'To Accident and Abandon', archival ultra-chrome pigment print, by Jesse Morgan Barnett
Celebrating ten years of shows, the curators at this International Open Show have presented a vast range of work and suggest a melting-pot that brings both a mish-mash of media and morals. However the combined effect of these seventeen particular pieces highlight what Surface does best; making your brain cells sigh and shudder to attention.
Illuminating the void between natural beauty and synthetic forms, there are traces of this awkward relationship found in every nook and cranny of the gallery, upholding here the glories of nature as well as the perils and mundanity of mankind. The real stunners here are where the naturalistic elements are paraded against otherwise unremarkable artificial settings. A photographic example, To Accident and Abandon (4f) displays interest not in the mundane man-made landscape of a grey highway but of the incredible variety of grain and texture of the surrounding stone and tarmac animating this dull scene into one of movement and vigor.
Another, an unfamiliar textile lurking deep in the belly of the gallery seems at first glance to be a drooping globular plant transported from another world, sitting foreign in its surroundings. However, on closer inspection there are two very different sides to this fabric-wonder. An impressive tail resembles a bunch of voluptuous, yet hollow white grapes: round and proud. The bunch stretches across wall brackets, stringing out cobweb-like until the feeble strands droop down into isolated pellets. These pellets seem wrinkled with a well chosen textured knitted surface that has choked the life from the orbs at the other end. Perhaps the obviously handcrafted detail is another sign of mankind’s detrimental fiddling with what was once fat and full. It’s appearance here feels like a sad reminder of some extinct species, once beautiful known only now as an artifact.
'Neurotropical - Collapse', two digital collages
and plaster objects, by Teresa Paiva
The gallery layout screams at you as well to watch your step. This is not a 'stand-behind-the-velvet-rope' kind of show. Some exhibitors challenge you to muse on the gallery’s physiology and truly consider why the work has to exist beyond the conventional frame on the wall. The awkward relationship between man and surroundings is upheld by keeping the viewer feeling as if one badly placed foot could tumble a life’s work. Nothing does this more splendidly than David McLeavy’s wonder found at the core of the art space. A seemingly modernised version of a still life, the work is a concoction of real fruit, ceramic, wire and wood. An orange precariously balances on a block of uncarved timber. This hugely non-fashioned side of the sculpture is speared by a jarring metal wire, a symbolic timeline, that leads and plunges into a modern ceramic vase. The pot is atop a bleached and manufactured stool, a bland and stark contrast to the timber. The artist seems to suggest that less, once again, is more, that the untouched beauty of natural form has the effortless power to overturn laboured splendour.
Roughly a mountain. Roughly a triangle, a 6ft oil on canvas, splits two segmented impressions of a triangle and mountain with a transcript describing one as the other beneath each. It's set up echoes René Magritte’s cryptic French below his pipe. The mountain is painted realistically and the triangle crudely, but the contradictory phrases below each enforces the seperation between man and the organic world.
The awkward relationship between humanity and nature is vicious and beautiful, in this now decade long artistic celebration which plays with the viewer’s sensibilities, not unlike my awkward note-taking and sketching.
This is still another triumph for Surface, not only in its selection of artists and motifs but its inventive curation that guides every visitor not only through the work on display but the collected mindset of the creators.
International Open Show runs at Surface until 25 August
All images including Roughly a Mountain, Roughly a Triangle, oil on two canvases by Alec Moors and Curved Line With Orange, wood, ceramic, metal, concrete, orange by David McLeavy are courtesy of Surface gallery.