Cheyney Thompson: Intervals
Beijing, 18 November – Spring 2024
Lisson Gallery presents the first solo exhibition on mainland China by the American artist, Cheyney Thompson. The show could be described as a meta survey of the last two decades of his rigorous and expansive practice – incorporating seven different ongoing bodies of work – although all the paintings have been produced in the past 12 months and scaled specifically to the proportions of the gallery. Rather than a chronological display method, Thompson has hung the works by series and aligned them horizontally, point to point across the space, with the dimensions of the final installation and each painting’s size being determined by the room measurements, the door spans and any other spatial intrusions. Each work has also been formatted as a lozenge or diamond (neither portrait nor landscape, but a 45-degree rotation) to allow the paintings to touch one another and create a connective tissue that binds the paintings into one continuous stream of process, progress, proposition and production.
The seven series by Thompson are represented here by their collective titles and by a varying number of works: Graphites (four paintings), Chronochromes (seven paintings), Bellonas (two paintings), Dead Landlords Through Subtracted Light (two paintings), Displacements (nine paintings), Stochastics (six paintings) and Caning (five paintings; all dated 2023). As an artist, Thompson adheres to self-imposed instructions or restrictions for each body of work, perhaps relying on an algorithm or a mathematical formula to help determine the outcomes. For his new grouping of monochromes in graphite pigment, Thompson limits the volume of paint he can use, necessitating the application of an equal amount of material across each work until it runs out, allowing gesture and erasure to dictate the final works. The close-up checked patterns of Dead Landlords Through Subtracted Light reproduces a section of an earlier series that Thompson made in which he equates property rental values with the wages of artistic labour, while Chronochromes maps time spent making these paintings in 24-hour shifts or cycles, with the black areas representing midnight and the lighter marks for daylight hours.
The combinatorial and formally consistent installation nevertheless pulses and shifts register with each wall, also moving between abstraction and figuration, first in the Caning patterns that weave and glitch between the two states, and in the Bellonas, featuring sections of an Old Master painting of a goddess of war (Peter Paul Rubens’s Apotheosis of Henry IV, 1625, from the Louvre), which are rendered into four-colour copies, mimicking the pre-digital CMYK printing process. Both the Stochastic and Displacement paintings are based on gridded surfaces that Thompson either disrupts with a giant silicone painting tool or colours in pathways according to a preordained, randomized code – suggesting the tensions between traditional notions of authorship or painterly risk and a newly automated, machinic imperative for art making.
While the title Intervals not only refers to the rhythms created by each painting in the space, it also points to some pervasive, persistent problems for Thompson as an artist, which are variously resolved or enacted through his own agency, despite any number of economic, material and historical pressures of the world being weighted against his every move.
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