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Kate Hawkins: 'Bollocks' (detail)‘Solo in connectivity’

HOT reporter Cathy Simpson ponders SOLO, an exhibition of film, video and performance at Electro Studios Project Space, St Leonards, and part of the Coastal Currents Visual Arts Festival.  Contrary to the show’s title, this is actually a group exhibition by nine women artists:

Jenny Baines
Zoe Brown
Bettina Buck
Louise Colbourne
Juliana Cerqueira Leite
Kate Hawkins
Jayne Parker
Lisa Peachey
Bronwyn Platten

The exhibition explores the notion that ‘If we think against the grain of the solo as discrete, we can begin to hear solo in collectivity…’ Much of the work depicts a solo reverie, acting out a range of tasks and actions; paradoxically, the common thread throughout the entire show IS this highly focused personal activity, expressed in diverse and contrasting ways. We are presented with these intensely absorbing images on screen, repeatedly seduced and mesmerised.

Bettina Buck:  'Interlude'

Bettina Buck’s Interlude is the first piece to greet the viewer; it shows a figure dragging a foam monolith across a cliff-top field – a direct reference to the Greek myth of Sisyphus, condemned to push a heavy stone to the top of a hill for eternity.

 

When he reaches the top, the stone is destined to bounce back to the bottom – ensuring his task will never be completed. Video is a particularly apt medium to explore a concept like this;  the video loop ensuring that the task will repeat itself ad infinitum, and the unsteady, wobbly footage inviting the viewer to empathise with the physical difficulty of moving a bulky object.  We watch, anxiously.

Jenny Baines: 'Tipping Point'

‘Sisyphean’ is also used by Jenny Baines to describe her approach to her work; in this case applied to the video of a plate spinning on a stick – with the descriptive title of Tipping Point. As with Interlude, we watch anxiously, willing the plate to stay aloft… but then the clue is in the title, really!

In this case, the video is interestingly placed next to another which also has a sense of precariousness;  Bronwyn Platten’s Meeting Nude Woman Walking on Balls (after Hans Baldung Grien, 1514).

Hans Baldung Grien: 'Nude Woman Walking on Balls' (1514)

The 16th century German drawing dates from a time when masculine fear of female sexuality, and the subsequent need to dominate and undermine, beam like a beacon from many works of art; it has been suggested that it is representing so-called feminine ‘instability’.

Platten’s response, however, is thus:

‘My idea of performing the act was to become the woman, in order to understand both the meanings of the image better and to somehow ‘meet’ with its central character’.

Bronwyn Platten: 'Meeting Nude Woman Walking on Balls (after Hans Baldung Grien, 1514)

Perhaps symbolically, she makes steady if faltering progress with both feet strapped to large balls whilst stabilising herself with two sticks. The intense concentration of the balancing figure is palpable, and we are invited to share it.

 

 

Lisa Peachey’s Twice the Speed of Sound is one of many works by this artist which depict an almost absent-minded but lengthy rendering of an ‘image’; she is seen here whittling a rough Concorde from a lump of chalk. When the plane breaks and the artist continues to whittle, it questions whether the actual form being created is important.  The chalk dust falling like snow to create a light covering over the landscape of  thighs and belly of the artist is as striking a visual image, and as intimate a process, as the carving itself.

Lisa Peachey: Twice the Speed of Sound

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Totally different in feel is Zoe Brown’s The Elaborate Waste of My Longing, a brief monochrome film – only 20 seconds long – which mimics the dusty scratchiness and missing frames of vintage film footage; the images are surreal, and invite us to construct our own narrative – but the jerkiness of this piece provides a sometimes startling contrast to the hypnotic quality of the others in the same area.

Louise Colbourne’s The Possibility of a Changing Structure by Multiple Minor Revolutions explores the overlap of sculpture and film;  a skeletal sculptural piece rotates in a mesmeric manner, transforming not only because of changing perspective but because the form itself develops and diminishes during its rotations.  This is a truly meditative, mesmeric piece depicting a form which could not exist in three dimensional reality.

Juliana Cerqueira Leite: 'Foam'

Foam by Juliana Cerqueira Leite explores sculptural form from a totally different viewpoint – sensually and playfully.

When confronted with a piece of foam pad, which of us haven’t plunged our fingers into it, scrunched it up, twisted it… all so that we could watch it return to its original form?

The images captured here are beautiful and fascinating;  all the more so because the film is played backwards so that the impression of fingertips and then a whole hand, for example, appears in the foam before the hand itself does.  It takes a few moments to register that this is caused by the sequence being reversed and, on first viewing, the experience is slightly unsettling.

Even more unsettling is K, by Jayne Parker.  The thirteen minute film is in two parts;

Part 1: a woman pulls her intestine out of her mouth and lets it fall in a soft pile at her feet. Then she knits the intestine using only her arms.

Part 2: she stands on the edge of a pool and makes herself dive again and again.

Jayne Parker: 'K'Parker states that she makes ‘an external order out of an internal tangle’; the knitted entrails are donned as a dress, thereby becoming a covering to the body which previously covered them – or so we are led to believe!  At one stage she assumes the stance of the crucifix – a strikingly graphic image.

 

The most arresting shots from Part 2 are probably those which linger on the swimming pool itself.  The undulating lines of the bottom of the pool are seen through a rippling surface, itself disrupted by splashes from above, and have an abstract tranquility very much in keeping with the general feeling of reverie from the show.

Finally, Kate Hawkins’ piece The Bollocks took form at the preview on Friday 7th September.  A performance involving the various stances used in firing a hand gun, paint balls were used to create the image.  As the name suggests, this is a direct reference to Jackson Pollock;  it could not really be described as un hommage in the light of its apt, clever disrespect and irreverence. She describes the work as ‘making reference to the male expressionistic gesture in painting and specifically the mythology of the (male) artistic genius’. 

Hawkins undermines this mythology by using its own language, the paint spatters bearing witness to the stylised violence of the piece’s  production – almost like a shoot-out in green and orangeEven in repose, this piece has a mood very different to most of the exhibition. The calm, considered meditation of much of the show appears all the calmer next to the staccato paint marks, while Bollocks, in turn, appears all the more violent because of the juxtapositionThis is certainly an exhibition where the feeling created by one piece will have a significant bearing on how the viewer perceives the others.

I would strongly recommend a visit to this exhibition, and ensure you allow enough time to immerse yourself in the diverse, always absorbing works.  This is not an occasion to be rushed!

SOLO is open to the public until 23 September; from 12 noon–5pm on Saturdays and Sundays. More information is available here.

There will be a performance by Juliana Cerqueira Leite at 6pm on Sunday 23 September.

Electro Studios Project Space, Seaside Road, St Leonards, TN38 0AL

Posted 10:23 Monday, Sep 10, 2012 In: Visual Arts

Also in: Visual Arts

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