The endless possibilities to be found in grids of line and colour kept Ian Scott experimenting with his Lattice series from the mid-seventies onwards. The earliest paintings in this exhibition are from the early 1980s, a period when Scott was producing his most recognisable Lattice works, and the most recent were painted in the last two years of the artist’s life. All the works show a painter not content to rest on his laurels, but with an undimmed desire to explore the ways he could manipulate the painted and physical forms of his works.
By 1983, Scott was producing the Lattice works that would become synonymous with his modernist-inspired practice. This is what makes the four Asymmetrical paintings from this period so interesting: they speak as much about Scott’s creative process as about concepts of area and depth in a painted object. The most immediate observation is that the artist wants to dismantle any pre-conceptions about his practice. These works display the same geometric rigour as others, but the internal structure of the paintings is deliberately destabilised.
While Scott continues to play with the optical illusions of advancing and receding colour combinations, he employs heavy, offset blocks of colour and variations in band widths to further unbalance the grid arrangements. In Asymmetric Lattice No. 33 (1983), the visual weight is almost wholly distributed in the top left-hand area of the work, with the lower right-hand corner left empty. The square format is no longer a given: elongated canvases mean that colour bands are able to vary in length as well as breadth.
Rather than presenting us with a preconfigured pattern, the seemingly unresolved nature of the Asymmetrical works implies that we are only seeing a small section of a larger whole: not only are the lattices asymmetrical, so is the visual information we are given. Scott wants us to fill in the visual gaps ourselves: are these paintings small pieces of a larger, imagined grid or do the parallel lines continue onwards into the space that stretches beyond the painting itself?
It is fascinating to see how Ian Scott revisited notions of balance and asymmetry almost thirty years later. Lattice No. 231 (2011) and Small Lattice No. 208 (2010) are immediately marked out by their rotation on the wall. The manipulation of the physical form draws our attention to the status of each work as an object as well as a painting; the materiality of the works cannot be ignored. Clearly an invitation to shift our perspectives, the diamond configuration also acts as a diversionary tactic from more subtle changes in the works’ composition.
Rotation on the wall aside, it takes a little time to work out how the grids in these paintings differ from classic Lattice iterations. The shift is small, but effective. The colour bands in the majority of Scott’s Lattice paintings intersect with the canvas edges at a regular 45° angle and in doing so, divide the surface area into a series of symmetrical isoceles triangles. This is not the case in these rotated canvases however. The bands hit the canvas edges at sharper angles and describe asymmetrical scalene triangles, which provide a frisson of tension between their irregular shape and the overall formality of the composition.
Of all the works in Asymmetrical Lattices / Late Lattices, it is Lattice No. 232 (2011) that is the closest to a ‘classic’ Ian Scott Lattice painting. It features the hallmark bands weaving across the full diagonal of the canvas, appearing to cover most, if not all, of the picture plane. Black is used as both background and line, setting up optical tricks for unsuspecting viewers.
We see this same blurring of line and colour field in Small Lattice No. 419 (2010). We know that all the red paint sits on the same material plane, but are convinced that we see bands of red with thin white outlines sitting on top of a red background. Scott uses the presence of thick white bands to anchor the internal (illusory) woven structure. The reduction in size and number of colour bands emphasises the colour field that sits underneath and exposes more explicitly the way in which our eyes are tricked into seeing depth where there is none.