Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Canvas, Paint, Hair.

Sculptural tableaus of semi-transparent fabric, acrylic paint and wood are decorated with the odd pluck of hair and miniature constructions of houses and sheds. Mummery + Schnelle present: Merlin James.

The new black is interdisciplinary art and Cardiff born Merlin James, a child of the sixties, has taken non conventional canvassing very seriously. Not only does the artist chose to be original by using everything he could possibly find in the attic or in his back yard, he refuses to go for the custom frame that fulfills no more than its actual purpose, that of 'framing' the work. James opts for a more personal approach of spacial delineation by creating a suitable, customized version for each work, a practice that constitutes more of an extension of the work itself rather than a compulsory addition. One could almost argue a frame would comprise a limiting geometrical 'stop sign', a sudden discontinuity between the work and the space in which it is put on display.

The first set of works are reminiscent of Dutch traditional thick paint amateur 70's scenery paintings, luckily refined by the softness of the voile-like supports, replacing the usual canvas. The subject is overtly present and does not inspire my 10 am crave for the subliminal or the implied. It is only at the end of my clockwise wandering through the gallery that a curious observation springs to mind as I gaze at the last three works of the show. No longer being confronted with people, landscapes and boats, the final three embrace a certain abstract feel that invites the spectator to further analysis. Subtle lines delineate what looks like the hourglass shape of a woman whilst a pluck of James' own hair resides in a specific area that could only represent, or conceal for that matter, the most intimate part of the female body.

Was I desperate for an entrance into the world of the implicit or did the

artist really envision the body of a naked woman? As Mummery and Schnelle communicate themselves in their press release: "we are collaborating in a meaning- a painted world- to which we give shape and resonance, and that does not exist without us" - and so I did.

After proudly having discovered the purpose of James' hair in the last works of my tour, I enter the back space area also referred to as the 'project room'. This confused gallery/office space holds the works of Louise Hopkins. Although her 'projects' seem to be an annex and silenced part of the exhibition, tucked away in a space most people would dread to visit without the hesitant,"is this part of the gallery too" question, I experience probably the most humorous moment of my journey through M+S. Followed by small panels covered in floral fabric, the artist exhibits pages torn out of what looks like a furniture catalogue. Blanking out the informative sub text with tipp-ex, Hopkins drapes the images of 79 pound DIY cabinets in Calder or Miro'-like creatures and animals, creating a work so perfect in its simplicity and ingenuousness, one could not help but wonder why art and ikea have never previously been combined in holy artistic matrimony.

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