The Secret Life of
PreView 6th September
Eileen Agar | Bernice Donszelmann | Catherine Ferguson | John Gibbons | Della Gooden
Thumb Rock, 1936 Water colour on paper, 20 x 28 cm
She Moved Her Hair. 2016 Stainless steel varnished. 50 x 37 x 30.5 cm
Cradle. Wall drawing and painted wood 40 x 19 x 19 cm
Indefinition-2018. Acrylic on aluminium, 30 x 30 cm
Another sea swell. Installation
Open from 7th - 29th September
In 1936 the Surrealist artist Eileen Agar painted a watercolour in the South of France titled Thumb Rock. In the 1980s she returned to the theme of landscape painting, but it was a return, not so much to the subject matter itself, as to the strange and anthropomorphic or animalistic hauntings which she first caught sight of in the early part of the 20th Century. Her particular playful and idiosyncratic appropriation of the Surrealist zeitgeist of the 1930s, and the repetition of earlier motifs fifty years later, reminds us how important notions of the unconscious have remained in the making of works of art ever since.
The Secret Life of Stuff sets out to re contextualise Agar’s work and the idea of the ‘unconscious’ in relation to the work of four contemporary artists. The title alludes to the need to open up this term, away from its psychoanalytical meaning which was so important to Surrealism, and to recover a wider understanding that extends beyond the subject. For the artists exhibiting work in this show it is the role materials play in making art that is instrumental in actualising those unconscious forces which we suspect are there and which we yearn to see.
For Bernice Donszelmann it is the implicit and unconscious forces that live within words and language that her rhythmic compositions project into the sight of the viewer. The viewer is also a reader, standing before the work as it unfolds its sequence. Meaning seems to give way to the force of movement and the act of reading, where words become objects and their acoustic materiality an almost tangible presence.
Catherine Ferguson’s abstract paintings enfold an admiration for various pictures from different historical periods. You won’t necessarily be able to identify the work of Caravaggio, for example, within the images but these paintings were made with his works in mind: fragments and passages and memories juxtaposed with works by others. In their making the paintings explore, unfold and try to repeat the invisible, unconscious forces which make Caravaggio’s work so compelling, not as a theoretical idea but in practice, through the composition of specific materialities of paint and surface.
The sculpture of John Gibbons exceeds the material stuff from which his works are made and carries the movement of an internal life out into the world. The physical processes of working with metal are technical, skilful and forceful. At the end there is an object and there is a surface which speaks so eloquently of that history. The surface bears the trace of a relationship to the materials used and the processes by which its unconscious capacities, there from the start, become actualised in the end. Far from being about the physical properties of metal these capacities were waiting to connect with the DNA of the sculptor, his capacities and inheritances, in order to breathe new life into the world.
Della Gooden’s interest in expanding our experience of the architectural space in which our bodies move is captured in her wall pieces which slow us down and make us ponder. We see a mixture of drawing, object and shadow and become conscious of our position in the room as linear relationships shift to echo our movement within the space we share. Drawing closer and lingering for a while we also begin to become aware of relationships of measurement and scale, the friction of a surface and the softness of a pen. Affixed silently to the wall the circle alludes to weightlessness against the gravity which holds us down. Other imaginary spaces emerge as we walk on and as we begin to see what was already there.