The Now Museum is an industrial shed made from corrugated steel, that sits behind a cratered concrete forecourt. Across the road, three tiers of red brick wall fortify an electricity sub-station. Adjacent to the Museum is a demure industrial estate that has been landscaped into respectability, and on its other side is a privately owned garage that hasn’t. Above the Museum rises an upscale complex of luxury apartments that ironically downscales the area. Here, in the rising din of urban transformation, Michael Roy has harnessed the Now Museum’s irreverent dilapidation for his first solo project.
Roy’s fictional mythology, The Courier is woven from an ongoing text work and a range of sculptural and pictorial elements. By situating this emerging vocabulary within the locale of the Now Museum Roy has ignited a drama within the site and his work. The starting point for The Courier is the exploration of architecture, geography and psyche, or what JG Ballard termed psychogeography. Roy has chosen one specific episode from the chronicles of The Courier, the experience of a vast architectural void, to be made visceral at the Now Museum, thus building upon a previous episode rendered at the Transmission Gallery earlier this year.
The Courier is only elusively referenced in the installation through a short text written by artist, Greg Grant. Grant writes, ‘The Courier charts the voyage of the story’s main protagonist as he negotiates a surreal metaphysical landscape of structure and form, magnified and distorted fragments that are amplifications of distant echoes of reality.’ What’s inspired about Grant’s zealous description is the way it launches a roaming protagonist into the shared space of the artist’s and the audience’s imagination. As a figment of our imagination The Courier haunts the viewer’s navigation of the installation with his tenebrous vision of the material world.
Five uneasy assemblages of paintings, ash and concrete slabs dominate the darkness. Each gravestone wears a painting upon its face like a mask, theatrically illuminated by spotlight. The paintings are portrait format and rendered in fleshy washes of paint, collage and graphite. Each depicts architectural shapes transforming into organic curves and amorphous gradients. These small, surreal paintings are charged with urgency to grasp something on the cusp of becoming. They want to fluctuate with tenuous expression but remain tethered to concrete and ash.
Roy works with the aborted atmosphere of the site. He draws us into the void of a stone circle and into the gaze of surreal paintings on cold concrete. What seems central to Roy’s installation at the Now Museum, is the choreography of material elements that together form a unique, fictional narrative. Narrative is nothing more than one observation joined to another but out of this apparent simplicity hatches the complex paradoxes of internal and external realities, body and psyche. Roy’s work is born from a practice of observing an inner and an outer landscape and, like Mike Nelson or Matthew Barney, he is developing ambitious, personal mythologies within a tradition of site-specific installation.
Sarah Tripp is an artist and writer based in Glasgow