Issue 39 March-April 1998 RSS

From this moment on…

The Approach, London, UK

‘From this moment on…’ is a group show whose theme - time and space - puts the works into a spatio-temporal relationship with each other, like a kind of localised art solar system, in which they revolve in recurring orbits of mutual indebtedness. The show’s curatorial profile, depending on one’s prejudices, is either a medium or small (as opposed to big) bang. The viewer is flatteringly placed within this by being exquisitely adjusted, by minute degrees, into a sort of comfortable geostationary orbit over the whole proceedings.

Three small tempera paintings on paper, Approach 1, Approach 2 and Approach 3 (all 1997) by Andrew Grassie are studies of the very gallery interior in which they are exhibited. These are fastidiously observed trompe l’oeil paintings, passing as photographs at first glance, whose exacting technique of painterly control matches their fixed conceptual device. Approach 1 shows a view of the gallery that includes Approach 2 hanging on the wall. Similarly, Approach 2 is a painting of a painting, depicting that part of the gallery in which hangs Approach 3, and which also includes the projector for a film by Rachel Lowe. Approach 3, of course, shows Approach 1. On this basis, the hanging of this show was evidently determined by the artists and curator well before works had been executed.

Lowe’s film, A Rough Outline Of The Plot (1996) is a Super 8 film loop. For its duration, the carefully penned outline of a hand holding a gun, is present on the screen, seen concurrently with the film. This contour is only briefly united with its source, at a point when the hand is seen raising a gun. The outline seems at first to have been made on the wall on which the image is projected, but is in fact drawn on the actual film. The source is a movie by Cassavetes, a director with a particular interest in depicting the passionate energy people spend on either wasting or killing time. Our own time given to waiting for the reconciliation of line and image introduces a localised distortion of scale - like waiting at a bus stop for the Hale-Bop comet.

Shizuka Yokomizo’s works, No. 6, No. 8 and No. 9 (all 1997) are large photographs of people sleeping alone in the ambiguous half light of their bedrooms. Within the human circadian rhythm, sleep is the lowest point on the lowest edge of consciousness, and Yokomizo conveys a sense of sleep as preservation by hibernation. The photographs gain extra poignancy from a sound piece in the centre of the gallery, Jason Coburn and Aletta de Jong’s Downfall (1997), a hi-fi system placed upside down, from which we hear the sound of water dripping - a sort of definitive soundtrack of the stalactites and stalagmites of the soul at 4 am.

Just outside the entrance of the show is another sound piece by Jason Coburn, Gentle Reminder (1997). This is a recording of the noise made by someone clearing their throat in order to gain attention or to indicate displeasure. Its function in the show seems to be a deliberately considered vandalism, a slightly dumbfuck surface counterpoint to the implacably deep stillness of the other works. Apparently intended to provide discord in an otherwise harmonious show, it only fulfils its role by being irritating.

That the works - which are elegantly stated and conceptually tasteful without being genteel - are largely complementary to each other, is a strength as well as a weakness of the show. The mutual punctuations, elliptical orbits, recurrences and reduplications within and between works have a cumulative effect. Rather than straining to be original, the show has the greater novelty of feeling somehow different yet familiar, like the cyclical return of another season, the effect being of due process rather than endurance.

Neal Brown

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Issue 39 cover

First published in
Issue 39, March-April 1998

by Neal Brown

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