Finbar Ward Explores Painting As A Material For Sculpture

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British artist Finbar Ward’s (b.1990) work rests on a careful negotiation of colour and form. Although tempting to talk about his work in relation to someone like YBA, Rachel Whiteread, who casts negative space, it is the painters such as Giorgio Morandi, Vanessa Bell and Euan Uglow that come to mind. Ward has said, ‘In my work I try to argue the case for painting as a subject in itself, and by doing so hope to explore the potential for painting as a working material for sculpture.’

Dispenser’ (2013) was first shown in London, 2013 and reads like a poem. Against the wooden floor of the Saatchi Gallery, it reminded me of the sensationalist articles that were published in response to the Minimalist artist Carl Andre’s work which was both berated and celebrated for being ‘a pile of bricks’. There is nothing fussy or sentimental about Ward’s work, but there is sensitivity in his use of colour. The title ‘dispenser’ and the fabrication creates an honest and open sculptural form which does not conceal, but rather celebrates its materials; the alignment and sometimes misalignment of the wooden planks. It is the ruptures and breaks in conformity that speak to us; the bright orange square that juts out of the flat-packed box against a dark navy blue or the strands of teal that run through the body of the box. Ward has said, ‘The evolution of each work is always closely tied to the mistakes or failures in those that came before it.’

Finbar Ward, Dispenser, 2013, Acrylic, oil, gloss, linen, wood, concrete, caulk, dust sheet, and staples, Size: 240 x 55 x 120 cm, Image courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery. Photography © Sam Drake, 2014.
Finbar Ward, 2015, Oil, gloss, linen, canvas, wood, concrete, paper, nails, and staples, Size: 170 x 107 x 79 cm. Photo courtesy of Geukens & De Vil, Belgium.

Whilst steeped in a feeling of the everyday, Dispenser has a nostalgic quality that recalls images of the sarcophagi of the ancient world, chests of drawers, and stacked books in libraries. The simple forms are brave, modern and clean but his romantic use of colour transports us to the old worldliness of seaside towns in England, with deck chairs stacked up on the beach. His solo exhibition ‘In Absence’ (2016) at the Fold Gallery, London evidenced a fanatical approach to making and explored the aforementioned hues of nostalgia. The hovering, repeated linen painted forms remind me of tombstones but also of molecules and genetics. Like Donald Judd in the 1960s, In Absence seemed to be asking what sculpture is meant to do, what painting is meant to do, and what an exhibition is meant to do. Ward created an ode to obsession and neurosis and made it light hearted. But it is still matter of fact, as he recalls, ‘I had over 300 linen supports to make and paint over a three-month period and that was that.’ Relishing in the process of making, his work successfully speaks for itself and that is that.

Lead image: Finbar Ward, In Absence, 2016, enamel, cobalt violet oil, linen, wood, and staples, dimensions variable.

Jessica Draper

Jessica Draper is a London based curator, with an MA from the Courtauld in Documenting Fashion and Film. She currently specialises in contemporary British art.