BY Louisa Elderton in Reviews | 18 AUG 15
Featured in
Issue 173

Samara Scott

Eastside Projects, Birmingham, UK

BY Louisa Elderton in Reviews | 18 AUG 15

Samara Scott, Cretian Hickie, 2015, mixed media

The show’s smooth, sibilant title – Samara Scott, ‘Silks’ – glides off the tongue for only a matter of seconds before being interrupted by an excitable orgy of words. On a giant hoarding mounted on the outside of Eastside Projects, a list of seemingly irreconcilable nouns forms a kind of exquisite corpse poem: sunglasses lenses, nail varnish, lettuce, dog poop bag, cigarette ash, Vita coconut water, birthday candles, fabric softener, tights, cooking foil (even add a little Himalayan rock salt: bring the flavours out). It reads like a schizophrenic shopping list.

Interested in what she describes as ‘the age of the ultra consumer’, the young, London-based artist layers this melange of everyday kitsch materials to create seductive, sumptuous forms. At Eastside Projects, these were integrated into the gallery floor itself; diamond-tipped tools had been used to drill into the concrete, excavating an array of shapes that recalled an archipelago on a map.

In these floor-based abstract paintings-cum-landscapes-cum-ephemera-burial-grounds, objects and liquids were delicately layered to create an unstable relationship between surface and depth. In Satin City (2015), hair gel and oil produced a topography of translucent, glistening peaks – a little mountain range upon a thin sliver of earth. A glow of rainbow colour was refracted within the excavated form beneath. The effect was discombobulating, with a medium that was playfully difficult to identify; rather than calling to mind the teenage boy’s grooming product of choice, more traditional materials of resin, silicone or glass were referenced. Another work, Cretian Hickie (2015), combined an array of substances including oil, glitter and yoghurt to create a pool where materials of different densities sank or swam. A mottled yellow-brown colour, this was a sparkling, sexy but bruised love bite. It had a metallic depth, where silver seemed to have been pressed into the earth’s textured depression, offset by a reflective, almost laminated surface. But when blown on, this rippled: the work recalled a translucent lake needing to be dredged of the wild and wonderful discards of contemporary society.

Scott’s work is effective in its evocation of our present-day condition, in which we are accustomed to mediating both material and digital realities – the voluminous physicality of objects and the flat computer screen. We occupy both spaces, moving fluidly between them. Equally, the shiny gloss of her surfaces suggests shrink-wrap and the sterilized products of mass consumption. (Such sleek finishes have become something of a zeitgeist. A number of contemporary artists – including Constant Dullaart, Adham Faramawy, Magali Reus and Hito Steyerl – use glossy or liquid materials as a metaphor for both consumption and our disembodied online presence.)

Samara Scott, Cretian Hickie, 2015, mixed media

Scott transferred the up-close relationship that we have with our screens to the floor, making us stoop or kneel to closely examine the works. As though a sparkling liquid-crystal display had been translated into a physical landscape, submerged iridescent paper, golden peanuts, plastic pearl bracelets and floating beads shone with a fading lustre. In her text for ‘Harvest’, her recent solo exhibition at The Sunday Painter in London, Scott describes how ‘there is so much superimposition; images are promiscuously mating [with] other images, surfaces clambering in and out of one another in scribbling composition.’ These words recall the mating of materials within her artworks, overlapping, pooled and poured across one another.

The artist often spontaneously collects her titles from her immediate environment – the name of the show, for instance, came from a business card that she found on a train ride to Birmingham. One work, VIP House, is named after the limo company opposite Eastside projects, subtly referencing a specific place and moment in time, and further rooting the work in the physical world.

Scott creates seductive but unstable spaces: slippery, seeming to be simultaneously one thing and another. Ultimately, surface prevailed here – as the eye jumped from one unexpected kitsch form to the next, either sunken or floating, the sense was of a false depth, like that of layered browser windows on a flat computer screen. Narcissus might have sat and wasted away while staring at his own beautiful images in these unreliable reflections. Perhaps that could be a warning to us all not to spend too long immersed in an immaterial world.

 Louisa Elderton is a Berlin-based writer and editor. She is currently the Managing Editor of ICI Berlin Press, and was formerly the Curatorial Editor at Gropius Bau and Editor-in-Chief of Side Magazine at Bergen Assembly.