'Jeremy Moon, No 5-73 (1973)'. Stephen Moonie

Jeremy Moon, No 5/73 (1973) 


Jeremy Moon’s work often utilised grid structures as a means to explore the inter-relationship between form and colour. No 5/73 is characteristic of these concerns, although the work needs to be seen within the context of his later work. From the early 1970s until his untimely death in November 1973, Moon had begun to explore irregular or ‘chopped-up’ configurations of grid structures, creating subtle structural ambiguities. No 5/73 takes on such an irregular structure: the grid is skewed slightly, but nonetheless creates an asymmetric harmony. The composition suggests a webbed or latticed structure: two slanted vertical elements are connected by shorter ‘arms’ which branch out at varying angles, suggesting the structure’s continuity beyond the picture surface.


The work engages specifically with the relationship between positive and negative space. The yellow/orange armature appears to function here as a positive element set against a neutral white background. However, the painting also suggests the possibility of reading the structure as a series of ‘cracks’ peering through the white ground. This latter relation is suggested more explicitly by a succeeding work, No 6/73, which uses the same pictorial configuration, albeit with turquoise blue in place of white. The use of turquoise pushes the ground forward, compelling the viewer to read the figure/ground relationship as the inverse of No 5/73. It is precisely this capacity of colour to dynamically alter pictorial structure which led Moon to focus so persistently on such pictorial problems. The explicit engagement with spatial ambiguities and pictorial structure relates Moon to the works of Frank Stella, who exhibited in London in 1964 and 1966; and with Kenneth Noland, who exhibited in London in 1963 and 1965. Moon shared something of Noland’s concern with colour relations, although unlike Noland’s ‘ready-made’ targets and chevrons, Moon demonstrated a sustained interest in developing irregular structures of his own design. Despite the shared interest in pictorial structure, Moon’s compositions are less overtly aggressive than Stella’s, adopting colours which are less astringent. 


No 5/73 also relates to contemporary Modernist sculpture: it does so by evoking the kind of ‘optical’ structures aimed for by artists such as Anthony Caro. At the historical point where sculpture sought to free itself from its materiality, painting simultaneously asserted its object-ness; Modernist painting and sculpture thus found themselves intertwined. Moon also worked in sculpture: a related work 3D 1 72 is a floor-based piece which utilises a similar structure to No 5/73: the painted slabs laid upon the floor are punctuated by negative space, making more explicit the ‘cracks’ suggested in No 6/73. Work such as No 5/73 demonstrate that the Modernist engagement with issues such as ‘opticality’ and ‘objecthood’ was not medium-specific, but part of a broader visual enterprise which encompassed different media. 


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