There is, in the recent paintings of Estelle Thompson and Robert Bordo, a refreshing marriage of pictorial invention and personal experience. Both play with the formal language of grids, fields and boundaries mapped out by Abstraction. Thompson’s images might appear more hard-edged and devoid of painterly marks, while Bordo’s are softer and more languorous, and yet each manages to animate their theoretical terms with the evident pleasure and curiosity they take in the world around them (whether it is the pink of a plastic bag in the case of one or the puddles on a muddy lane in the case of the other). In the singular way they find sensory and chromatic equivalence to the visual space of their own lives, they succeed in capturing a mood that is cool and playful without being ironic or self-important.
Bordo’s new work carries echoes of Howard Hodgkin, although the filter is more cerebral than emotional, while the practiced lightness and seductive touch of his brushwork shares something with Twombly’s late handling. The austere structures in Thompson’s work belong to the world of Mondrian and Malevich, while the ghost of her touch (the handmade disturbance and incidental shadows on the surface) brings their past into her present. If her blocks of colour are now much tauter, less diffuse and radiant than before, their curious juxtaposition (as in the red purple and silver of ‘Past Present Future’) is guided more by instinct than process, generating a certain mood and latent force - something experienced in the ‘slow burn’ of the viewer’s response.
Similarly, Bordo’s ‘Back Road’ gives us the familiarity of a ‘landscape’ without letting go of his need to resolve the image in its own terms. This manipulation of the ambiguous space between thinking and seeing is a fine balancing act, and the best results can show you how a painter thinks in paint.