There has always been a play between the actual symmetry of the picture shape (square, horizontal, diamond, shape, etc.) and the symmetry of layout, which opens the depicted forms to the use of colour – to sound or harmonize in an expressive way.– Kenneth Noland
An enduring feature of Roy Good’s art is his use of shaped supports: multiple canvases or boards arranged to form a shape other than the conventional rectangle or, most often, a single canvas on a shaped stretcher. One of the first exponents of shaped canvases in New Zealand, a practice strongly associated with American abstraction of the 1960’s, Good has employed shaped supports since the early 1970’s.
By transgressing from the standard rectangular shape we associate with painting, the support becomes more than just the neutral backdrop for forms and colours, but an active component in the exploration of the relationships of shape, colour and line. The shapes Good chooses for his series are selected for what they can offer to the particular formal concerns he wishes to examine, and therefore have a marked relationship to the content of the painting.
In his most recent exhibition at Artis Gallery, The Rhombus Suite, dynamic diagonal lines bounce inside the diamond shaped canvas, their lively demeanour tempered by a muted palette applied to create a mottled effect. In other works, coloured shapes overlap, creating the illusion of layers and folds, a complex array of shapes which float within the picture plane. The layering technique takes on a literal form in the small relief constructions, where pieces of board are stacked on a rhombus shaped base, their three dimensional form casting a shadow which accentuates their line and form. Predominately monochromatic with accents of one or two colours, the focus of the constructions is on their underlying structure.
A nod to the influence of European abstraction is acknowledged in Good’s only titled work, Rodchenko, named thus, after completing the painting, for its chromatic and formal comparisons to the Russian Constructivist much admired by Good. Parallels must also be made American artist Kenneth Noland, who, in 1964, turned his square format on a 45 degree angle, creating his diamond works, which later led to the long diamond format, reminiscent of the field of vision. Noland’s diamond works consistently featured his signature chevrons, or long parallel stripes. These references to international modernism reflect the debt New Zealand’s abstractionists owe to these great painters.
Modernism put the onus on the painter to use the best possible methods for the desired result … Formerly, manual dexterity serviced the subject; but by the time painters arrived at fully abstract pictures, it was obvious that skill could reside in rendering the paint and the canvas, the shapes and the colours and the lines, compelling in their own right… Roy Good is part of this tradition.
– Ed Hanfling, In Good Form: The Abstract Art of Roy Good, 2007.