Helen de Main, Samantha Donnelly, James McLardy, Rallou Panagiotou, Carla Scott Fullerton & Sarah Wright
Semi-Gloss, Semi-Permeable presents new work by six artists who use distinct approaches to the positioning of self in relation to material culture. Working across sculpture, printmaking and installation their practices are tied together through shared interests in fragmented bodies, anatomised commodities, alternative histories and questions of gender. Each artist presents an intimate and sometimes personal exploration of these interests as they try to make sense and be attentive to how everyday experience and contemporary culture constructs both individual and collective identities.
Using an array of carefully selected imagery, objects, references and materials each artist puts their chosen subjects through a rigorous working process. By means of both traditional and experimental printmaking and sculptural techniques they alter, manipulate, distort and re-present these conceptually loaded materials and commodities that both come from and are linked into our daily lives, be that via work, at home or through various leisure or social activities.
These evocations to ‘daily life’ are intrinsically linked to notions of the self and the body with the works all implying some form of relationship with it; be that directly as seen in the use of certain visual imagery (i.e re-appropriated from magazines & archival photographs); by association through the selection of specific objects and forms (i.e clothing, jewellery & make-up); artificially as demonstrated in the assorted modes of display and presentation (i.e mirror stands, frames & suitcases); and perhaps one could even say by way of our subconscious as the artists present us with shapes and forms our hands are naturally accustomed to holding, touching and tending to.
This subconscious attraction could also be seen to manifest itself through the surface finishes and textures of the materials (both real and fake) that the artists choose to work with as well as in the way the works are exhibited – all freestanding and all utilising structures reminiscent of those found around the home, the high street, office and museum (a practical and collective decision made by the artists when preparing the show). Presented in a newly completed office development made up of polished steel floors, pre-cast concrete walls and paneled windows, the works command the room upon their individual islands, pedestals, armatures and stages, positioning themselves as being there for both business and pleasure.
Whilst this might all suggest an appearance that is quite superficial the works are in fact in many ways very honest, attempting to lay bare what lies beneath. We are clearly exposed to the making process and means of production in many of the works. We are presented with materials in both a finished and raw state and are presented with candid replications of images and objects that though altered do a good job of reminding us of the underlying realities.
The nod to gender within the show can also not go unnoticed or be avoided with the aesthetic qualities and concerns of women repeatedly presented, however its importance in relation to the working process, materials and subject matter is not a priori for all the artists presented here – but it’s certainly worth thinking about in terms of gender roles when we talk of daily life and the inequalities that still exist there.
Rallou Panagiotou’s new sculptural works Transit Made-up Medusa, Transit 90’s Platform and No Twilight, No Dawn, (2016) display an unconventional treatment of materials and commodities related to leisure and luxury. Cast in aluminium and sprayed with industrial car paint, the objects (a sandal, tube of toothpaste and mask of Medusa) are positioned upon a couple of Delsey suitcases and a travel pillow like modern day versions of classical figures. Through these forms and materials Panagiotou combines cultural and art historical references that connote notions of holiday resorts and shared cultural activities as well as exemplifying the contemporary experience of being in transit.
Similar references can also be found in the work of James McLardy whose series of sculptural objects are borne from an interest in a number of specific forms most notably Barbara Hepworth’s pierced-form sculptures as seen in Our Outer, Un-Natured, 2016 and interior window mouldings from on board a transatlantic airliner illustrated most notably in Slack-Horizontal / Good Sleep, 2016. McLardy has taken these visual associations and expanded our thoughts on them through his choice of materials, the processes and finishes he has used and in the works presentation. The works radiate a cool, futuristic vibe. Displayed around the gallery space they are reminiscent of prototype parts waiting to be assembled together. Their crisp white surfaces appear effortless but each work has been meticulously constructed; carved, machined and tirelessly sanded; the polyurethane rubber cast to exacting size and shape. The works hint at this process when we are presented with the raw and the spray finished MDF as seen in Once Smooth Pressed, Now Pressed Smooth, 2016.
Carla Scott Fullerton’s work explicitly highlights it’s own making. Working across both sculpture and printmaking she works with the raw industrial materials of buildings – cement, glass and steel – and explores her relationship with materials through an exploratory process of making, exposing and deconstructing their physical properties. Her practice is shaped by an interest in architecture: its history, materials and function and her sculptural forms and prints clearly reference this in their shapes, angles and lines. Fullerton incorporates many aspects of the printmaking process in her work, exhibiting materials and objects – for example an exposed screen, as seen in Uncoil Me and Clamped Frames, 2016 – that would usually remain invisible and not stray outside the confines of the print studio.
This interest in exposure continues in Sarah Wright’s work. Using appropriated imagery as well as photographs and prints of her own she disrupts and distorts their surface to create abstract copies of the originals. For the work in this show Wright has used plastic food bags, zip lock document wallets and photograph pockets to create an alternative skin that the viewer is forced to view her images through, images of for example a creased skirt, plastic and glass bottles, flower petals and the artists own wrist. Through this choice of imagery and this second skin that contains them, we are made to feel as if we are viewing a collection of specimens and the work even conjures up ideas of being a body of evidence from some unknown act. Wright has chosen to present her prints hung both on and over steel frames reminiscent of coat rails (put out your hand, and scent wear 2016), and in for her, 2016 actual objects are displayed on shelves like an assortment of wares. This decision reminds you that Wright is also perhaps interested in image and product placement and how this influences our consumption of them.
Samantha Donnelly also re-imagines a whole host of objects and materials in her work. Like Wright all her imagery has been processed and restaged. Her sculptural assemblages are made through questioning, rephrasing and reworking a range of sculptural matter and imagery that includes mass-produced household wares, advertising spreads, imported fashion bargains and second-hand finds. Donnelly’s work appears the most frank in terms of bringing to light the true appearance of all that is presented to us as ‘ideal’ and ‘real’ in our everyday lives. What she presents us with is not the real deal either but the objects and subject matter she chooses to work with and the way she chooses to work with them remind us of the glossy artifice that envelops our daily lives and the strength it has in its appeal and draw. The titles of her works (Software and Metadata, 2016) also emphasize how little goes untouched by modern technology, tampering and tweaking appearances and instructing our senses.
The work presented in the show by Helen de Main is very much about revealing the ‘real’. De Main’s practice is inherently linked to gender and to presenting realistic constructions of the female body. She uses appropriated images of women engaged in diverse activities to present alternative or hidden histories that celebrate moments from individual and collective lives. These images, often absent from mainstream visual culture, present women in all their personal, private and public guises. De Main’s prints in the show present women at work as carers in Soft Deflection, 2016 and as housewives and mothers in In Between Closed Doors, 2016. Her employment of this imagery comes with the desire to raise awareness of the power and potential of women through this very simple act of showing the real, this work that women do that so often goes unrecognized and is undervalued has very real and very great affects. Like the other artists in the show De Main is also playing with and exploring ideas relating to the visibility and invisibility of the image and the subjects depicted in them. She too has employed materials and processes that exaggerate and emphasize such concerns. Printing double sided onto glass has created an effect that melds the images together with the women in Soft Deflection, 2016 becoming almost one.
Text by Louise Briggs
Commissioned by the artists in association with Glasgow International. Supported by Creative Scotland, Clyde Gateway and Hope Scott Trust.