vendredi 12 septembre 2008

Material Presence (Project Space 176, London)

Mark Titchner, When We Build Let Us Think That We Build Forever, 2006

Laura Buckley, Cubit 1 (Plywood, Perspex, Motor, Film Projection)

James Ireland, Youve Got To Hide Your Love Away, 2004 (steel frames, nuts, bolts, washers, twigs, glass with vinyl printing)

Work by artists who use found, industrial and pre-fabricated materials to produce immersive works that directly affect the viewer’s senses.
The works drawn solely from the Zabludowicz Collection and will include a massive new commission by Graham Hudson, which will occupy the main hall of the former Methodist Chapel at 176 Prince of Wales Road. Art works by Buckley, Holme and Hudson act as interchange stations between painting and sculpture, with multiple references to real and abstract space and ruminations on formal properties such as transparency, opacity, colour, shape and line. A combination of formal and emotional undercurrents runs through the works, which will literally inhabit the spaces of 176 in poetic, disturbing, ghostly or uncanny ways. The curatorial approach will highlight both the constructivist heritage that these works draw upon, and the phenomenological impact they can have on the viewer. The impressive scale of the installations will transform the building at 176 into a sequence of powerful experiences. Sound and movement, whether machinic, kinetic or related to moving image, will be important features of these installations, lending them a significant sensory impact.
Laura Buckley’s installations include a variety of components ranging from constructed plywood structures to coloured Perspex surfaces and film projections. Mechanical movement is an important part of her sculptures, and her films conjure up memories of early modernist experiments in form and motion by László Moholy-Nagy. An idiosyncratic use of light also marks out the work: sleek moving surfaces periodically reflect the beams of Buckley’s projections, creating hotspots and dazzling the viewer.
Myriam Holme’s work can be considered as painting in an expanded field. Working with bamboo, chalk, fabric, glass, thread, wood, and paint, her sculptural and painterly language enfolds the visitor in a web of associations both physical and emotional.
Graham Hudson will produce an ambitious new commission for the Zabludowicz Collection, responding to the unique physical environment at 176. Hudson’s practice involves sculptural assemblages made from various materials including traditional building stock and found objects, carefully composed in precarious, expressive or humorous ways. As with the other installations in the exhibition, the use of sound and light plays an important role in Hudson’s work.
James Ireland’s work is characterised by a novel take on the tradition of landscape art. Incorporating natural, artificial and industry-standard elements, his sculptures address our understanding of the sublime and the mundane. Ireland’s works highlight an uneasy sympathy between the fragility and beauty of nature and the constructed environment.
Alexej Meschtschanow’s sculptures inhabit an uncanny realm in which the everyday is transformed and institutional furniture is reconfigured to take on an anthropomorphic or zoomorphic air. Recognisable signs and objects are reconstructed by the artist and adopt sinister undertones, evoking paradoxical feelings of familiarity and anxiety.
Katja Strunz’s work combines formal geometric elements with experiments in texture, finish and nuanced colour. Her expressive constructions inhabit space in a dramatic way, heightening the visitor’s awareness of his or her environment.
Mark Titchner’s major installation When We Build Let Us Think That We Build Forever (2006) includes sound, moving image, light, sculpture and printed fabric in an installation with an imposing material presence. Alluding to Plato’s allegory of the Cave, Titchner’s total environment interweaves references ranging from the Bible to artistic movements such as modernism, surrealism and suprematism, and filmic references such as Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971). The result is a heavily charged symbolic space in which sound and light are used to create a powerful effect on the viewer.

Jonathan Griffin:
I seem to have been visiting a lot of shows after dark recently. Surprisingly often, this is quite appropriate: the limited hours of daylight and wintry weather outdoors naturally lend themselves to the exhibition of spooky art, of things that go bump and clatter in the night. The latest exhibition at 176, the former Methodist chapel now employed as an exhibition space by collector Anita Zabludowicz, seems to deliberately exploit these seasonal atmospheric conditions. Even before the first art work comes into view, noises reminiscent of wind whistling through windows fill the gallery’s café space; not remembering any such exaggeratedly gusty weather on my way in, I imagine that the building itself had engendered its own microclimate. I follow my ears past Katja Strunz’s wall-mounted sculpture Fall into Space (2008), through a door into the building’s main gallery (once the church’s nave), where a towering wood and scaffold construction looms out of the darkness, creaking and whirring with intermittent lights and sounds from within its planked interior. The installation, a specially commissioned work by Graham Hudson, is titled On Off (2008) – a curt description of its modus operandi, which simply involves a number of record players and lights switching themselves on, then quickly off again, apparently at random. The windy sound effects are produced by the records coming up to speed and immediately slowing down again, an effect that also allows disturbingly distorted snatches of voices and music to emerge from the hubbub. As if that wasn’t unnerving enough (particularly in an unlit empty church at night), a winding and uneven staircase invites the viewer to ascend two storeys to a platform near the ceiling. Once entered, the construction becomes a berserk and disorienting environment, a skeletal and precarious house of horrors. With all its wires, bolts and electrical mechanisms exposed, it plays on the cinematic device so often used in scary movies: when the source of the eerie noise or ghostly apparition is revealed to be nothing more than a radio left on or a dust sheet in the breeze; rather than diffusing the initial sense of alarm, the hitherto innocuous object is imbued with a supernatural sense of foreboding. I hasten next door, where James Ireland’s delicate assemblages of found objects and images reveal, when seen from certain perspectives, sudden flashes of Romantic landscapes – mountain panoramas, sunsets and lonely trees – before dissolving immediately into their constituent parts: steel brackets, panes of glass and twigs. Like On Off, Ireland’s work relies on a physical engagement from the viewer, who crouches and peers to catch the fleeting alignment. Perhaps it’s my mood, but the uncanny qualities of the sculptures seem to evoke a chilly sense of unease – though more Alfred Hitchcock than Wes Craven – through which the objects emphasise their own deadness by their brittle allusion to natural landscape. Mechanical Poem (2007) is an installation by Laura Buckley, comprising four works that variously play with the reflection and refraction of light from DVD projections and lightbulbs through, over and across plywood and acrylic constructions that double as supports and housings for the lightsources. The result is simultaneously enchanting and banal; one element, titled At the Summerhouse (2007), includes a film of a figure arranging and rearranging small squares of Perspex, glass and mirror on a bench outdoors. Scenes reflected from off-camera – sunlit trees, sky, clouds – dissolve over the geometric formations with an unexpected melancholy. The tone is far sterner in the neighbouring room, occupied by Mark Titchner’s When We Build Let Us Think That We Build Forever (2006). The impressive installation, involving animated projections (of Tate Modern being consumed in flames), runic panels, sculptures, lighting devices and films on monitors, seems to aspire to the graphic cohesion and purposefulness of a cathedral, although the meanings of the objects and images were obscured (perhaps as religious imagery would be to the uninitiated) by aesthetic stylisation and linguistic arcana. 176 is a difficult space to show art in; the dilapidation of the building’s fabric and its evident former life as a church does not suit all types of work. Titchner’s and Hudson’s installations succeed particularly well for thematic reasons, and also owing to their theatrical bearings. Strunz’s elegant Fall into Space, whose rusty surfaces and dramatic arrangement I can imagine looking quite striking in a white cube, fares less well here. In two smaller rooms tucked away upstairs, a strange poltergeist seems to have been at work, pressing institutional furniture into perverse agglomerations or unhappy feats of levitation. These are in fact sculptures by Alexej Meschtschanow, which, like Myriam Holme’s spidery and materially eclectic installation next door (combining thread, glass lumps and sticks, amongst other things), seem perfectly at home in these abandoned spaces. Bringing life to inanimate objects – an ambition at the core of the traditional sculptural impulse – is recast by ‘Material Presence’ as a paranormal concern, an alchemical practice of almost sinister implications. Wrapping a scarf around my neck, I scurry out into the night. The wind has risen, and it’s started raining.

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