Douglas Allsop was born in London in 1943. In 1964 — 65, after school and university he had a postgraduate Arts Council Digswell Scholarship, and from 1965 to 1975 was a Fellow at the Digswell House Arts Community in Hertfordshire. He continued his teaching activities in 1995/96 as the Director of Studies at the Byam Shaw School of Art in London, where since 2006 he has held a professorship in Fine Art.
In his early pictures dating from the 1960s, Allsop concerned himself in equal measure with the picture and the space occupied by the picture and the beholder. By the use of glossy surfaces, he achieved effects with the reflection of light and space, which soon were no longer capable of development using the techniques of traditional painting. They led to changed procedures, such as the sand-blasted surface of picture or object (rotational window), or to photographically oriented pictures. His experiences with polarizing or tinted glass, which unites transparency, surface effects and colour effects, was stated by Allsop to be no less important for his rejection of painting than his interest in Moholy-Nagy’s light-kinetic objects or the contemporary artistic tendencies in Germany and the Netherlands in the 1960s, which were oriented towards technology and material. He had contact with these tendencies in the person of Zero members Mack and Piene. Thus it is hardly surprising that Allsop’s exhibition presence in the 1970s started largely in Germany (1972, Kunstmesse Düsseldorf; Kunstmuseum Gelsenkirchen).
Titles derived from technology and engineering, which Allsop uses as specifically as possible but which, nonetheless, are always multiply ambiguous, give expression to the programmatic and at the same time open character of the later objects (Reflective Grid, 1974/75) and installations (see video interview on the occasion of the exhibition »Fast surface, Blind screen and Reflective editors«, University of the Arts, London 2009) from the 1970s and after. Geometric basic forms, ordering systems, grid structures and frames, industrial materials such as perforated metal plate and acrylic glass describe a calculated, sober pictoriality with a limited colour range. Predefined regularities and strict dimensions – based on a unit of 99.25 cm – are characteristic, as are the format of the sequence of works and the numbered series. All the same, Allsop’s images are, in their always close relationship to the surrounding space, on the borders between media; they are ambivalent, and hardly capable of categorization.
The starting points for the mostly all-over pictorial concepts are, as he himself has said, Minimal and Concrete Art; however not only the multiple ambiguity of the titles, but also spatial and architectural relations as well as special optical-confusion effects, taken in part from photography, are recognizably intended to transgress the originally definitive spectrum of colour, form and rules. Thus Allsop’s black-framed white grids of different format and arrangement, which are always committed to the idea of the ›window‹, his breadboard structures in black-and-white, the reflecting pictorial sheets with which Allsop intervenes in the room just as he does with his semi-transparent room dividers made of videotape, are always to be understood as statements on the concept of the image. In the process, they always unfold perceptive qualities, lead over and out of the picture, open up spaces or intervene in them. Through their figure/ground configuration too, their colour contrast effects and their textures, optical processes, visual ambivalences and after-images are generated, which confuse the perception of the image and the space around it.
Allsop’s works are geared to perception, interaction and reflexion; the active co-operation of the beholder is required especially where surfaces hint at something behind, where apparently views to an outside space or glimpses into interior space open up and, what’s more, change as the observer moves around the room. Thus Allsop’s Fast surfaces, Blind screens and Reflective editors both characterize and circumscribe perception phenomena at a boundary, on the surface and on or over a reflection surface.
Later exhibitions of Allsop’s works focus on these aspects of his concrete art, but also on those boundary phenomena and picture-transcending strategies that characterize Allsop’s work in general (»Emotionalität und Rationalität«, Galerie ART IN, Nuremberg, 1995; »Positionen – Reisen an die Grenzen der Malerei«, Museum Folkwang Essen, 1996; ›The Thinking Eye‹: Painting Faculty, Royal College of Art, Hong Kong, 1996; ›Zeit-Räume‹: Städtische Galerie, Villa Zanders, Bergisch Gladbach, 2000; ›Reflexions on both sides, Allsop & Dahlhausen‹, Gesellschaft für Kunst und Gestaltung Bonn, 2008). Solo exhibitions have taken place in recent years in for example the Städtisches Museum Gelsenkirchen in 2001 (»Douglas Allsop – Zeichnungen, Objekte und Installationen 1971 — 2001«), in the Centre d’Arts Plastiques et Visuels in Lille in 2006, in the Wilhelm-Hack-Museum, Ludwigshafen in 2007, and in 2008 in the Städtische Galerie Villa Zanders in Bergisch Gladbach.
Douglas Allsop lives in London.
Douglas Allsop – blind screen: exhib. cat. Städtische Galerie Villa Zanders , Bergisch Gladbach 2008 (and elsewhere)
Douglas Allsop. Zeichnungen, Objekte und Installationen 1971 — 2001: exhib. cat. Emschertal-Museum, 2001
Douglas Allsop: exhib. cat. Galeria Koto, 1999
Positionen – Reisen an die Grenzen der Malerei: Museum Folkwang, Essen 1996
Surface: Douglas Allsop: exhib. cat. Kapil Jariwala Gallery, ed. by Rohan Harris, Sally Musgrove, text by Stephen Bann, London 1996
Douglas Allsop: Lacunae: exhib. cat. Galerie Emilia Suciu, 1995
Douglas Allsop, exhib. cat. Laure Genillard Gallery, with introduction by Stephen Bann, London 1990