The Asset Strippers

The stoical magnificence of the machinery populating the Duveen Galleries underlines the desolation of a lost era.

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The pervasive smell of oil, dust and neglect envelops visitors as they gaze at the statuesque machines elevated on plinths of steel and concrete or on ubiquitous workshop drawers.  Their levers out of reach, the redundant tools to Jacob Epstein’s statuesque Rock Drill.

A giant rubber tyre laid to rest in an agricultural galvanised steel trough is caught between slumber and escape.

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The auction lot numbers and customer reference labels attest to the provenance of these items.  They have been rescued from oblivion for a short time by Mike Nelson for visitors recall and mourn a time of thriving industry in Britain.

The orderly curation of the galleries emphasises the heft and presence of the machinery and by association the obsolescence and absence of the redundant workers left behind by progress.

The inclusion of agricultural machinery widens the field of reference to encompass a disappearing way of life.  The textile industry in which Nelson’s family worked is also represented.  There is a poignant sparkle of sequins hanging by a dusty thread on an impressive braid manufacturing machine.Here and there vibrant touches of colour catch the eye from across the vast spaces.  These call to mind Phyllida Barlow’s use of colour in Cul de Sac showing at the Royal Academy.

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Mike Nelson’s choice of title signposts his intentions.  The inescapable feeling of loss cannot entirely mask the proud magnificence of the machines.

The Asset Strippers is both exhilarating and mournful.  This visit to the Duveen Galleries has encouraged me to re-evaluate the context of my current work.  While I use handwork skills and obsolete tools, my message is less a lament for times gone by and rather a celebration of materiality and the retrievable nature of skills in an endeavour to mesh and connect with our environment.

Fault Lines

This group show at the Freedlands Foundation brought together four sculptors:  Alice Channer, Angela de la Cruz, Holly Hendry and Jonathan Baldock.

 Angela de la Cruz’s precarious perched damaged elements that hint at the delicacy of human life.  These are spare and elegant structures whose scale and components comfortably reference the human body.  The tired stool and damaged chair stand in uneasy and precarious coexistence.  Across the room, the smooth metal trough, crumpled and forced to fit into the filing cabinet stoically faces the viewer.

de la Cruz,  Three legged Chair on Stool  (2002) and  Crate (Navy)  (2018)

de la Cruz, Three legged Chair on Stool (2002) and Crate (Navy) (2018)

Jonathan Baldock’s ceramic tower also hints at the fragility of life suggesting that the veneer containing our inner most feelings is in danger of rupturing.   The wall hung pair of ceramic masks barely contains their hidden thoughts.

Baldock,  Grinning until my face hurts  (2018)

Baldock, Grinning until my face hurts (2018)

The smooth surface of Holly Hendry’s jigsaw sculpture contrasts with the cracks between the assembled shapes and differing materiality of the various elements.  The surface of each pieces is always smooth and the changes in depth leads the viewer to reconsider the structures depicted.  The addition of the occasional found object adds a light touch of humour.

Hendry  Mr Urstoff  (2018)

Hendry Mr Urstoff (2018)

Alice Channer showed two works in the exhibition.  Her floor piece Bonez began its transformation as a garment.  Through the lost wax casting technique, a stretch material maxi dress has become two elegant bronze floor pieces.  The top surface carries the imprint of the weave, pleats and hems, leaving the viewer in no doubt about the origins of the work.  Meanwhile the underside is smooth and reflective.  The armholes call to mind the eye of a needle.  The disembodied object brings to mind questions of sustainability and longevity which provide a conceptual link to Channer’s wall hung piece Soft Sediment Deformation, Full Body.  Images of eroding sandstone is manipulated and digitally printed onto fabric.  Pleating imposes another distortion and bring the fabric into the realm of sculpture.  The title brings together both the source of the imagery and the body, alluding transformation, ageing and decay.

Channer Bones (2018) and  Soft Sediment Deformation, Full Body (Frown Lines)  (2018)

Channer Bones (2018) and Soft Sediment Deformation, Full Body (Frown Lines) (2018)

All the pieces sat comfortably within the overall theme, each artist suggesting disjunction and deficiency through their work.  The small but perfectly formed exhibition was a delight to visit, the works setting up interesting dialogues and I came away with many questions and some answers.

Freedlands Foundation