Juliet Gutch reviews the exhibition Ordinary Dust at the Tinker Gallery, Ilkley, by John Gamble and Joe Gamble, curated by Joanne Tinker

THE first painting I was drawn to in this exhibition was ‘Point’ by Joe Gamble, on the opposite wall to the entrance. An abstract landscape of coastline, it was the blue of the sea which caught my attention. It immediately made me think of a James Turrell skyspace and of looking up at a constantly moving and changing iridescence.

That sense of space - of looking up, looking down, outwards into space and landscape and inwards to the figure - seems very present in this father and son exhibition. John Gamble’s paintings, sculptural in their textured layers of paint, often suggest a kind of early figurative art involving human echoes, stories, memories, and shadows. This draws upon themes in the poem from which the exhibition found its title, ‘For Memory’, where the poet Adrienne Rich explores the way memories accumulate to become the present. Certain lines in the poem seem to ask the reader to consider the trajectory of human art leading to our collective yet also unique understanding of life. Joe’s paintings are abstract evocations using shape, light and colour of elements and delineations of landscape, and although his are seemingly empty of human presence, the shapes and fragments sometimes seem to suggest forms of the human body.

John Gamble works from his studio in Ilkley and completed an MA in Creative Practice in 2016. He is co-founder of and tutor at Art School Ilkley. Joe Gamble, John’s son, graduated from The Drawing Year at the Royal Drawing School in 2019 and works from his studio in London. Both are widely collected, and it is really joyful to see their works side by side in Ilkley. Even though the two bodies of work were brought together rather than made in dialogue, it feels as if the collective whole is made of up of layers of intuitive and gestural response, both to their own work and each other’s. There is a dissonance of tension and calm between the two painters, the presence of both providing a sense of resolution; one is left with a final feeling of balance. The works seem to flow in and around each other, John’s titles suggesting states of mind contrasting with Joe’s, which mostly refer to points in a landscape.

Ilkley Gazette: Ordinary Dust at the Tinker Gallery, Ilkley

Clues to imagining the artists at work are occasionally visible and feel intimate: on the backs of the suspended pieces hanging in the windows there are handprints and the paint-marked edges of some of the canvases can be seen. The works themselves reveal layer after layer of paint, resulting in a feeling of time and process: of oils drying, being scraped back and painted over, cut into and reworked.

The colours in the main gallery room are earthy and gentle and bring to mind both early mark-making in caves, and frescos found in cool, dim Italian churches: they remind one of that ordinariness of raw materials of pigment and paint which artists transform over time into works of art. It is a kind of alchemy from dust: a process without beginning or end. The astronomer and philosopher Carl Sagan famously said ‘We are made of starstuff.’ This small exhibition seems to quietly explore the mysterious transformation and circularity of dust to matter and then back again to dust; art becoming intermediary between the two states. That it is a father and son’s work showing together which seems to be exploring this constant reprocessing and evolution of life makes it particularly affirmative. Returning to Adrienne Rich, the exhibition falls into the ‘orbits’ which the poem ‘For Memory’ evokes. The final lines “putting together, inch by inch/ the starry worlds. From all the lost collections” calls to mind a creative cohesion: between past and present, father and son, paint and surface, and matter and dust.

Curator and gallery owner Joanne Tinker says: “It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with John and Joe. Both so talented and extremely lovely people. I am the lucky one to be able to spend as much time as I choose over the next few weeks surrounded by these wonderful paintings.”

Ordinary Dust at the Tinker Gallery until September 30. Opening Times Thursday - Saturday 10am to 4pm.

Visit www.tinkergallery.com.