Derek Sprawson. Bernard Jacobson Gallery, 14a Clifford Street, London W1 (0171-495 6210), to 29 Mar
Regular readers of this page will know that I have a soft spot for a kind of carefully constructed painting which hovers on the edge of abstraction and hangs together on a delicate balance of colour and form. These paintings may not be of anything, in that they don't have a definable subject, but, when they work, they are about tranquillity, calm and quiet contemplation.

The problem with this sort of painting is that it looks much easier to do than it is, which means that there's a lot of it about, but little that is any good. So much, inevitably, depends on so little and a few strokes out of place will destroy the harmony on which the whole thing turns. Happily, Derek Sprawson, whose first London exhibition opened this week at the Bernard Jacobson Gallery, gets the balance right.

Sprawson paints fields of subdued colour containing isolated, floating shapes: low key monochromes with subtle tonal differentiations in pale hues of red and ochre and muted greens and greys. He works with a blend of wax and oil which gives the surface of the paint a hazy, satisfying sheen. I haven't yet seen enough of his work to judge the depth of his success, but on the evidence so far he looks as if he has the all too rare ability to make something substantial out of the very simplest ingredients.

EYE ON THE NEW

Nicholas de Serra is another talented abstract painter. His well-made pictures start with layers of thin paint and are then overpainted with grids like the threads of a fine tweed.

Rocket Gallery, 13 Old Burlington Street, London W1, until 5 April

"True Brits - Photographs of the Art World 1996/7" is a rare after-hours glimpse of Hirst and chums documented over the last 18 months by Johnny Shand Kydd.

Independent Art Space, 23a Smith Street, London SW3, to 22 Mar

Comments