Noel Betowski 'In The Fold 2' Penwith Gallery, St.Ives, Cornwall, UK
31st August to 28th September 2019 Monday to Saturday 10 - 5
Entering this show of 66 paintings done from 1979 to 2019 is an overwhelming experience. Noel Betowski is 66 and this is a celebration of his remarkable use of pattern and decoration which whirls round the room, on zigzagging concertinered panels, a device used to get them all into a gallery which seems made for their proportions. There are open door shapes, circles, swirls, all colours of the rainbow it seems but particularly vibrant orange and dusky blue.
The edges of the canvasses are also decorated with his characteristic energetic pattern.
There are sharp edges of bright hues and also blurred passages of complex murky mixtures.
What does it mean? What does he mean by reference to 'entropic phenomena?'
I note that Noell Betowski's formative period was the 70's when in America Miriam Schapiro and others worked in the ' Pattern and Decoration' movement which was largely seen as feminist and has been mentioned by Anna Swartz in 'Hyperallergic' June 13 2018' as having a resurgence recently, partly as an alternative to the preponderance of work about political issues and 'relentless address of injustices'.
Alongside the paintings are woven panels made by Pamela Betowski, Noel's wife, to compliment the paintings in their proportions and colours and she writes of the influence or parallel rhythms of music. These weavings are brightly coloured but calmly ordered. This couple perform wonderfully adept and lively folk music on violin and guitar regularly in Cornwall.
Prices are from £200 to £1800 with many prices on application.
On the way in a few paintings by Willie Barns Graham are shown which show a similar fascination with pattern with lots of deep red and black.
I had not seen these before and thought they must have been chosen to parallel the Betowskis. Willie Barns Grahams are from the 60's and 70's and are priced up to £18.000.
Whereas the Barns Graham's are deliberative, concise and each self contained statements, the Betowski works make an immersive environment, abstraction on acid, as if attempting to express all the fizzing life and energy of cells and DNA.
Whilst I often feel St.Ives and the Penwith in particular are stuck in a time warp forever in homage to Ben and Barbara and an illustrious modernist past, here I have to admit that Noel Betowski has here made an original and astounding event, his life's work and an impressive original cavalcade of riotous forms which are both a rushing torrent of pattern and decoration and something that could repay lengthy contemplation.