Through their depictions of cut-up, disfigured, deconstructed and reassembled forms, Roland Hicks and Stephen Palmer attempt to make sense of an increasingly fractured world.

Roland Hicks’ recent ‘Dissemblage’ works make use of trompe l’oeil techniques to make paintings and objects that look like modernist abstract assemblages, apparently stapled together from found offcuts of various types of chipboard.

These works offer very different readings from different distances; from the back of the room they appear as pieces of minimal geometric abstraction, a little closer and they seem instead to be Neo-Dada or Arte Povera found material assemblage pieces, closer still they reveal themselves as painted illusions, before at very close range returning, once more, to abstraction. They are not based on direct observation of a pre-existent model, so are arguably works of pure (albeit deliberately limited) imagination.

The very term ‘trompe l’oeil’ implies deception – and such work often risks falling flat (both literally and metaphorically) once the illusion is understood – but these pieces aim to be more open and generous in their trickery, and genuine in their enjoyment of humble materials and creative acts both real and imagined.

The starting point for Stephen Palmer’s recent paintings and drawings is a model made from a sheet of A4 paper that has been defaced through a series of actions. The paper is first scribbled on with blue or red biro, and sometimes more defined geometric shapes are added, also in biro. It is then folded, screwed up, ripped, cut up, and finally unfolded or reassembled as if an attempt has been made to once again make the paper good.

Whilst these models are made quickly, and many get discarded before one of them seems right to be the subject of a painting or drawing, it is the very immediacy of their creation that gives these apparently simple and ridiculous objects their value, enabling Palmer to make quick decisions about what works, about what looks and feels right. A certain scribble or doodle, a rip or a fold, may have a rightness that’s only apparent to the artist.

The slow and labour intensive process of rendering these objects in gouache or graphite pencil onto another sheet of A4, or most recently on paper mounted on board, is the absolute antithesis of the process that goes into making the models. And while depicting a piece of A4 paper on another sheet of A4 could be seen as quite a formal thing to do, the humble and intuitive nature of the original object is still there in the finished works which reflect both an undoing of formal geometry, grid systems and mark making, and a celebration of negation as a positive, creative act.

Roland Hicks was born in Aldershot in 1967 and lives in London. He received a BA (Hons) Fine Art from Winchester School of Art and an MFA Fine Art from Slade School of Art. Recent exhibitions include ‘Gradation’, Patrick Heide Contemporary Art, London, ‘Creekside Open 2019’, APT Gallery, London, ‘The Tiresome Truth’, ASC Gallery, London, ‘Kunsthal Vejle’, Vejle, Denmark (2019), ‘2018 Contemporary British Painting Prize Exhibition’, Huddersfield Art Gallery, (2018), ‘Sticky Business’, Stedelijk Museum, Schiedam, The Netherlands, ‘Humble as Hell’, The Kurt Schwitters Merz Barn, Elterwater, Ambleside, ‘Cross Section 04’, dalla Rosa, London, ‘Colour, Order, System’, Sid Motion Gallery, London, and ‘Of Spaces Between at Mrs Ricks’ Cupboard’, Primary, Nottingham (2017).

Read Stephen Palmer’s biography.