Slipped Monochrome #2 in Three Acts

by Nikolas T. Brocklehurst


Prologue To begin is to establish an edge, a boundary, a periphery from which its other shall be measured.

Act 1 Surface tension: The tale of Surface and Void

Act 1, scene I Patrons enter gallery “What do you see?” “I see depth, I see an endless blue void, it’s kinda peaceful”, “what do you see?” “Hmmm, hm I can only see surface, solid, stable. oh no wait, I can see the other too.” “Oh yeah I see that too, hmm” “Hmm” “Yeah hmm”

Act 1, scene II Staring upon Slipped Monochrome #2, our vision quickly adjusts and readjusts only to adjust again. It is searching for something, anything to grasp onto before it falls flat upon the surface or falls forever into the void. No sooner has the surface been discovered than it dissolves and we slip below it. As the descent begins we are brought back to the surface, gasping for that most ethereal substance before we sink once more.

To evoke void is to suggest an engulfing emptiness, to consider surface is to acknowledge an impenetrable fullness. The irony of course is that they are both visibly invisible. Without referent to firmly grasp we are visually trapped in the absurdity of a Zenoian Paradox.

This flickering between the infinite and the finite, definite and indefinite, this multistable perception of cosmogony as void and self-evidence as surface allude to the actual object searched for. A moment that can only be observed after its instantiation in the acknowledgment a pre and post object, that is the unknowable ontological moment

Act 2 Masquerade: Place, space and form

Act 2, scene I “Hey, look at that!” “At what” “That”

Our patrons take step back

“And there” “hmm” “Hmm”

Act 2, scene II Embracing architecture as anti-stretcher, Slipped Monochrome #2 descends onto the floor and out of the gallery. Exposing the referential wall, it traces place to make form manifest. Forced to acknowledge its own dimensionality, its micron thin physicality it gaines a sculptural weight. Yet the work’s actual intrusion within the space of place, reveals an installational spatiality where we are invited into the work as the gallery is subsumed into the experience.

To see Slipped Monochrome #2s shedding of its painterly functionality as a critique of the modernism’s aspirations of transcendence and its place of worship, legitimises their intent. Instead it is precisely the gallery’s inability to hold SM2 within the confines of form and place that translates critique to expansion.

Brought to the for is not the play of the signified but their substitution, suddenly the wall exposed comes to stand for each and every wall, the white walls of the gallery, the timber walls of a house, the brick walls of garden, the tile floor of the gallery becomes every floor, the street, the earth. Thus Slipped Monochrome #2 does not universalise the subject but subjectises the universal and ubiquitous. Despite a guise of modernism, it negates the singularity of the enterprise and undertakes the postmodern turn.

Act 3, scene I Finding the marvelous: The zoetropic effect.

Our patrons continue their metaphorical journey. “Hmm, why is it like that” “What?” “Umm, you know, unsure of itself” “Oh! hmm, umm, i think it is very sure of itself” “Hmm” “Hmm”

Our patrons head toward the exit. “Hey, check that out, it…”

Act 3, scene II The simplicity of Slipped Monochrome #2 exposes the complexity of creation. Not of an ideal art but of the idea of art itself. The works literalness acts to disembody and lay bare an inability to define itself without referencing the multiplicity of others. Taking it beyond Duchampian considerations of the artist, dispelling illusion or exposing distraction it rather acknowledges the continual search for itself.

Through the act of memesis askew, the work places those definitional boundaries into instability. Oscillating between assumed opposites, void/surface, painting/sculpture, architecture/installation, modern/postmodern, referent/referentless, fact/fiction it alludes of an inbetweenness, those spaces, moments, definitions that have aspects of each other without being either.

This zoetropic effect is as much in life as it is in art. If the device is seized it ceases to be anything other than its constituent parts, yet if encouraged unveils the marvelous.

Epilogue To end is to define the scope of measurement. Yet it is the pause in between that most valued.


Joseph Beuys, Lightning with Stag in its Glare Photo © Lee Mawdsley via Tate Modern

One of the things that struck me while being in back in London, and at Tate Modern in particular, was the idea of scale.

Seeing the Joseph Beuys work Lightning with Stag in its Glare I was struck by it’s vastness and physical weight. To imagine making a work at that scale…

And it’s not that I haven’t made large works. Slipped monochrome #2 isn’t exactly small, nor was my work in the Engine Room back in 2012. Both were made with an understanding of the space they sit in; their scale came about as a solution to the question posed by the space.

Area of wall painted blue, moved to the left and down by a palm's width. Slipped Monochrome #2, 2017 (installation view) commissioned by Te tuhi, Auckland photo by Sam Hartnet

Of course, London is massive compared to Wellington, and we’ve no galleries here to compare with either Tate Modern or Tate Britain. This is one of many reasons whu I value travel - to see things I wouldn’t normally see and have my boundaries stretched.

The Beuys work and the architecture got me thinking, not that big is always better, but I feel there’s huge value to imagine my work at such a scale.


Sometimes the words just flow. Other times… Well, you know how it is.

Some sort of rap / fusion / jazz plays on the radio (in a good way) thanks to Graham on the RadioActive Breakfast Show. A sketchbook lays open in anticipation. Hot, black, stove top coffee steams to the right of my keyboard, condensation forming on the cup’s inner wall.

And all of this to say I’m not sure what to write about. I’m out of practice. I could mention my trip to the UK, the light, London’s Tate galleries both old and new, or my trip to the Serpentine. Maybe a photo of the doodles I’ve made this week. Or perhaps I could share some of the thoughts and ideas I’ve got for the year ahead. I’m really not sure what to write – my judgement feels wobbly and uncertain. Of course, in many ways, what I write and how good it is, doesn’t matter (that much). Not right now. The main thing is to start.

A Slow Take and some discombobulation

Slipped monochrome #2, 2017
acrylic (Oxymoron) on wall
5720 × 2940mm

Very modern, 2017
acrylic on wooden panel
1180 × 1180mm



Since returning to Wellington from my adventures at Te Tuhi, life has been busy. No chance of post show blues as I’ve been juggling various elements of my different work lives. A day here, half a day there, all while getting ready to go overseas. I’ve been feeling a little discombobulated.

That said, one of the many things I really enjoyed about being in Auckland was the breaking of my usual routine. It’s all too easy to operate on automatic, acting without thought. Simple things from waking up, eating breakfast and starting the day were, out of necessity, quite different in Auckland. Since my return to Wellington I’ve been very reluctant to give up the space and opportunity provided by such changes of routine. I’m not entirely sure why this is though suspect it’s to do with the potential for change, for improvement of some sort and the possibility of something new.

Carrying this questioning of routine over to the studio and my practice, there’s the opportunity for curiosity – What’s become a habit? What would be interesting to shake up? What if I stopped doing that? What if I did it this way instead?

Meanwhile in the studio (on the table) are two neglected wooden panels waiting to be sealed and gessoed. I’m uncertain as to how to handle these – I know I want more small coloured squares on them but I’ve yet to make a decision about the edges. Are these works going to be all about the front surface, in which case I’ll leave the edges raw, or are they going to become something else, painting-objects of a sort with gessoed and painted edges.

I’ve no answers to any of these questions yet. Instead I’m trying to leave some space to see what may happen, to explore a little. Nothing feels fixed for the moment, instead it all has potential – and that’s rather interesting.

At the opening

One from the opening of my exhibition A Slow Take.

What I particularly like about this image is the sense of scale you get, all thanks to the couple looking at the work. You also get an understanding of how the painting-object sits in the gallery.

Looking up to the ceiling you can see the architectural detail the work was made in response to, the painting being twice the actual size of the ceiling vent. On the lighting rack is the single spotlight illuminating the work and making the colours really ping.

The slipped monochrome work is hidden around the corner to the right and, due to the lighting, gives a feint blue reflection on the wall on the left.