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Industrial action

review

Werner Haypeter: Colour in Light Annely Juda Fine Art, 23 Dering Street, London W1 until 19 July 2003

This show is dominated by views up through the skylight to a massive hoist on the gallery roof where Werner Haypeter has fixed five resin panels, as if sending out mysterious signals across the dusty summer city to some other, higher form of life.

At first, this piece, which makes a striking connection with its place, appears uncharacteristic: sublime and outward-looking compared with the self-contained, disciplined coolness of the other work.

Haypeter has exhibited in Britain only once, but he is well-established in his native Germany. Since 1988, he has used industrially manufactured materials, especially epoxy resin and PVC, and a small range of colours, predominantly black and yellow. The pieces on show are mainly recent: a series of interlocked lengths of aluminium section and plexiglass, and a set of resin-coated grey bowls like upturned dustbin lids, each with a pool of resin in its base, at once mundane and serene. Lichtfeld is a room of fragile-seeming, numinous, blue-filtered fluorescent lights. An earlier piece comprises five lengths of dense, glossy black PVC, folded and hung from the wall.

Although he works in three dimensions, Haypeter uses his materials to pursue the traditional concerns of painting. At first glance his aesthetic and use of systems look like Minimalism, but this work is rooted in process, colour, texture, surface and depth, and effects of light. Sculptural forms serve to reinforce the illusory qualities of layered resin and folded plastic. The top of each of a pair of short steel columns frames a pale yellow pool, suggesting an inner light, which glows rather than reflects. Haypeter also plays subtly with movement - actual in the PVC, latent in the steel and plexiglass wallpiece, for example.

Underlying systems, within which the parts of each work can be arranged, are expressed or implied in most of the pieces, but this is their least accessible aspect. The catalogue essay refers confusingly both to the 'inherent logic' of the work, and to imperfect systems, as the 'artist's mark'.

Haypeter has used tiles and made floorpieces in the past, inviting comparisons with Carl Andre, but where mathematical order is at the heart of Andre's concept, Haypeter's systems can feel arbitrary. Perhaps they are best understood simply as steps by which the end result is reached. Haypeter's end is the object, and Lichtfeld, where the system is most apparent, has the strongest aesthetic qualities in the show.

Haypeter's exploration of the potential of industrial materials has an affinity with architecture, particularly Herzog & de Meuron's use of translucence and colour. He studied with Erwin Heerich, artist/designer of the pavilions at Museum Insel Hombroich, the gallery-landscape near Dusseldorf - a slightly awkward fusion of building and sculpture.

Haypeter is more successful, albeit on a lessdemanding scale, in integrating two and three-dimensional forms.

The few earlier works provide a fascinating context; illustrating a serious-minded and imaginative development from picture-making, through sculpture, to site-specific art. If the work is occasionally obscure, or a little too restrained and cerebral, this is more than balanced by its maturity and intelligence, and Haypeter's obvious desire to continue to engage with diverse ideas and forms.

The installation on the roof, which depends more on the functional beauty of the crane (yet rendering it unusable and turning it temporarily into art), than on the sensual quality of the resin, takes the work somewhere quite new. Out in the world, Haypeter's carefully worked materials will react in different and unexpected ways;

holding the promise of more lighthearted, looser, dramatic departures in the future.

Michael Copeman is an architectural historian and writer

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