'Jeremy Moon, Golden Section (1968)'. Stephen Moonie

Jeremy Moon, Golden Section (1968)


The title of this work refers to the compositional ratio sought by painters and architects from the Renaissance onwards. Moon’s work appears to have used this ratio to calculate the length and breadth of each abutting segment, although the irregularly shaped canvas ruptures any conventional sense of pictorial harmony: instead, the work’s shaped canvas relates to the concern with ‘objecthood’ explored by Frank Stella during the 1960s. But unlike the metallic or fluorescent pigments used by Stella, the colours used in Moon’s Golden Section are pleasant, companionable even. Moon puns on the title: the two segments consist of subtly differentiated golden hues (a difficult hue to modulate, as the artist once remarked). They also have confectionary connotations in-keeping with the work’s agreeable nature: indeed a related piece with the same dimensions and format, is entitled Battenburg (1968), after the cake which one might share with a cup of tea.  Unlike Battenburg, Golden Section does away with an explicit grid structure: instead, the ‘chocolate’ shapes seem to ‘float’ within an implied pictorial armature.  


Despite these culinary references, however, Golden Section is not easily digested: the work is more complex than it initially appears. One is tempted at first to regard the central axis which runs diagonally across the picture as a mirror, but the ‘chocolate’ shapes either side of the divide do not correspond to one another. Matters are further complicated by the differing dimensions of the ‘chocolate’ shapes. At first, they seem uniformly square: but some are in fact rectangular, as though ‘pulled’ out of shape.  Following this, the central axis may be seen as a crack or fissure, which the two sides of the painting are sliding inexorably towards.  Given Moon’s playful attitude, it is tempting to regard this as a visual pun on the claims for autonomy made by Modernist painting: here, instead of painting retreating into its own area of competence, it is disappearing down its own fundament. Golden Section is wry, self-aware, and unwilling to take itself too seriously. But this is not to foreclose the possibility of seriousness altogether.  The work successfully resolves a tension between stasis and movement.  In an interview in 1973, Moon spoke of his desire that his paintings achieve a ‘constant flow’: this was not to be achieved through the actual representation of movement, but rather ‘when the painting itself is one static harmonious form.’

 Golden Section may not reach for the transcendent harmony which its title intimates, but satisfies itself with more modest, circumscribed ambitions. 


Jeremy Moon (1934-1973). Born in Cheshire. Lived and worked in London.