Hobson’s Choice: Tomma Abts at greengrassi

24 November 2011 By
Director's Choice: Tomma Abts

Paul Hobson, Director of the Contemporary Art Society, recommends his favourite exhibition of the week.

4 November – 14 January 2012

greengrassi, 1a Kempsford Road, London SE11 4NU

Open Tuesday – Saturday, 11am – 6pm


Tomma Abts won the Turner Prize in 2006 – one of just a handful of painters in its long history – for a practice which extends the language of abstraction in painting. Her new show at greengrassi in South London brings together 17 works – paintings and drawings by the German artist. Working in her trademark format of 48 x 38cm in acrylic and oil paint, Abts works with no source material and begins with no preconceived idea of the final result. Her imagery blends circles, triangles, rhomboids, arcs and spheres; shapes merges and overlap.  Abstract forms are both represented and undermined by incongruous perspective or colour scheme. Reminiscent of early forms of abstract modern art – a moment of convergence that did not actually occur in art history between cubism, constructivism and neoplasticism – her paintings emerge through a process of layering and accrual, with the finished work being ‘a concentrate of the many paintings underneath’. Experiencing this jewel-like exhibition in the gallery one becomes aware of the formal and tonal relationships between the various canvases, and of the artist’s rigour and discipline to her intuitive approach. A couple of the paintings, such as ‘Hebe’ 2011 (pictured) have been split into two sections – at first, the cut is hard to perceive; it disappears within the shadows and shapes depicted on the surface of the canvas – treading a careful line between an impulse towards sculpture whilst asserting the flatness of the painted surface. A beautiful, quiet show not to be missed.

Image: © Tomma Abts, Hepe (detail), 2011, acrylic & oil on canvas, 48 × 38cm (courtesy the artist and greengrassi)