Good vibrations

Good vibrations

Referring to The Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations (1966), Steven Cox’s new series, that bares the same title, is exhibited at Gallery Jérôme Pauchant, Paris until December 9th. The artist promises a poetic contrast and suggests the pleasant discovery of numerous textures moving in visual vibrations. Various colours appear from certain viewing angles that create a harmony in what first seemed to be only a music score. But there is more. The viewer has to go closer and move around Steven Cox’s paintings to experiment the material, depth and structure.

The process begins with the artist creating an object that produces a field of lines. Over a period of time, the artists constructed tool, similar to an adhesive trowel, creates deep vertical notches through layers of thick and malleable paint. This vertical gesture is repeated, deepening these vertical stripes. The beauty and the pictorial aesthetics are unveiled and emphasized when colours are applied and repeated within the gesture, layering upon the structured surface.

Steven Cox’s paintings demand reading on several levels. They appear to explore contrast. The works seem to be alive, though the eye has to struggle in order to divert from what is first observed. Beyond the surface, a game of perception is undertaken. At first, the paintings appear smooth and monochromatic, though they transition into a variation of colour field painting. The surface owns a materiality akin to the texture of velvet. Experimentation is dear to Steven Cox for his paintings demand constant experiencing. This visual dualism is intense, perfected by the artist’s process that took time to refine. The experience upon the eye has a more immediate effect. The artist’s gesture can overwhelm the eye and cause imbalance. Such as the stripes’ duality, everything splits into two: lines, layers, colours, and materials, inviting the effect of trompe-l’oeil.

When the illusion becomes language, the stripes send a signal depending on the viewing angle. In Good Vibrations, the optical effect and repetition refers to Op Art. However, the tribute is something else. Whilst 1960’s Op art stands out by their smooth graphic surface created using classic tools, contemporary painting here excludes the traditional process and style. Cox’s use of modified tools would not fit in the traditional process of Op Art. Steven Cox does not care for tradition and thus allows the work to exist on its own terms. The nuance exists within the simple vertical surface. Steven Cox’s paintings unveil delicateness to ones curious eye, diverting from the traditional motif and letting a visual experience happen in the viewer’s eye.

Time is needed for visualising patterns and layers. The process of creation is part of a temporality with some complexity. Visually, the contrasts unveil the exact composition of the work. But some chance stops the eye and questions movement. Sometimes, a “mistake” breaks the repeated rhythm, thus the visual effect. It sublimes the repetitive pattern and makes it human. The lines deviate and move, deepening the dimensional aspect, revealing the artist’s gesture. Good Vibrations is a link between the action experience, the moving experience, its repetition, its duration but also the viewing experience. The doubled image of Steven Cox’s paintings tease the viewer with its depth and own temporality, raising the artist’s interest for the picture’s ambiguous illusion.

Fiona Vilmer

Good vibrations