Terry Grimley is impressed by Australian artist Tim Maguire's ambitious printmaking at Ikon Gallery.


On the whole, most contemporary art nowadays isn't big on conveying sheer aesthetic pleasure, the tyranny of concept over image often dictating a kind of puritanical visual impoverishment.

So Tim Maguire's work comes as a slightly startling exception to the rule. This British-born, Australian-raised painter and printmaker, who now divides his time between London and rural France, makes large-scale work which hums with colour, often inspired by flowers.

For his new show at Ikon Gallery he has pushed forward his collaboration with Paris-based master-printer Franck Bordas to produce gigantic digital prints based on commercial three-colour printing techniques.

These images have been produced through a complex mix of painting and printmaking. Starting with digital photographs, Maguire produced primary colour separations which were then printed in black and white and used as the basis for paintings in yellow, magenta and cyan on transparent film. The images were reassembed digitally and then blown up to a large scale.

Walking into the gallery, you first encounter Refractions, a series of six medium-sized prints inspired by the play of light on water, but it's difficult not to be lured straight away into the second room by the sight of a huge and spectacular image. Made up of five large sheets of paper, it looks at first glance like a view of the heavens but is in fact based on a photograph of falling nocturnal snow - the largest of four prints on this theme.

Some dimly-glimpsed tree trunks in the background sketch in the landscape context, but the dominant impression is of a flat image of shimmering colour, not dissimilar in scale and effect to one of Monet's water lily paintings.

Those late Monet paintings were sometimes very thinly painted, prompting some contemporaries to dimiss them as "wallpaper". On close inspection, Maguire's work, heading from the other direction, has an interestingly painterly quality.

This is even more apparent in Poppies, another vast print, and the only one on Maguire's well-worked flower theme to be included here. Its unashamed celebration of sweeping forms and resonant colour call to mind some of David Hockney' later paintings.

After these visual fireworks, Ryan Gander's show, Heralding the new black, is a bit of a cold shower.

The British artist, who has enjoyed considerable international exposure - his last show was at the Stedjelik in Amsterdam - has just returned to active service after taking a year out to travel.

This show is a hotch-potch of more or less obscure conceptual ideas, the dominant one being A sheet of paper on which I was about to draw, as it slipped from my table and fell to the floor, which consists of 100 crystal balls distributed around the gallery floor into which an image of a suspended sheet of paper has been etched.

Another which takes up a lot of space is Man on a bridge (A study of David Lange), in which the gallery has been transformed into a carpeted large-screen cinema showing 50 continuous variations on a short film in which a man - the well-known actor Roger Lloyd Pack - walks towards the camera and pauses to look over the parapet of a bridge. We never discover what has caught his attention.

The gallery blurb talks about playfulness, but there is not an awful lot of wit that made me feel that teasing out Gander's ambiguities, or reading his various dense blocks of text, was a good investment of my time. But there's a slightly sinister touch in the custom-made Adidas white tracksuits, with what might be blood stains woven into them, which are worn by the gallery attendants.

* Tim Maguire Snow, water and flowers and Ryan Gander Heralded as the new black are at Ikon Gallery, Brindleyplace until March 24 (Tue-Sun 11am-6pm; admission free).