Finish Fetish – beauty brought to the surface

Residence Gallery Finish Fetish

Finish Fetish at the Residence Gallery. Photograph: Clive Hanz Hancock.

‘Finish Fetish’ was a phrase associated with a group of Minimalist Californian artists who in the 1960s and 70s began a love affair with the perfect polish of new surfaces.

In today’s economy of constantly evolving synthetic substitutes, a fascination with new materials is perhaps more relevant than it was 50 years ago.

But in an exhibition at the Residence gallery, contemporary finish fetishists Ben Gooding, Clive Hanz Hancock and Patrick Morrissey are less concerned with the production by machine of synthetic materials than with what, with an obsessive perseverance, the human hand itself can reproduce.

Surfaces are painstakingly hand-crafted to mimic the work of machines. Gooding etches the undulating flow of his surfaces with individual rhythms of line. He does this by hand over long periods of time. Yet they look as though they have been brushed by the controlled arm of a machine with one single sweep.

Finish Fetish’s attention to superficial detail is immediately evident in the fetishistic alliteration of the title, and even the gallery’s director, Ingrid Z, has been finish-fetishised – when I go to visit, her woollen hat is decorated with metal studs which catch the spotlights, and her leggings are a monochromatic zig-zag print, an echo of Patrick Morrissey’s aluminium works.

The Residence is a compact gallery, so it is a virtue that most of the works are individually compelling. In Gooding’s lacquer on perspex it is my own silhouette which captures me in its shifting, meticulous pattern.

In the copper, it is a burnished parallel flash of light which moves me. Whether you are a curious toddler or a sophisticated surface-connoisseur, it is one of those simple effects of light and shadow which makes you softly want to coo.

The triumph of the exhibition is in the intimation of a personal fetish, and its successful communication of a shared passion between artist and viewer. The works are not the curiosities of niche fanaticists, offered to the viewer to gawp at without comprehension; it is easy to feel the lure of these materials.

This is where Clive Hanz Hancock’s works failed for me – there was nothing sexy about his geometric abstractions. The bright colours deviated too far from the monochromes and other deep metal shades, and looked instead like the fat tips of Crayolas displayed in little cylindrical windows.

The good news is that the exhibition will be replenished with other temptations for March’s First Thursday and the second half of the exhibition. This also means that if you want to buy a work the Residence will happily pluck it from the wall there and then and let you walk away with it – so you need not be separated from the new object of your desire.

Finish Fetish
Until 24 March 2013
The Residence Gallery
229 Victoria Park Road
E9 7HD