An apparently simple show, this one, with seven small line-drawings on paper and two short looped films. The films’ titles, however, betray the underlying ambition. In citing Breugel’s ‘The Fall of Icarus’, Rough taps the pulse of the western imaginary. An allegory of the impossibility of desire’s objects, the story of Icarus unfolds in indeterminate, interstitial space, the ‘between’ of earth and sky. And it is such betweenness that Rough thematises and explores to extraordinary effect in this body of new work.
Each of the drawings, for example, consists of the artist’s hand-rendered repetition of the printed lines on a sheet of ruled paper torn from a spiral-bound notepad. Wavering uncertainly in the spaces opened ‘between’, these drawn lines simultaneously duplicate and undermine their printed counterparts, submissive to their systematic structure yet disruptive of their uniformity. And in their seemingly hasty, obsessive, repetitive characteristics, these compulsive lines hover between a frantic cancellation and a desperate restatement. Carelessly torn from their spiral binding, the ragged sheets also evoke the melancholy of the fragment, the orphaned detail connecting across imagination’s space to an inaccessible whole.
Even the exhibition itself is structured around the ‘between’ of the gallery’s two separate exhibition spaces. Obliged to leave the bright space in which the drawings are exhibited, the public must walk several paces along the street before entering the dark space where the films are playing. Having thus performed their own crossing, the visitors to this dark space are hypnotised by the endlessly repeated images of a falling man and the brief, exploding flares of ignited matches. Suspended between a lightness and darkness both literal and metaphorical, between an interminable recurrence of time and a succession of brilliant instants, this exhibition takes you with it.
John Calcutt teaches at Glasgow School of Art