Christopher Firmstone's exhibition of selected works - focuses on variations of the square format. Incorporating a range of structural, compositional and optical elements, the artist draws attention to the spatial and illusory possibilities to be found within each picture plane and precisely painted surface.
Paintings from 2002 and 2004 - the earliest works in this overview of Firmstone's practice - are a manifestation of a particular optical conundrum. Each a series of small square paintings on aluminium linked together, these two horizontal sequences present an optical riddle or rotating thread of an idea that both unravels and resolves itself in the viewing.
Four untitled square paintings from 2011 can also be considered as a sequence - a variation on a theme, a series of optical possibilities. The first appears as an all-over square of soft grey ground whereas the other three compositions have smaller squares of either purple, yellow and blue formally dividing and spatially delineating foreground/ background effects... the impact of colour upon a silvery grey surface.
A later untitled work from 2013 also explores colour upon a dark ground and the interplay between background and foreground in painting. In this instance, the juxtaposition of primary colours - varying squares and shades of blue, red, yellow and green set within a black anodised aluminium panel - creates a rhythmical, optical, pulsating effect.
Similarly, the compositional aspects of a pair of paintings from 2014 - one a grey square with a silvery surround, the other a beige square with a silvery surround - also focus on optical effects but in these works spatially articulated by black peripheral linear elements painted at the outer edges and corners of each work. The variation in this particular coupling is emphasised in the subtitles - 'two sides equal' and 'about face' - given to each painting.
Two vertical paintings from 2017 - matte varnished watercolour works on thick paper set within anodised aluminium edging - complete the series of variations upon the square. This time a subtle gradation of colour arranged from darker to light - blue to purple in one, shades of ice-green to pale green in the other - suggests an ongoing sequence where one block or square of colour merges into the next... a seamless blurring that while not formally bound within a square format, never the less echoes the variations and formal elements made manifest in each preceding series of paintings.
Ewen McDonald, June 2018