ON first hearing about the latest show at Salisbury Arts Centre, my first instinct was to boycott it. It’s by Bath Spa University students.

Too many exhibitions here seem to originate in Bath. The last show was curated by someone from Bath, with three or four artists also from Bath.

‘Lost’ was curated by someone from Bath.

Enough! It feels like we’ve become a mere suburb.

There’s a long-running discussion among the visual arts community about the role the Arts Centre should play.

Once the locals thought of it as their own; more recently they felt that it deliberately shunned them.

I’m not sure of the truth, but one thing I will say is that the Arts Centre is not here to promote our near neighbours.

Still, one has a responsibility, don’t you know? So I went along to find myself in turn amused by the creations of Carole Pearson, and then bemused by the paintings of Guy Bigland.

The title of the show is ‘By the Rules’, the point being that both artists used a set of rules in making the work. Both are abstract artists.

There are some abstract artists who paint ‘as the mood takes them’, but the resultant work is nearly always uninteresting and vapid. Any good artist uses rules in abstraction, think of Mondrian, Pollock, Rothko. Think of Rod Hague.

Local artist Hague came to mind when I was trying to evaluate the work of Guy Bigland, as a contrast in quality.

Both produce the same kind of result, but Bigland’s paintings are poor.

There is little understanding of composition or balance, no colour sense, and maybe only a small suggestion that he enjoys working with paint.

I got the impression that the artist was trying to be anti-aesthetic, and to create something intentionally artless.

I don’t think so: the rules Bigland abided by were to convert the numbers found in Sudoku puzzles into colours (based on the manufacturer’s reference).

This explains why there is no colour sense to the paintings. The idea behind them is arbitrary nonsense, after all.

Rod Hague’s abstract work, in contrast, is good: beautiful and interesting.

He uses strict compositional rules based on aesthetic principles, chooses his own colours, and surprises himself by forcing different paints to do things they weren't made for.

Carole Pearson’s ‘rule’ was almost as nonsensical: to make a piece of work every day (many artists like to).

Her sculptures are great fun though. Whimsical and surreal, they combine the most diverse materials, sometimes in a very craftsmanlike way.

Prices for her pieces are quite realistic, between £200 and £400.

Martin Urmson

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