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Roger Ackling: The Edge of Things

Annely Juda Fine Art, London

Thu 26 Jan 2023 to Fri 3 Mar 2023

Artist: Roger Ackling

Annely Juda Fine Art presents Roger Ackling ‘The Edge of Things’.

Roger Ackling (1947-2014) made artworks using found wooden objects, beach flotsam and jetsam, broken crates and lost carpentry which he marked with dense black lines and shapes. These lines and shapes were formed by burning lines into the wood using focused sunlight through a magnifying lens. Sometimes the wooden objects were burnt and transcribed where they were found, be it on a beach or in the countryside. The lines on the work being thicker the closer the sun was to the Earth (be that summer or nearer to the equator) and different parts of the world produced different weathering and ageing. Japanese wood and wood from the Orkneys having a remarkable similarity, reflecting their extreme weather conditions.

When Roger Ackling came to Annely Juda Fine Art to install a new show he would arrive in the gallery with a new batch of works, sometimes carried in a small, rigid, black suitcase. The works would usually be from a series with common shapes and themes, reflecting what he had been working on over the previous year or two. Sometimes he introduced new parameters to the works in the form of similar found objects (garden tools, vegetable packing crates, cedar roofing tiles for example) or added ancillary materials (mapping pins, elastic bands) as well as common visual themes that arose from the formal way in which he burnt the found objects. His approach to installing an exhibition was to allow himself room to react to the architecture and space of the gallery. With the works laid out he would enter into a dialogue with the space. Sometimes introducing a plinth or a shelf to display a work, the placements might play with the edge of a wall or a ceiling beam. Works would disappear around corners, be shown at floor level or high up close to the ceiling. They would be balanced and perched on small boxes, painted and made to blend into the gallery walls or sometimes an area of colour painted on the wall to act as two-dimensional shelf, or lines of black thread would be pinned along walls, unifying a group of works on an artificial horizon line.

It is with this process in mind that we approached this exhibition, as an installation that represents some of Ackling’s themes and his previous approaches to his making shows. The exhibition will consist broadly of two groups of works. Firstly, works that balance, perch and hang on blocks and shelves, and objects that hover or balance on the edge of things. This also reflects the way the works were made and look. The burnt lines drawn around the pieces of wood sometimes stop, edges are sometimes left bare, shape and form are enhanced and defined by the direction of the lines or even their absence. Gaps and spaces highlight corners, the lines transcribe borders and voids within the objects, hollowed out spaces are shadowed and deepened with the black carbon lines that underline those spaces. Ackling places the line to further delineate the object, to underline its character or give extra meaning to the form and creates works that can be defined as both sculpture and drawing.

Secondly, works have been selected around a common theme that recurred throughout Roger’s work: the diamond. This dynamic shape appears singly, in pairs, in groups, linearly and in grid form with some of the diamonds fat and squat, some equal angled square rhombuses and others thin lozenge shaped. Sometimes lines are thick and dense, at others lighter and spaced out. Wood grains and painted surfaces show through the semi-transparent shapes. At times the diamonds trace the edges of objects or fill the flat faces and occupy the entire work, stacked vertically or in horizontal groupings. Sometimes they hover, isolated on the edge opposite a corresponding space, obviously vacant from what would be a balancing position. Ackling uses the diamonds to point to or balance a feature, frame a shape, highlight a space or undermine balance, to play the lopsided card. This is the strength in Ackling’s work, this formal composition, dynamic hard-edged painterly abstraction wrapped around three-dimensional objects to create artworks that are at times beautifully balanced and at other times unbalanced, skewed and mismatched. Simply satisfying in their absolute abstraction, they are reminiscent of Malevich’s black squares and Mondrian’s lozenge shaped paintings. This formal element can be appreciated without requiring any knowledge of the complexity of the making of the work; sunlight focused to burn and transcribe shapes on objects - sometimes found - where Roger would transmute this discarded material into the final, finished artworks.

Roger Ackling

Ackling lived and worked in London and Norfolk. He died in 2014 at the age of 67. Annely Juda Fine Art enjoyed a long relationship with him spanning many decades including numerous solo exhibitions as well as group and curated shows and exclusively represents his estate. Ackling’s works have been exhibited extensively worldwide including major solo shows throughout Europe, USA, Australia and Japan and in group exhibitions including; Tate Britain and Tate Modern, Serpentine Gallery, Kettles Yard, Stedelijk Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Tokyo. He is also represented in many major public collections including the British Museum, Tate Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum and the Stedelijk Museum.

Roger Ackling, Various Works

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