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  • Writer's pictureDominic Dalglish

Peter Suchin, 'Optimum State'

Updated: Mar 25

Optimum State: Selected Works, 1979-2024

Peter Suchin, in collaboration with Jamie Wagg

The Landing Gallery, Gaunson Creative Studios

Free, 23-30 March 2024

Despite the efforts of various property developers, there are still parts of London that have escaped the homogenous gloss of planned urban development. The buildings on Markfield Road, off Tottenham’s Broad Lane, are the remnants of old light industry in the area, some going back to the 1910-20s. Whilst a few might be ‘reclaimed’, touched up as warehouse flats and occasional coffee shops, the majority have never ceased to be used by various makers and menders. The feel of these places is the product of who’s in the area at any one time. Its character isn’t an intentional or enforced idea – it’s a product of people living and working around each other. 

Gallery view in Gaunson Creative Studios

Gallery View

The Landing Gallery’ in Gaunson Creative Studios, as the name would suggest, is found in the central stairwell and landing of one of the factory-turned studio spaces in these parts. Like the surrounding area, this place day-to-day is shaped by the people who use it: a bike kept out of the rain, studio materials waiting to be moved, offcuts and scraps left out for others to take if they want. It’s a communal working space. 

It’s an appropriate setting for this collection of Peter Suchin’s work. I suspect Jamie Wagg – artist, curator, and a contemporary of Suchin’s at Leed’s Polytechnic  – had a sense of the potential. The title of the show, ‘Optimum State’ is how he refers to ‘a condition that any given painting he is working on may reach.’ No preconceived concept lies behind each work, no drafts are done outside of the picture, and they are titled after the fact. The process might take months or years to reach an ‘optimum state’, and even then, the work isn’t ‘finished’ so much as ready for the viewer to have it and make of it what they will. To look at these paintings – to get something from them – involves you in this work, something that the curation in this space, in this part of London, encourages you to do. 

L2R: Unobtrusive Painting (1979); Connotation Field (1999)

The works shown span Suchin’s career as an artist, though most are from the 2000s. One early piece Unobtrusive Painting (1979) gives a sense of his trajectory. Subtle hues of white through grey acrylic on board are tentative; neither the off cut side, nor the wood beneath are masked. The draft-like quality is clear. Twenty years on, Connotation Field (1999) shares the principle if not the process. Layers of paint overlay others, built up over years as the composition took shape. This is less draft, more editors copy, with ideas laid one on top of the other. 

As the show’s notes make clear, Suchin has no interest in mimesis – in capturing something ‘real’ – rejecting the idea of this possibility as ‘highly problematic’. Yet echoes of landscapes appear in several paintings, especially the three largest of the show. They provide an interesting way into the paintings, not least because they are always peripheral, never central; they have been partially covered if they ever spanned the breadth of the canvas. The intervention of a later idea serves to distort any reality you might be tempted to take from them. 

Gallery view with three of Peter Suchin's paintings

'Ghosting the Baroque' (2003) - Peter Suchin

T2B: Gallery view; Ghosting The Baroque (2003)

Abstraction also lies in the sense of separated ideas. It is not that these paintings don’t work as united compositions – of course they can – rather that the thought processes that the paint represents are distinct. In Ghosting the Baroque (2003), the delicate touches of white and grey in the top right corner were at one time added; it could be a snowy garden in bloom if you will it. Much of this remains, but Suchin’s has at some point cut over this part with the large white space beneath. Whether the change is ‘right’ or not, it has happened, and as you look over the rest of the canvas, you can see countless additions that are a palimpsest of the artist’s mood whenever he’s come back to the work. 

Whatever length of time it might take to compose a painting – a matter of minutes to years and decades – the ‘finished’ product more often than not hides the process of its making. Compositional unity is a claim to a moment, however far from the truth this may be. Suchin’s paintings, by contrast, possess a three dimensionality through time by making plain the destructive and creative process of production. These traits can be seen in smaller works, not least Cancelled Composition (After Art & Language) (2024); behind the obscuring white dots that gradually take over, there is another set of ideas entirely.

L2R: Cancelled Composition (After Art & Language) (2024); Tempered, Distended, Folded, Suspended (2003)

However, it is in larger pieces where the depth of this engagement comes through most clearly. The corners of Tempered, Distended, Folded, Suspended (2003) point to disparate ideas, sometimes bold and decisive, at other times more cautious. The careful, overlapping colours of the centre, compete with the looming black mass above, punctured by a yellow sherd – added in or left out? It isn’t a singular mood so much as the biography of a creative process, as rich and contradictory as we should expect it to be. There is palpable truth in Suchin’s work that challenges the fallacy of grand ideas, polished finishes, and the notion of the artistic product itself.


Dominic Dalglish is an Editor and Contributor at Curation Space

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