We are used to major architectural practices being nurseries for the stars of the next generation, but less so nowadays to the studios of leading artists acting in the same way, writes James Dunnett. Perhaps it is recognised that the heavy work involved in creating sculpture can require assistants; indeed, Anthony Caro worked for Henry Moore, and Terry Frost for Barbara Hepworth in that capacity. But the exacting task of making large and immaculately crafted paintings such as those of Bridget Riley can be similarly demanding, and Gina Burdass, whose own work is on view at Archeus, acted for Riley in the same way.
She must have been a very good assistant because the craftsmanship of her paintings is indeed immaculate - colours and whites laid on with flawless exactness. But in the case of the best assistants the relationship with the master's work goes deeper than that, and Burdass certainly takes forward the spirit of scientific precision evident especially in Riley's earlier 'Op Art' paintings.
Riley's work, however, tends to be multiplex, with numerous stripes or shapes repeated in a pattern across the entire surface, while Burdass' work is limited to one or two broad bands of colour or - as in most of the paintings in this show - to a small number of coloured rectangles placed on a white ground around the edge of the canvas. Indeed, the whiteness of the ground is sometimes so intense that one is reminded of the all-white painting argued about so fiercely in Yasmin Reza's play Art - but here the expression lies in the colour sequences of the rectangles, which reflect an acute sensibility.
An art comparable to science, in which the impact of each colour has been graduated with the precision of a chemical equation, its properties having been codified with exactitude in advance, has been a goal aspired to since the beginning of the 20th century. I know of no artist today whose work gives the impression of having been created in that way more nearly than does that of Burdass. Yet the slyness with which unexpected colours are juxtaposed also contains humour, catching you unawares. The mistress of her means, she can play games with you. Long may the research continue.
James Dunnett is an architect in London