About

Then …

 

 

Born in London 1951

Harrow School of Art. Brighton College of Art (BA Hons). Slade School of Fine Art (HDFA Lond). Stowells Trophy Silver Medal Award. Royal Netherlands Government Scholarship. Mendelson Scholarship Trust Award.

First solo exhibition at London’s Lucy Milton Gallery in 1975.

Visiting Lecturer at Liverpool College of Art, Newcastle College of Art, Newport College of Art, Harrow School of Art.

Artist & Musician, now based in Cornwall.

 

And Now …

 

“Happy is the man who can recognise in the work of today a connected portion of the work of life, and an embodiment of the work of eternity…”  James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879)

“I have always preferred to focus on the links and connections between art, music and science rather than what appears to separate them. This stems, as it should, from an unyielding curiosity. A curiosity in which there is no place for the self-indulgent or the self-important. Passion and emotional attachment, both of which are natural ingredients of the process, must be tempered by a laser-like clarity of purpose and practice.” Richard Plank 2016

“My own creative imagination needs a framework, a set of parameters, within which to operate. It would appear that one way this can be described is through the use of algorithms, both in my art and my music: ‘An algorithm is a self-contained, step-by-step set of operations to be performed. with a finite end.’ There is nothing cold or dry about such a description. And I find it more constructive than howling at the moon.” Richard Plank 2016

 


 

The Blue Cupboard   –  Tess Jaray. Royal Academy of Arts, London. 2014

We gratefully acknowledge Tess Jaray for the use of this extract.

“There are few who now remember much about the British Systems Art movement of the 1970s. Looking back, it seems to have been a brief moment, around 1970, bridging the old – American Abstract Expressionism – and the new: what might generally be called Conceptual art, together with the subsequent development of pluralism and eclecticism (which until they became terms of approbation were anathema), and then what is known as global art…

… Very few artists have survived the chaos of this period and remained faithful to their precepts. Of course it takes courage and imagination to break free of anything and move on, but equally it takes courage to cleave to original certainties and attempt to delve into their meaning. Very few have chosen to develop the principles of Systems art, to take what they considered of value, discard the rest and look deeper into the possibilities suggested, perhaps only hinted at, opening up these principles to a more personal – and possibly, simultaneously, a more universal – set of values. Richard Plank has done this.”

 


 

A Rational Aesthetic  –  by Dr Alan Fowler

We gratefully acknowledge Dr Alan Fowler for the use of this essay.

“This article, written from the viewpoint of an art historian rather than that of a mathematician, examines the influence of mathematics in the work of several British  artists who began working in a constructivist mode soon after the Second World War. They became known as the Constructionists, a group formed in 1951 around Victor Pasmore,  of whom Mary and Kenneth Martin, John Ernest and Anthony Hill  were those whose work most clearly involved some form of underlying mathematical ‘logic’ or reasoning (John Ernest also joined the later Systems Group). Works by each of these four artists are used in this article to illustrate this approach. While these artists drew on various aspects of mathematics and geometry in the structuring of their paintings and reliefs, it is important to recognise that their aim was not to produce mathematical illustrations. To quote Anthony Hill: “The mathematical thematic or the mathematical process can only be a component: one is calculating or organising something that is clearly not mathematical.”1  And the ‘something’was an object with a visual aesthetic, or as Hill put it: “an aesthetic of objective invention and sensation, distinctly rational and determinist …”

Read the full essay here

 


 

Text by Richard Plank from the Exhibition: ‘Richard Plank/Martin Spanyol’. The Gallery, Brighton College Of Art. 1983.

“The understanding I have of my own work and the many factors underlying its eventual construction demands a continuous probing and questioning of so many diverse, yet related, areas that, in this instance, a much simplified and descriptive explanation might be of most use. The whole activity of being an ‘artist’ I see, primarily, as a process of visual research. Choosing a discipline within which to operate automatically implies an acceptance of the specific criteria relating to that discipline. Working within the visual arts that means that, overiding all other elements, the finished work must be able to stand on its own. It must justify the conditions which it set itself at conception and which, as the maker of the piece, the artist helps on its way to completion. In my own case, the restrictions that govern how the work is produced seem to be capable of definition. I prefer austerity and simplicity in both materials and concept – an ascesis which allows the linking of the two to determine how the finished piece is constructed, and therefore appears. I use the most basic building blocks available to us all – simple number systems, black & white, primary & secondary colours and standard sized wood, Perspex, paper etc. I use paint if the construction of the piece seems to warrant it; for practical reasons. Otherwise I prefer to work in whatever material the work, or series of works, suggests of its own accord. There is no preference between two dimensional, relief or full three dimensional. Each is distinct, yet integrally related.

By making the information and intention within each piece available to the spectator (even if, in some cases, it takes a certain amount of mental dexterity and time to become apparent) and by allowing the work to be deciphered without the aid of, or necessity for, a private and mysterious language, then the third crucial link is formed: the integrity and fusion of material and concept, and its open availability to perception. As the artist, or producer of the work, I too can remain among the spectators. ” Richard Plank

 


 

On the exhibition: ’Cross Reference’; University of Kent, Canterbury.  1975. By Stephen Bann.

We gratefully acknowledge Stephen Bann for use of this article.

“In the terms of Dick Plank’s diagram, the ‘work’ runs through three stages of physical manifestation: first of all in the symbolic form of the number series, secondly in the application of the series to produce drawings, thirdly in the production of a finished set of pictures. The relationship between the three stages is not a direct and inevitable one, in the sense that other drawings could have been evolved from the same number of series, and other pictures from the same drawings. But the direction is constant: towards the presentation of an object in its concreteness, and a more intense interaction between the artist’s schema and the spectators eye.

Jim Savage, Ed Winters and Dick Plank provide an interesting set of works from the point of view of comparisons and discriminations. All are involved with the application of systemic procedures in the determination of their structures. They have accepted the principle of an initial ‘law’ as an aid to exploration and discovery. Yet the variations of subtle effects which they have achieved effectively dismisses any accusation of uniformity. Each adventure has allowed free play to a particular sensibility, to a particular method of forming and structuring the concrete object…… Dick Plank, however, seems more directly concerned with the charting of the schema from symbolic to concrete that has already been mentioned. It is worth mentioning that one of his recent enterprises has been a series of juxtaposed map sections and photographs of pre-historic sites on the island of St.Mary’s, in the Scillies. The map indicates the camera direction, and the photograph offers its natural, but often ambiguous vision against the symbolic clarity of the cartographer. In a sense, the works which he is exhibiting also demonstrate this creative tension between what is laid down – the symbolic schema – and the perplexing or enthralling ambiguities of natural perception. His individual pictures show clear symmetries, as if one picture were offering a different slice of the world selectively presented in the next. But there are also the odd and effective displacements, as when the line bounding one square in the basic grid runs into, or lies directly parallel to, the line from the adjacent square. Dick Plank has used photography to clarify problems of structure and relationship between the symbolic and the concrete.”

 


For further reading on this area of work we recommend:

Constructed Abstract Art In England (A Neglected Avant-Garde).  Alastair Grieve.  Yale University Press

Towards A Rational Aesthetic (Constructive Art in Post-war Britain).  Osborne Samuel

A Rational Aesthetic (The Systems Group & Associated Artists).  Southampton City Art Gallery

Systems.  Arts Council of Great Britain 1972-3