Talitha Kotzé, 'Review' (The List, 644, 19/11/2009)
Glasgow-based painter, Charlie Hammond, exhibits a new body of work under the banner The New Improvement Scheme. His canvasses have been altered, added to, taken from, layered with impasto ceramic-laced paint and sheets of raw linen dressed in shades of soft greys and pastel hues.
At first glance they seem a bit dour, like old school museum pieces they remind us of early 20th century Cubist paintings – Braque’s neutral pallet landscapes, Fontana’s cuts through the canvas and even its forebear Cezanne’s geometric patchwork mountains. But this kind of self-awareness allows for the room to lighten up and a humour to filter through: Hammond’s pieces don’t want to be taken too seriously.
Although appearing to be landscapes, they are titled portraits and this enables you to see a face emerging in ‘Portrait with Three Ring Roads (Awaiting Regeneration)’: two eyes and a mouth formed with the building blocks of a long windy road. A piece that stands out and functions somewhat as a conceptual link here is ‘Mountainous Scene, with (at Great Expense!) a Small Bypass’. The canvas has been cut out and creates a pop-up of a road looping out of the canvas, but it also reveals the artist’s interest in political cartoons, and in things modern and traditional.
An interesting and playful exhibition, there is nonetheless the suggestion here of a serious critique of urban design, transport policy and regeneration schemes, perhaps alluding to the absurdity (and expense!) of thinking we can improve on nature by boring tunnels and building roads through mountains.