Robert Marsden and Jock McFadyen are contemporaries, the professional careers of each spanning the past four decades. Whereas one is best known for his rigorous minimalist metal sculpture, the other is celebrated for his gritty figurative commentaries on the scenes and experiences of everyday life. The exhibition, therefore, presents two distinctive and contrasting visual languages. However, a significant attribute shared by the artists is the skill of observation.

Robert Marsden’s work has been described by the critic Mel Gooding as ‘belonging to the specifically modernist type of the sculptural architectonic’. His tabletop sculptures are abstract with a strong material presence. In their pared down simplicity he seeks to avoid any referential characteristics. Instead his intention is to draw attention to the subtle permutations of the patinated brass forms and the particular spatial relationships that come into play in the juxtaposition of one shape with another. His works invite the viewer to carefully inspect each pairing and to discover their unexpected detail.

The selection of paintings by Jock McFadyen is unusually devoid of people, but still speaks of their lives. These are not his most recent works, rather they bring together some of his keen observations of the built environment – weathered, abandoned and often graffitied buildings, all bearing the traces of human activity. Within this abandonment the artist creates an aesthetic that resonates curiously with that of Marsden’s sculpture. David Cohen remarks of McFadyen’s architectural paintings: ‘[Their] subtle modulation has a serial beauty of its own which seems to be saying that abstraction is to be found … via observation’. Yet unlike Marsden’s, his mode of abstraction is not framed by a search for formal perfection, but is entrenched ‘in the grubby, everyday real.’

Robert Marsden , born 1947, studied at High Wycombe College and the Royal College of Art, London. His work can be found in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery; Sheffield Assay Office; Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead; and the Crafts Council, London.

Jock McFadyen , born 1950, studied for a BA and MA at Chelsea School of Art. His work is represented in numerous major public and corporate collections. He was Artist in Residence at the National Gallery in 1981, a John Moores Exhibition prize winner in 1991 and was elected as a Royal Academician in 2012.

All images installation views of work by Robert Marsden and Jock McFadyen, image © Philip Sayer (2014) courtesy of Marsden Woo Gallery.