In retrospect, Renée Levi's exhibition could have begun at the point where it ended: with the tightly focussed video sequence that follows a small child's eye move-ments as it is carried through a department store. The video's title, Leroy Merlin (1998), refers to a chain of French DIY stores, Merlin the magician and a more general sense of amazement about the magic of everyday phenomena. Although we cannot see what the child sees, its journey is reflected in its searching eyes.
Like the video, the show explored, in a very tangible way, ideas about presence and absence in the perception of space. For some years now Levi, who studied architecture, has altered spaces through the application of monochrome colour strips or luminous paint. For this show, during the day the walls were simply another component of a white cube, covered in the faintest traces of luminous paint. After sundown, however, the yellow paint started to shimmer and gleam; the circles almost seeming to move like rings around a raindrop falling into a puddle. Wavy lines, sprayed freehand, curled around the room and made the walls appear to vibrate - all of which challenged the preconception that the room was a confined space. Thus the distinction between painting and architecture - traditionally defined as the gestural versus the constructed - blurred with the changing of the light. Against the front wall of the gallery, a large metal relief, Zwei (Two, 1999), shaped like a giant number 'two', interrupted the ephemeral lines of the wall painting. It made you almost involuntarily begin to look for other numbers - the missing 'one' for example. But after this initial response, it became simply another abstract arrangement of shapes.
A series of small works on paper 'Untitled' (1999) looked like exercises in how the effect of the luminous paint might work in a small format. Intertwined layers of grey and yellow paint formed delicate, almost invisible lines across the surface of the paper. Despite their fragile quality, the works are surprisingly dynamic.
Levi distances herself from graffiti, but one thing her work does have in common with it is the rapid application of the paint. But whereas graffiti is determined by the choice of site and the desire to signal the spectacular presence of an otherwise coded subcultural meaning, Levi activates the space of the culturally overdetermined white cube of the gallery.