Andrew Holmes: Gas Tank City

10 September - 4 October 2003

Andrew Holmes' big passion is the mobile armature that sustains the artificial oasis that is Los Angeles, or rather the lines of transportation that artificially maintain the city across the harsh surrounding desert.

Against the backdrop of the wide open skies of California, Holmes' photo realistically drawn tanks and trailers become larger than life. Reality is enhanced through colour pencil. The obsessive, compulsive reading of the transit steel architecture pumping through the urban desert reflects Holmes' insatiable urge to document, analyse, record and classify. His aim is to catch a glimpse of the fetishes of blue collar America, the classical Kenworth truck, the baroque curve of the stainless container and the pearlised gleam of the custom car. The lovingly embellished mass- produced objects become stand-ins for their owners.

With these pictures, vividness is achieved through density of application and concentration of effect, this being just one aspect that distinguishes them from the superficially similar American Photo-Realism of the 1960s and 1970s. Deliberately casual, snap-shot arrangements are entirely missing from his work, as is the reiteration of merely at-hand suburban exteriors.

His characteristic compression of meaning results in compositions like B and Long Range, drawings which literally figure the necessary effacement of authorial presence implicit in its technique. The artist/viewer is positioned in front of the reflective surfaces but does not appear.

This is, of course, an impossible vision, one that no photograph could provide, in that the viewer's image would necessarily be caught in the play of reflection.

Careful, meditated extrapolation from the visual data is required to preserve a crucial cognitive distinction between the independent life of the working apparatus and the presence of the temporary observer - and one can feel the force of the exclusion.

For 30 years Andrew Holmes has been pursuing the trucks, trailers, tanks and highways of the American West in a series of 100 identically sized drawings.

The process of drawing is the process of investing a photographic trace of the fragment with the sense of the sublime, ungraspable whole. The investment is effected through the small decisions over emphasis, contrast, and simplification taken through time.

The self -denying discipline involved yields a palpable tension in the works, particularly in the achingly sustained areas of unbroken colour.