Aspex’s latest exhibition is a chase of contradictions.
The Platform Graduate Award 2015 profiles new emerging talents from universities of the South East region, and the selected participants have created a collective and daring exhibition.
The work of twelve artists is contained inside a space that folds in on itself like a rectangular shell.
At the entrance, Amelia Marsh’s work (which has been selected by the aspex panel as the oustanding work in the show) is peaking on the outside world. Which is paradoxical because the actual faces on the portraits ignore the viewer, gazing into their own thoughts. One of them has even turned its back, proving the otherwise hidden beigeness of its canvas. The faces that I can see lay on top of grids. More proof. This one shows the trajectory that led to these women. Which is not from baby, to toddler, to teenager but from grids, to pencil outlines, to layers of paint. These Meta Portraits are selectively coloured to reveal what the memory has found more valuable to keep.
Turning left, my vision gets filled with rich colours from Holly Childs’ work. Like the green of a water lily pad, or the crimson of a snapdragon put one on top of the other inside snapshots of leaves, branches and flowers. These have been magnified, saturated and contrasted, creating an Amazonian world that I imagine only a fly would normally be able to see.
For the sake of the species is the work by Julia Keenan that stands boldly and mysteriously. I would call it the brain of this exhibition that lives inside the full-of-corners shell. It is partly made up by a double enlarged photograph of a tongue held by glass like a candle in its holder. Phallically brutal as much as fragile – the taste buds are clearly visible. The rest of the artwork is a table that supports some ambiguous but precious looking objects. Metals with enigmatic shapes and fine details look like the finds of an excavation. There are teeth covering the surface of an egg. This toothed egg is placed inside a glass box with golden corners. It looks like a tool for tribe rituals. There are eyelashes, and teeth, more of them, juxtaposed with materials favoured for their permanence, like glass and metal. This realization of permanence is at war with our own decay and creates a tension so strong, it feels like peace. The artist has found the golden ratio between irreconcilable contrasts and presents it to us through her aristocratically savage work.
For those that are as fascinated as me by this artwork, I suggest the reading of the poem The day the deer came, by Joanne Key, found on The Poetry Foundation website.
The prints of Jasmine O’Hare on the wall further look like the volatile leftovers of forgotten dreams. What they really are, is an illustration that everything is a translation really. Her lighter-than-pollen structures play with context the game of hide and seek.
The next installation from artist Ejaz Christilano includes a video made up of six spoken letters, which, regardless of them being open, are deeply personal. The artist’s performance at the preview of the exhibition was the making of a kite, the central object around which the videos gyrate. The making itself was the brave exploration of all the moments that are tied to this object, lived or imagined, and the process became cathartic as it unraveled before our eyes. The finished kite, a pillow and the pyjamas are left as the remnants of that performance, and consequently implicate us within the memories of the artist. In that way he somehow dares the idea of memory being more of a reconstruction rather than recollection.
Following up, Nathan Klein is the only photographer of the exhibition. By having captured vulnerability though his lens, he invites us to taste melancholy as something that is up to each one’s palate to like or dislike. The natural light’s intimate honesty is seen through smoke, touching an indifferent woman’s face, or scraping the hair of a boy looking outside the window, his back turned on us.
Right next to all these, Tina Lane’s structures seem to be sprouting out of the wall, fragile and ethereal, like sensations found at the edge of consciousness. Do not blink while observing these. By the time you open your eyes they might be gone, or worse, shattered into a million pieces. Twelve consecutive attempts to capture the movement of a flame, or the sunray inside a cloud, or the blinking of a water drop as it jumps above the lake.
Emma McKinney’s work lies in the centre, forming the lungs of the exhibition. There are concrete blocks covered in bubble gum. There is a breeze, the bubble gum smell, a video with a girl chewing bubblegum, in something reminiscent of skate parks and teenagehood. A plant lies next to a fan, freed from its pot, and we can only wait and see, whether it can grow tall by rooting inside concrete, as part of this urban landscape.
Gemma McGrath’s painting that follows looks like a shattered mirror reflecting a world as dense as a city centre. Geometric shapes spin around child-bedroom colours and layers are dripped on top of the canvas giving a sense of motion.
As a contrast, the short film of Paul Benham shines with bleakness. A sense of hopeless peace is present within the cyclical theme of every scene. The first object seen is a wooden fence and the last the bark of a tree. The movement of the clouds, the howling of the wind and the smoke from the chimney rising upwards, somehow manage to strip the movie down to its stillness, and to present a world that has just been abandoned by human.
Cathryn Quail demonstrates the versatile potential of repetition using it both as a nullifying and a magnifying tool. In her video a historical narrative is confronted with the purpose of undermining the sound beliefs and the confidence of personal opinion. The pictures do not shy away from the crudeness of violence or time- the seconds crawl on her clock, marking their effort loudly.
The work that closes the exhibition is made up of three videos from artist Lina Ivanova. They are marked by a sense of longing for something that doesn’t seem to belong in here or now. The contact of the female hands with the earth, the traditional dress and the unknown language with which the songs are sang, reveal things that we have lost, even if we never had them in the first place.
Words by Kia Charalampous
PLATFORM 2015 runs at aspex until November 15th.