Limoncello For Anthony Green, surface is everything. The artist’s wall-based practice of mixedmedia sculptural assemblage and graphite drawing transforms a disparate array of objects into an aerial geography of lines, colours, patterns, forms and counter forms. Six graphite on paper works, despite an airy lightness of touch visible in Green’s semiabstract drawing, leave no surface uncovered in their relentless shading. Attention to surface, and indeed the inclusion of some mainstays of graphic design history (archive copies of The Face, retro Pelican paperbacks, even the humble J-Cloth), seems to drag the viewer’s attention away from the usual conceptual narrative lineage of the medium and into something more subversive.
What emerges through Green’s use of readymades is something akin to a pictorial language. It is a language, not in the careful choreographed lingo of the graphic designer, but a language with idiosyncrasies, mistakes and an evolution integral to its sprawling growth across the gallery walls. Green reveals the facets of this language with the precision and cartographic mapping of a colonial anthropologist picking his ways through the props of the last few decades. There is also, however, a sense that the language has gone beyond his control and become more than the sum of his designed parts.
This antagonism of control is also evident in the use of the bodily parts and flesh-coloured forms within the works. In ‘The Wall. The Organisation, Waiting’, 2008, mutated suggestions of a fleshy hand forms the basis for a selection of collaged found media comprising of photographs depicting eyes and limbs. A similar motif is reiterated in the largest work of the show, ‘Another Stroll: How Can We Escape Our Petty Little Fascisms?’, 2009, alongside a litany of figurative motifs throughout all the sculptural works: heads up coins, two mannequin arms in shirt sleeves, a replica of a Greek bust, fragments of painted portraits, as well as the cover of the now defunct Face.
If language is taken as the basis for human subjectivity—as a means of communicating an idea of a self to others—then in Green’s mirrored world the language of the sentient sits, or is even subsumed, by that of the machine: the economic machine of which the sculptural coins symbolise a mere face, the consumerist machine glossed by the style magazine, the combinations of language and technology an LP sleeve represents. An image of an eyeball, popped from its socket in ‘The Wall. The Organisation, Waiting’ can be understood as a reference to cinema’s infamous humanoid Terminator.
Recognition is picked out again in the hollowness of the two dark boring graphite holes in ‘Absolute Redundancy’, 2009, akin to eyes, long dead. The installation titles, almost nonsensical, seem to derive from this mechanical homage. Syntax is surrendered to a stutter of one-word statements, with liberally littered punctuation. The wording makes both implications to the stop-start of mechanical rhythm, a recognisable motif in the post-Ford industrial age, but more importantly, to the failure of a language as it is emitted from the human perspective. The allusion to Barthes and ‘Death of the Author’, 1967, is paramount here and brings the viewer back to Green and his seeming powerlessness as master of the sprawling landscape he has created. Green the author has become unimportant, taken over by his creation with the same implication as that that beset the human world in the 1980s Arnie fight-fest. Formally though this cartography has a retrospective quality to it: the Fordian age is long surpassed, the mechanical stutter, replaced by the purr of software; the tribal anthropologist fast become an extinct species itself. Consequentially there are questions left unanswered, and an uncertainty to the work, deliberate or otherwise. Taken as a whole, Green’s geography paints a dystopian world, one with recognisable forms that seems disturbingly not so distant from our own.
Oliver Basciano is an art critic based in London