The International Code of Signals Paintings

    Tuesday, August 27, 1991 to Sunday, September 15, 1991


    The necessity of work In the autumn of 1990 in a group show at Gallery 101, Germaine Koh exhibited some compelling abstract paintings from a series called ESTABLISHING. Concerned with investigating the relation of the processes of drawing and painting, those oil paintings on unstretched canvases were tacked to the walls. Some works from the present series of the International Code of Signals Paintings were exhibited in the gallery at Artscourt, Ottawa, in a group show called MARCH 1991, curated by Philip Fry. It seemed clear from that viewing, of part of the series of work, that the complete group of forty paintings deserves to be seen in whole as they were intended to be viewed. Discussing her paintings with Germaine Koh is often surprising. What the act of painting demands, what a painting needs and what is unnecessary are described in emphatic terms. Such deeply-felt painting concerns are expressed outside of personal desire but indicate in outline a passionate and engaged dynamic of though and feeling. Space of blankness and openness. The International Code of Signals Paintings are at first deceptively blank. They are paintings, however based on grounds of red, yellow, blue, white and black planes in various geometric configurations. Why not just make monochrome paintings? Koh’s simple answer is that tit seems unnecessary, that working with blankness means constructing something and she is interested in work that can be done without the necessity of making something new. One may imagine the possibilities of treating the paintings at conveyors of meaning – for the initiate only- or even as representations of words; as formal studies; or as surface and material. The viewer may choose to recognize (a) a set of diagrams/configurations with whose history s/he may or may not be familiar; (b) pictures/compositions burdened with the whole discourse around pictorial space; and/or (C) a group of objects, portable entities which simply have been made an painted. Ultimately, evidenced by the inconsistency of the first two observations with the material facts, these objects must be just paintings (or more precisely, firstly paintings are secondly aids to the realization that they are just paintings). These paintings must be about work. They are about reintegrating an established, specialized and defined site by and for processes that are instead non-definitive. These paintings are about wanting to work in spite of the demand that the product of such work mean something more. Because the work’s characteristics have been predetermined to such a great extent, the particular resolution of remaining questions becomes an integral part and a possibly-interesting exercise in each instance of presentation. Again, one may also want to question the rules themselves, such questioning accommodated, expected, in the responsible production of the objects. A few questions immediately propose themselves. What constitutes a set? How does one decide to place the objects? That is, should they be ordered (a) logically, according to confided content; (b) according to common formal characteristics such as size or character or colour; or (c) arbitrarily? What is the meaning of these objects? How can one deal with a symbol (these coded configurations), deprived of its signification? Why would one wish to do so? How does one know that a painting is finished? This project was preceded by a body of work that tried to negotiate the relation of or difference between two processes –that of delineation as a basic means of organizing/providing meaning, and that of painting as a process independent and distinctly different in attitude, though cohabituary in some cases. The two meet within a pictoral space whose limits and objectness are determined by yet another process, this is a modest hemming of the edges. It is in this representation the painterly space that is primary and that apparently will prevail; the simplified-but-loaded marks drawn within it appear as intrusions. These paintings have come to be depictions or illusions of (effects of disruptive process an argument for) a relation between what one might call a creative/productive impulse and somehow insidious/space or a picture plane that has already been organized, one that is an actual, given manifestation of the basic impulse to create meaning that I had heretofore been treating as a generalized and graspable paradigm. Otherwise said, what can one do when the loaded sign is no longer a premise (no longer potential) but instead present? Or again, How can I –instead of depicting process in an abstract sense –actually perform the work to be done? Daniel Sharp, G101 Artistic Director