You might say there was some unfinished business at Marie Lund’s first solo exhibition at Laura Bartlett Gallery this summer. The narrow space held a small number of quixotically posed questions – in the shape of a new series of sculptures, ‘Beginning Happenings’ (all works 2011) – orchestrated over the course of five plinths. At various heights and angles, these stone-and-object concoctions framed a number of temporal and material concerns, suspended as they were at a peculiar point between certain beauty and (dys)function.
Each work in the series delicately memorializes a human action in medias res. For example, the sculptor’s timeworn material (stone) cradles a light bulb (poised to be pressed into a socket) or a violin bow (raised as if to start playing a concerto). One sizeable alabaster chunk echoes the productive indecision that Jacob Epstein voiced in Let There Be Sculpture (1940): ‘The unworked alabaster block lies in my studio for a year. While I work at other things I look at it from time to time […] I consider whether I should raise it, but decide to leave it where it is. […] I have been listening to Bach’s B minor Mass.’ If less heroic, Lund’s approach to resting stone remains similarly inquisitive, anchored above all in the performative act of a sculpture’s creation; each work pauses over the classical rite of finding form from raw material. Much postwar sculpture abandoned the pedestal (and the artisanal) in order to deal with the specific site or the detritus of everyday life, but today – when space and time are flattened by their endless digital distribution – Lund re-establishes the relationship to solid matter, rather than to any disposable consumer product.
Lund’s sculptures probe so poignantly because they are self-contained, even slow-moving. In the downstairs space, the blue marble slab surface of Marine Painting alludes to Renaissance landscape painting as much as magic eye-style autostereograms. The shape of a kitchen worktop, it sits heavily in two asymmetric halves, cracked along the skirting board to reveal a satisfying thickness. The Sequel, a jointed, lung-shaped thing, is a bronze cast of a pre-existing mould, its casement barren and its exterior shell bewitchingly smoothed. For A Page to a Corner, Lund pressed painted-paper pages onto the gallery walls, a sort of muralist mark-making which ambiguously straddles the act of sculpting and its documentation, reflecting writer Pieternel Vermoortel’s text in the slender accompanying catalogue: ‘What happens when we consider sculptures through their representation, when we can’t walk around them, when we can only look at them from one possible position? […] And what happens if I write about these sculptures, can I still speak about spatiality and time?’
The ability or inability to express materiality and physicality through language, printed across pages that are turned over in time, ensures that Lund’s efforts remain couched in the sculptural. Here the exhibition’s title, ‘Turtles’, clarifies the artist’s position to a certain extent: the turtle is, after all, an ancient signifier, embedded in the parallel primordial histories of more than one human civilization and eternally wedded to modernity through Darwin. In the 16th century, Erasmus translated Aesop’s cautionary advice to the eager poachers – ‘If you caught the turtles, you yourselves better eat them’ – to take only those they could conceivably digest. Lund’s sculptures take cues, too, from fabled time, addressing in their sly inquest the tangible forms of a disposable, mock-cynical present. Food for thought often requires a little chewing.