Landscape is as much concerned with what is cut out as what is built up. Almost all manufactured objects involve materials that can be traced to sources in the earth but the work involved is often disregarded. Contemporary fine art paintings and drawings of landscape are imbued with aesthetic conventions which largely exclude depictions of human labour, particularly in mining and quarrying. Knowledge of the repetitive pick work inscribed on walls of hard rock hidden deep underground where early miners advanced at a handspan-a-day in search of lead ore inform David Ainley’s distilled images. On drilled and cut-through panels a layer of colour is incised with numerous individually drawn lines. The process is repeated time after time. Each overpainting with a different monochrome layer destroys all that was visible. Drawing through again, at each stage, reveals clues to the history of the work. Form and content are integrated and abstraction is infused with metaphor. In this reflection on labour the significance of stone quarrying and prospecting for and winning ores including lead, tin, copper, iron, silver and gold and the ubiquitous demand by manufacturers of consumer electronics for difficult-to-mine rare earths including coltan may be brought to mind.
Following his first solo exhibition at Ikon, Birmingham (1966) David Ainley has exhibited regularly. He developed (1970) a systems method from the ‘Game of Life’ of mathematician John Horton Conway. From 1995 aspects of landscape and labour have informed his processes. His most recent one-man show was ‘Extractive Industry’ at the Westminster Art Reference Library (2017). Numerous selected exhibitions have included the Jerwood Drawing Prize (2000, 2005, 2017), the INGDiscerning Eye (2012) and ‘Contemporary British Abstraction’ (2015). A painting from the Priseman-Seabrook Collection toured galleries in China (2017/18). Entry in: Buckman, D (1998 & 2006) ‘Artists in Britain since 1945’.
MINED (ONE VEIN, FIVE SHAFTS & RED GROUND), 2015. Acrylic on cut-through and drilled panel. 33x28cm