Passing the Bucklow

Southampton City Gallery is currently hosting Said Now, For All Time, an exhibition by Christopher Bucklow. According to the blurb on the back of the accompanying book, the images are “the true forms of the shadows that we perceive in our own subconscious.” Certainly, the theme of Plato’s Cave runs through them, but ‘true forms’? Let’s see.

There is much repeated symbolism in Bucklow’s works – ukiyo-e,  the critic Clement Greenberg, a flayed Michelangelo, the paintings of Kenneth Noland, and 60s call-girl Mandy Rice-Davies. However, it is the concept of membranes and the piercing of them that is most consistent. Several are paintings known as ‘splayers’ where Bucklow has depicted a canvas split through the surface of the fabric itself and hinged open to create an impossible space between the two surfaces while displaying both sides of the same surface to the viewer. A nod to Cubism, who knows? These paintings-of-paintings show the canvas to be pierced as if by bullet-holes in Red, or slashed in the style of Lucio Fontana in The Way Station (both from 2009). In both cases the ‘damage’ is only visible in the ‘front’ view of the imaginary canvas, so are they really showing us the same image from both sides or not?

Moving through the exhibition, the themes become clearer to some extent – as well as piercing there is fracturing in the style of Bacon, movement between spaces, and photographs taken using Bucklow’s many-pinhole cameras, showing human figures (Guests) made of numerous round pixels, each an image of the sun. They show characters from Bucklow’s dreams, including himself, and have been described as ‘open’, ‘transcendent’ and ‘depicting a state of being’. I’m inclined to agree; I was struck by their luminosity and ghostliness, and it is clear how the pinhole technique is linked to the idea of pierced membranes. Ghosts pass across.


Said Now, For All Time (2013) – symbolism aplenty here – the blue silhouette of Mandy Rice-Davies, a portrait of Eustacia Vye (from Hardy’s Return of the Native), Greenberg facing away from us, Noland’s circular painting, splayed and slashed canvases, shadows surrounding.


Six (2008) hung so both sides are showing in a real-world equivalent of Bucklow’s impossible ‘splayers’ – here the signed back of the canvas is visible. On the left, part of The Moon’s Inner Vision (2016) showing the influence of ukiyo-e.


Thirty-two (2014). Marie descends from T.S.Eliot’s Wasteland, as does Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase 2. Noland and ukiyo-e are evident. Possibly my favourite of the exhibition.


Two of the Guests, just passing by…