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Austin Reed, London

Margaret Richards
| Austin Reed
| 1972

At Austin Reed’s in Regent Street, technology is turned into art by Nigel Van Wieck in an enchanting display of nine structures combining transparent perspex, neon right and electronic sound. Random permutations of colour within the abstract shapes bring them to life, and stimulate sense memories and mental activity. Polished flat sheets with sand-blasted edges pick up bright or pale light, forming out-lines in space. Crystalline extrusions in grouped columns jut up, from black bases invisible in the dark room except that they reflect the standing forms, drawing them down into illusory depths. The colours pop, glow, fade through the perspex, sometimes sudden and challenging, sometimes slow and mysterious. “I was influenced by watching fields under shifting sunlight, looking different from moment to moment,” says the artist. This is not precious or gimmicky. Integrity of vision and technical skill make the work completely convincing, at once exciting and poetic. Some sequences are programmed by music written specially by Richard Rodney Bennett. It whines, stabs or plops, perfectly in tune with the visual equivalents, like quicksilver falling from a beaker. Nigel Van Wieck is 26, trained at Hornsey, worked with Rotaflex the lighting firm.

“I don’t much care for art on shelves,” he says. “That’s why I’m here.” That’s healthy. We need art in frequented places — railway stations, old people’s day centres, prisons, schools. Art like this helps us to find something beyond materialistic advantage in today’s technology.

Margaret Richards
Margaret Richards was an arts journalist.

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