Bill Henderson, Funky Black and Catch Me, 1978

This painting reaches back through the years to a teenage in the 80s. This spiky pattern would have bowled me over and indeed still does. Perhaps I once had a duvet cover like it.

What makes Henderson’s painting, dare it be said, boyish are the preponderance of dynamic angles and bold colours, complete with moody blacks and cool greys.

But while its colour scheme is striking, its composition is absorbing. There’s a picture-book level of detail, with fifty discrete banded painted studies within this one large scale canvas.

Talking about another of his paintings, Henderson describes the way he builds an extensive series of ‘activities’ into a single all-consuming work.

“The ‘activities’ within the paintings can be seen as a constantly shifting series of events, each one a more or less separate entity, but perhaps sometimes related,” he has said.

The blurred edges give his plentiful bands a near holographic presence and together they hold the same fascination as an encyclopaedia page full of, say, flags (Pre-Wikipedia.)

On the left they create effortless depth, and assemble into three dimensions. This is a psychedelic take on what could be a form by Caro or a trippy, possibly illegal, bit of constructivism.

But the right is a repository of materials, a supply of colours and combinations which appears inexhaustible. If you read the painting from left to right, there’s no way out of this jam.

To be sure, regression leads you nowhere, and indeed this probably wasn’t Henderson’s intention in making the work. But if in 1978 he was just predicting the decade to come, he got it fairly spot on.

This painting can be seen in New Possibilities: Abstract Paintings from the Seventies at The Piper
Gallery, London, until December 21 2012.

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