September 1980: Ikon Exhibition, Birmingham Post

By Terry Grimley

Rhonda Whitehead’s paintings operate at the edge of visual perception. What at first glance looks like a gallery full of white canvases turns out to contain a considerable amount of colour, although of such extreme pallor that the eye is hard put to it to distinguish it from its creamy white background.

A note in the catalogue reveals that the paintings grew out of some kinetic sculptures involving Perspex tubes, which the artist made in collaboration with her architect husband, although this source is by no means obvious.

What struck me as chiefly interesting about them is that they demonstrate how unreliable the eye Is when called upon to interpret images with such minimal tonal variation. For example, a painting composed entirely of pale pink lines on white becomes a veritable flypaper for after—images which seem as substantial as the paint­ing itself. A series of studies on paper is completely overwhelmed by the reflections from the glass behind which they are mounted.

Sometimes these paintings have an ethereal beauty, as in one which two straggling lines of blue and pink shimmer horizontally across a composition divided by diagonals.

However, the artist’s objective is not to create ingratiating objects but to explore the perception of space through colour. I must admit to a little impatience in deciphering the structural intentions, and found that it was the perception of surface, rather than space, which retained my attention.

Birmingham Post 2 September 1980