Ian Scott’s Lattice works first appeared in the late 1970s. Grounded in modernist theories of medium, colour theory, and abstraction, they represented a significant break from his earlier, figurative practice. The series became a constant in his painting career and he continued to explore their physical and conceptual possibilities at the same time as he took other aspects of his painting practice down diverse creative pathways. Scott’s continued involvement with the Lattices reveal how central their tenets were to his practice as a whole.
Influenced by ground-breaking US painters Frank Stella and Kenneth Noland, Scott produced artworks that were, in the words of theorist Ad Reinhardt, “preoccupied with [their] own process and means” (1). His paintings do not intend to be anything other than they are - paint on a flat canvas - and anything seen in the paintings are extensions of the medium. The optical properties of advancing and receding colours used by the artist create illusions of depth and movement where there exists only a flat surface and inanimate paint.
Lattice No. 144 (1986/87) shows how the spatial and optical elements of two-dimensionality, colour and form combine to create a work that seems to exist beyond the four sides of the canvas. Flat bands of colour appear to weave in and out of one another. Dominating the painting, the red band pushes outwards from the surface, restrained by intersecting tri-coloured bands of green/black/white. In contrast, the blue and yellow strips seem less animated, and lie flat against the black background. Each painted band appears to continue out past the edges of the stretcher as an extended, linear form.
These observations do not arise from Scott’s intention to make paint look like something else; the illusions are integral to the physical properties of the painting. Of course, there is no forward or backward movement and no bands sit over or under one another at all. Each painted shape lies on exactly the same plane as the other: the background is in actuality four small, black squares and eight small, black triangles and the continuous woven lines, a series of geometric shapes. In some works of this period, Scott plants small clues - or in-jokes - to the optical trickery experienced by viewers. In Lattice No. 167 (1987) a small grey square sits where the ‘background’ should be, momentarily disrupting what we think should be there.
Scott pushes the boundaries of optical effect in a number of these mid- and late-career Lattice paintings. He divides the picture plane into quadrants and turns the colour bands in on themselves, re-defining the way they configure the space of the painted surface. In the suite of Small Lattices seen here, it is the flat square rather than the extended line that we first notice. By using blocks of colour as dividing and self-contained elements, Scott deliberately interrupts the illusions of movement and space. The mind continues to search these out however, and must work harder to see them. The result is a constant flicking between multiple perspectives as the mind makes sense of the complex mix of form and colour.