Allen Maddox (1948-2000) is remembered as being one of New Zealand’s finest exponents of abstract expressionism. His work, spanning over three decades, investigates the tensions between structure and gesture, primarily utilising the motifs of grids and crosses.
The cross, that has become instinctively Maddox, began unexpectedly as a frustrated mark through a semi completed painting. The mark that was first used as a negative developed a much deeper meaning and enlists a number of interpretations such as a sign of multiplicity, the Roman numeral for ten, religious and mythological connotations signified by a cross, a check mark, or even as a sign of a kiss. More personally, it can also be seen as representation of the final letter in his surname; however, his works are not markers of an egotistical personality.
While Maddox’s works are highly expressive, a subsequent order and repetition is employed through the confinement of the cross within the box or grid like formation. At times, the cross marks are left open - the loose and expressive stroke of the sweeping brush bleeds colour onto the surface of the canvas. In other works the cross is held within a box, often times tessellated across the canvas to form an expansive grid. The rigidity of the box is loosened and abstracted through Maddox’s dynamic approach to painting. The brush strokes are rich with vibrant hues; the initial negative implication of the cross contradicts the choice of colour palette across the spectrum of his works. His gestural sweeps across the canvas show a commanding presence over the medium; Maddox was confident with his brush and where pigment was applied, more often than not, it was left in its original state.
Having represented the artist since 1987 and then his estate since his death in 2000, Gow Langsford has unprecedented access to never seen before works, many of which are included this exhibition.