This group show featuring the work of four already firmly associated artists contains much that is dark, executed with the lightest of touches. Alex Pollard curates and on the back of his recent solo show at Talbot Rice and international obligations, it might have been reasonable to expect a somewhat half-hearted display. However, there is evidence of effort on show here.
The Changing Room is a space with certain formal complexities—two rooms separated by stairs, uneven floors and irregular angles—which offer both challenges and possibilities that the artists here have approached in a way which produces a unity of aesthetic purpose. Positioning strips of black and white wallpaper and painting the floor of the second room with black and white stripes, smartly transforms the space into a formal playground where the works interact and where tentative dialogues begin to emerge. One of the walls in the second room is painted Prado red, playfully suggesting the Academy. While most of the work is in dark hues, Gregor Wright’s use of white grounds with a pastel palate of blues and pinks produces light, pleasurable but misleading splashes; misleading because this show explores darker recesses.
Pollard has contributed two new works which stylistically and thematically continue where his Pierrot oils at the Talbot Rice show left off. Black canvasses where nuances of figures, characters or symbols evolve from the detritus of the clown’s profession and where identity struggles in the longing of black space. Form seems positive from a distance but on closer inspection melts into assemblage. Character is frail. The sorrow is too tender for nihilism. It mourns.
Fiona Jardine’s black and white photographs show a sculptural cabbalistic figure, a subject of occultism, black magic, of possessed transformation or perhaps merely the banality of torture. There are nuances of Crowley, the Thelema and Freemasonry. The character confirms a Burroughsian universe where one must constantly fight to avoid possession by ‘the invader, the ugly spirit’.
In his essay ‘Melancholy and the ‘Other’’ Esra Akcan writes that ‘the idea of melancholy can be seen as a construction, a collective production defined through a series of translations, which in turn constitutes the human state of mind and emotions.’ In some sense what this show does is deconstruct melancholia, the contradictory elements by which it has been defined historically and its relationship and shift in definition with modernity. The Turkish author Orhan Pamuk in his recent work Istanbul wrote: ‘In mourning the world becomes poor and empty, in melancholia it is the ego itself’ which neatly conveys Freud’s definitions of ‘mourning’ as normal and ‘melancholia’ as pathological. The works on show here seem to represent Pamuk’s sentence visually, swinging between mourning and melancholia, exploring the historical well of the words.
John Millar is a writer