The Poets Still Throwing Up Their Hands
THE CHANGING ROOM 29 APR–10 JUN, 2006, Stirling
The Changing Room’s latest offering is a confident show of hands—or perhaps a defiant throwing-down of the gauntlet—by three impressive visual poets. It consists of predominantly two-dimensional works, some of which verge on sculptural intrusiveness. Overall, the mood is one of confident reserve; the viewer has to look closely to see both morbid passion and surreal humour lurking beneath the surface.
For those who recall Kalin Lindena’s last Scottish show (at Transmission in Glasgow three years ago) her current work might come as something of a surprise. The German-based artist has diverted from her customary line in graffiti-inspired wall-drawings to the savage use of found fabrics, many of them with a fading baroque-synthetic gleam. The sartorial pièce de résistance is a darkly spectacular floor-based work in the centre of the main gallery space. Recalling the melted Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz, and composed of numerous small gussets, taken from a variety of garments, sewn together, its outstretched arms branch into splayed fingers. This is both a dissection and—by violent implication—an autopsy of clothes; to use Duchamp’s wonderful phrase from his notes to ‘The Large Glass’, a veritable ‘cemetery’ of uniforms and liveries.
Lindena’s fabric pieces are serenely complemented by Jane Topping’s ongoing investigation of visual fragments that have been cryptically displaced from their sources. Her latest series portrays mouth-and-nose forms extracted from anonymous portraits. Each portrait is clearly of a different person, but the fragmentation obscures the subject’s identity, turning the isolated features into ciphers or hieroglyphic marks, implying speech, smell, communication, sensory experience—and blindness—all at once. A rotating brushmark of ink or black paint creates a kind of halo around the features in many of the works, leading to the impression of a frame, or the loose outline of a cartoon head. These eyeless creatures are perversely witty symbols to flash—mirror-like—at gallery spectators, yet they are also beautiful, rendered with a delicate touch in charcoal and ink.
Lotte Gerz’s layered and intriguing wood-cut prints on Japanese paper and book-binding paper draw inspiration from surreal poems by the Danish writer Benny Andersen. In some works, the material is allowed to bend out into jutting relief, and these sculptural qualities augment the layering of the printed images themselves. The rough spherical forms portrayed are abstract, but dense enough to evoke solidity, depth and the illusion of a tactile surface, like that of balled-up wool or scrunched paper. If you stare long enough, you can begin to see other, more mythic symbols emerging through the layers of ink and torn paper. In one piece, entitled ‘Still Life with Bottle and Long Distance Throw’, a John Wayne-style cowboy emerges in a bloodcoloured silhouette beside a paint-covered rope wound like a lasso. The works have evolved through an all-encompassing approach to the material involved in their production, and their inventive, lively structure is a vigorous camouflage for their own subtle narrative illusions.
Laurence Figgis is an artist living in Glasgow