Friday, 20 December 2013



Installation shots, poster with Pernille's call for clocks, and Vici Macdonald's widely admired catalogue design


The fourteen artists in this exhibition all make work which explores how different timescales can operate simultaneously in an artwork, leaving us to deduce their purposes.  They operate in four main ways:
  • building more than one timescale into an image; Bennett, Hornby, Hudson, Marin
  • the strategy of ‘recreating’ one time in another; Buskova, d’Arcimoles
  • building the representation of time into a work; Niederberger, Holm Mercer, Collins, Gill, Charalambous, Thompsett
  • making visible the time which passes in the making of the work  Smykla, Neelova
Overall, the show seemed popular. from our point of view as curators that was partly planned - the themes dealt with and how they interacted, Bela Emerson becoming the soundtrack - and partly accidental: most of the work was made for the show, and we hadn't realised just how many animals there would turn out to be (hundreds of birds, 66 rabbits, several bears, a pack of wolves, a horse, a hare, and leopard skin motifs) nor how much wood and images of trees. The result was an enchanted forest...  

All the artists are British-based, but the show has the international feel typical of London art, with the  Russian (Neelova), Czech (Buskova), German (Smykla), French (d'Arcimoles), Danish (Holm Mercer), Swiss (Niederberger) and Chilean (Marin) presences making up more than half the artists.

Emma Bennett’s classically-styled oils fan out from the present to bring several timeframes into a stilled coherence: motifs sourced from 18th century paintings, abstract expressionist spills (made by moving around furniture polish on the canvas, which she manipulates on the floor), and the black void – of the future, perhaps – through which a bizarre yet art-historically linked conjunction falls in in Thief of Time. The title is from Dylan Thomas ('Grief thief of time crawls off / The moon-drawn grave, with the seafaring years'...). She has recently added fire and cascading water to her repertoire of fruit, flowers, birds and boats: transformative elements which add to the ambiguous balance always present in her explorations of mortality and transience.

The video room presents a 50 minute show reel of the five short films to date in which the Czech artist Tereza Buskova has made the costumes and props, directed the actor-dancers, and combined traditional Bohemian rituals with artistic reinterpretations and inventions.  Sex, power, sisterhood, fertility and motherhood in Buskova’s home village are to the fore in Wedding Rituals (2007), Forgotten Marriage (2008), Spring Equinox (2009), Masopust (2010) and Baked Woman of Doubice (2012). The moving heraldic tableaux are wordless, the heady atmosphere heightened by haunting, cello-heavy soundtracks as they oscillate seamlessly between past and present. The most recent film's central action is  the baking of shaped breads which are placed on the naked, supine body of the striking Zoë Simon – a frequent collaborator of Buskova, who works in an inclusive manner to bring together the contributions of performers, composer and fellow-artists. A trip to is highly recommended.

Andy Charalambous, originally trained as a physicist and engineer, and worked at CERN for some years, brings that background to bear in his installation.  Tic-Toc puts human time and its implied subjectivity into direct interaction with scientific time and its supposed objectivity.  He has made a kinetic piece, consisting of a plinth, on which there is a horizontal slice of a tree trunk.  Sitting on the centre of this trunk is an hourglass filled with the artist’s blood (he persuaded the hospital at which he gives blood regularly to take a little extra by convincing them that, if they didn't, he would adopt amateur methods).  The hourglass, heart-height and driven by a visible motor, rotates every two minutes – often enough, he says, that you’ll see it, rarely enough that you’ll still be surprised. 

Susan Collins has set up a camera on the 9th floor of Erlang House, which is due to overlook the city skyline for a year as the Cheese Grater and Walkie-Talkie are finished, joining The Shard and the more established elements of an ever-changing skyline. The broadcast image operates one pixel at a time from the top left, so that we see the history of each day captured in one image – it’s a 23 hour scene.  The view is, then, deconstructed and reconstructed into something which represents more than a straightforward photograph, even while their accumulation will capture a year of the parallel deconstruction and reconstruction of the city. You may have caught her related pixelscape project which filmed the sea, and brought together the various views at the de la Warr Pavilion in Bexhill. 
Clarisse d’Arcimoles: Naddy Photomaton (My grandmother)
We’re all used to how photography memorialises, but can it be used to actively connect with the past? That’s what Clarisse d’Arcimoles attempts through her project Un-possible Retour. She reconstructs the past into the present by re-photographing family photographs, placing herself and others in the same settings years later. The effect is at once comic, mournful and touching; and contrasts the spontaneous with the staged. Of course, the project won’t turn back time – but for all its poignancy, that need undermine the attempt no more than  the certainty of ultimate failure stops us trying to stay young. Here she shows Religieuse (Self-portrait),  Naddy Photomaton (My grandmother),  Camille (My sister), Contact Sheet (My mother), Carnaval (My brother), Dad and  In the bath (Mother and sister) 

A lapine multiplicity threatens to take over the gallery in Alison Gill’s Fibonacci Rabbit Generator (WildTime version), 2001/13. This is the wild version in that the rabbits are scattered around the space, whereas previously they were set out in regimented rows according to the Fibonacci Sequence. Each of the identical cast modules represent a pair of mating bunnies, arranged in sets and in total to correspond to a Fibonacci number [e.g. 1 white, 2 orange, 3, 5, 8, 13 purple, 21, 34], providing a glimpse into  infinity through a hypothetical – though unrealistic - model of nature. The model makes sense because Fibonacci sequences have indeed been shown to underlie many patterns of natural growth. The unreality comes from the failure in this case to build in such counter-conditions as disease or competition for food. None of which takes away from the feral, colourful and rather cheeky abandon of the creatures going at it like, well, rabbits.


Nick Hornby:  'The mingled measure / Beware of Greeks bearing gifts / All roads lead to Rome / walls and towers were girded round / An elephant never forgets / Never fight an inanimate object / It is always better to be slightly underdressed' - rapid prototyping in laser-sintered white nylon, 2011
Nick Hornby has previously combined sculptures from different artists and times to create hybrids which are at once teasing puzzles and provocative bases for comparison. Here he takes a similarly crosscutting and unrestrained approach to the history of architecture, presenting both models of unrealised sculptural proposals and a rotating 360-degree carousel of images constructed out of their amalgamation. The video morphs between coherent form and fragmentation as it overlaps the artist’s own designs with those of the existing buildings. Hornby sees this as referencing folly and failure as it draws together Postmodernism and ruin.His titles are also collages, eg the 16 minute film is called

An arch never sleeps 
That phantom-world so fair
A thousand circlets spread, 
And each mis-shape the other  
Don't spend time beating on a wall, 
hoping to transform it into a door

‘An arch never sleeps’ is an Indian proverb. Lines 2-5 are from Shelley, the last two from Coco Coco Chanel.

Alex Hudson: Blue Pool, 2013

Alex Hudson has previously used a naggingly nostalgic near-monochrome technique to conflate timescales and set up the potential to reach spaces beyond the scene depicted by introducing modernist incursions - such as a geometric white form - into a classical landscape. His new stream of work, represented by Blue Pool and Another Country Back Water broadens the colour, albeit with the hues of 1950s films, and makes the incursions more narratively rich – and apocalyptic?  We seem to hesitate on the edge of the modern world. Are we taking the plunge or not? And is there really an option?

Livia Marin’s shows two works from the series Solihull and three from Soft Toys. Both reference an antique technique of ceramic restoration that used gold. The broken tales on more value than the whole? For Solihull, Marin uses gold thread to stitch over a photograph of a fragmented object, its completion drawing together loss and care, beauty and ruin in the context of seventeen years of oppressive dictatorship in her home country of Chile – she was born on the day of Pinochet’s take-over in 1973.  In the Soft Toys series, second-hand ‘cuddly toys’ are covered in successive layers of plaster and gesso and the final layer is gilded. Are we to read this, though, as a protection for the nostalgia of childhood or as covering up some darker memories?  

Anyone who’s ever felt stranded on their own out-of-synch island of time will connect with Pernille Holm Mercer’s presentation of clusters of alarm clocks – Retro Race -  hovering just above the floor and set up to race each other. Thus, underlying differences in their accuracy will come to the fore over the period of the show, illustrating thereby one aspect of time’s subjectivity. The 24 islands - half mousemat, half tropical jungle, fully aware of their tackiness -  each contain a threat of sorts, though it’s not clear whether that’s by reference to bomb-making devices or simply the danger of being woken up BIG time…

Russian-born Nika Neelova has moved countries every five years of her 25. That feels germane to her creation of sculptures which derive from selected past and hypothetical future narratives, referencing the disillusionment of a future in which this present shifts into a state of disrepair. Architecture, as she says, ‘outlives its creators and those who have inhabited it, so a sense of commemoration is built into it’. Her sculpture The Principles of Infinity uses the banisters from a flight of stairs from demolished houses, polished by the many hands of former inhabitants.  Neelova says she’s aiming to show Bergson’s concept of time as physical duration (as opposed to clock measurement) – time which unfolds in the subconscious, relies on the rhythms of individual perception, and so is unmeasurable.

Christina Niederberger’s extraordinary painting The Time is Now (cuckoo clock version) comprises 12 canvases, each almost 3 metres long. Each represents one hour in an exhaustive schema of 60 clock faces which cover every possible arrangement of the clock’s hands. If that sounds like heavy serialist minimalism, though, not so – the clocks are rather baroque, and Niederberger has painted onto them not just the sequence of hands, but a cheerful burst of cuckoo on the hours. However you want to think about it – through Heraclitus, Newton, Kant, Bergson, Einstein, Heidegger or Michael Dummett, the most prominent philosopher to espouse the possibility of causation running backwards – all time is here.  



Time isn’t easily caught, but Harald Smykla  makes impressive attempts through his ‘Movie Protocols’,  in which  the pictographic shorthand notation of a film, created in real time while watching it, makes for what he has called ‘a kind of reverse story-board’. In Smykla’s extremely active approach to the potentially passive act of movie watching, he attempts to make a graphic record of every single shot; and as Buskova’s Baked Woman of Doubice is only nine minutes long, Smykla was able to record it six times over on the opening evening, setting up a visual demonstration of how we never watch quite the same film twice. 

Movie Protocol – Baked Woman of Doubice - detail

Dolly Thompsett: The Dead Wolf, 2013

Dolly Thompsett has her own way of layering histories. Her hallucinatory scenes play off and reuse a ground of patterned textiles to ambiguate the spaces of an aesthetic which hovers between Victoriana and Hollywood, throwing any number of times and places into the mix in passing. Layers of resin, with paint under and over them, enable the form to enact a parallel process. If, as she has suggested, they reflect her own mental state, then it’s complicated in there! The Dead Wolf is something of a departure, enfolding a lupine life cycle rather than historical eras, and so linking to Alison Gill’s generational theme.
Curators Christina Niederberger and Paul Carey-Kent
Pernile Holm Mercer at the opening 
Tereza Buskova and her lead actress Zoe Simon talk to Alison Gill

Nika Neelova with her sculpture

Clarisse d'Arcimoles' gallerists Jospehine Breese and Henry Little with her work
Steph Carey-Kent, Bella Easton and dog...

Chistina Niederberger and Susan Collins inspect the publication

Dolly Thompsett
Curator's Tour, 29 November
Particular thanks to the artists, Darren O'Brien and all at ASC, Vici Macdonald for the wonderful catalogue design and Marguerite Horner for several of the photos above...

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About Me

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Southampton, Hampshire, United Kingdom
I was in my leisure time Editor at Large of Art World magazine (which ran 2007-09) and now write freelance for such as Art Monthly, Frieze, Photomonitor, Elephant and Border Crossings. I have curated 20 shows during 2013-17 with more on the way. Going back a bit my main writing background is poetry. My day job is public sector financial management.