of built environments, both liturgical and secular, from stained-glass trefoils to Louis Kahn’s vast, hole-punched facades.

Robertson is also interested in the cycles of nature and the cosmos. For her, the circle is “an evocation of the universe and the heavens, the journey inwards, or outward, to or from the centre.” Though her work does not seek to depict the natural world, titles such as Red Eclipse, 2022, Nova #3, 2022, and Night Madrigal, 2023, indicate a particular interest in stargazing and astrological activity. As with the most interesting Minimalist painting, the scarcity of compositional elements generates a counterintuitive sense of play and movement, in this case via the activation of the disc’s painted edges through slivers of intense color, giving the impression of a retinal afterimage or kaleidoscopic shuffle.

The tradition of concrete abstraction in which Robertson works can perhaps no longer lay claim to contemporaneity, but to focus on this seems to miss the point, and the pleasure, of such work. While the artist’s vocabulary might remind us of an early-twentieth-century theosophical approach to abstraction, the qualities of color and form on offer here provide “an immediate route to the senses,” as the artist puts it, which ensures vitality. In Orange Eclipse, 2022, for example, thin crescents of baby blue skirt the circumference of the central orb, suggesting hidden depths of light and creating a gentle impression of throbbing or thrumming, as if the shape were pressing to become larger than itself. The painting enters our sense of time as well as space—enters the present.

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