Colin Cina

Serpentine Galleries

The demise of a credible avant-garde has led to a welcome relaxation of attitudes towards progress in art. There’s currently a more open exchange between the past and the present; not only is traditionalism respectable again (for many painters, at least, it was never suspect) but also, it seems, yesterday’s cliché all the more rapidly—and apparently—has become tomorrow’s new image. It ought to be said, though, that there’s a fine distinction between pedestrian reiteration of historical precedents whether of five or five hundred years standing, and a real inventiveness which stems from a less high-minded, even acquisitive, interpretation of conventions.

Colin Cina adopts the leaning-into-the-wind-from-the-future axils and diagonally reciprocating rhythms of Suprematism, Elementarism and De Stijl in an attempt to up-scale and develop the dynamic, layered spatial organization of this earlier art to see it afresh in terms of hard-edge, post-painterly abstraction. Like his art, you might have to read that sentence again to get the measure of it; Cina’s paintings are above all academic (not necessarily a pejorative term) and seem to delight in a whimsical pedantry.

Cina uses the characteristic forms and layout of Suprematism, etc.—squares and rectangles, wedges, lines in staves and rows, as well as invented shapes like warped, truncated ellipses, stretched arcs, and a curious, dented, fingernail-paring form. The layering of forms is kept distinct, and some use is made of the interstices between shapes to set up a rhythm which emphasizes the ground-color as a space in which things hang, or fall like ironmongery through it. Cina’s paintings highlight the relative lack of sophistication—despite the hard-edge look of modernity and technological advancement—of Suprematist space when compared, say, to Tiepolo’s, or Giovanni Bellini’s.

But given these limitations, the mechanical layering, the often topological color, the relatively anonymous vocabulary of forms, Cina’s paintings do suggest an imagery, and they’re worth looking at, even if the only reward is a poor joke. The drawing for the painting Running Biscuit looks like a Van Doesburg made of wafers and lathe-turned candy bars; in Dexter’s Point the Suprematist Cross takes a duck-dive into a swimming pool; girders fall through the air above an airport runway system laid out on a pattern reminiscent of Matisse’s Piano Lesson in Black Dash. The configuration which struts purposefully across Hot Turkey becomes a Suprematist Muybridge of a turkey attempting flight in three stages (I thought at first the title had something to do with the fact that the thinner lines glint like the needles of empty syringes against the withdrawal-orange ground). Footnotes to footnotes.

Adrian Searle