MONOMATIC is pleased to present Still Believing an exhibition of new works by Tim Dodds and Thomas Whittle.
Still Believing brings together still life paintings and photographs made from studio set ups; set ups that the artists themselves create. These objects, collages and arrangements are all modeled and fabricated by the artists using debris from their studio and other works. The relationship of translating these table-top dioramas into two dimensional images posts questions of truth, authenticity, specificity and miscommunication. By presenting the viewer with a contradictory infinity loop, the work sincerely hopes to challenge perception of space, time and subjectivity.
To coincide with the opening Sian Robinson Davies has been invited to read her new text All the People I’ve Touched. This text is about the (in)frequency of physical contact that Robinson Davies has with those around her and how that contact produces different feelings depending on social context, quality of relationship, permission and intention.
MONOMATIC presents Still Believing as part of Annuale, an annual festival organised by Embassy Gallery.
Edinburgh Beer Factory will provide refreshments at the opening.
Exhibition text by Jonathan P Watts: Still Believing
Immobile in regimented seats, train passengers pass through remote
landscapes. As such, they’re only offered, the anthropologist Michel
de Certeau writes, ‘a speculative experience of the world’, remaining
‘outside of these things that stay there, detached and absolute, that
leave us without having anything to do with this departure’. Seeking
a visual symbol of the train’s relation to knowledge, de Certeau
claims that it ‘generalizes’ the German Renaissance artist Albrecht
Dürer’s engraving Melencolia I (1514). Slumped to the right of this
masterprint, fatigued like some latter-day passenger, the solitary
figure ‘Melancolia’ is absorbed in thought. The tools of her art – a
peculiar array of objects – surround her but she seems unable to use
them. Even the emaciated dog at her feet conveys a melancholy
atmosphere. Does her withdrawal make it impossible for her to act,
or what if she is, in fact, held in some inspired trance prior to action?
In front of immobile things, how does our view affect our knowledge?
A table anatomised begins to look familiar: there are feet, legs and
joints in the places you might expect. And of course tables do have
brains. Or at least it’s hard to shake the thought after Karl Marx’s
early writings on what he called the ‘metaphysical subtleties and
theological niceties’ of the commodity. In The Fetishism of
Commodities and the Secret Thereof (1867) Marx conjures a
beguiling image of a table to illustrate why values attach to
commodities independent of their use-value or the labour entailed
in making them. ‘It is as clear as day,’ he writes, ‘that man, by his
industry, changes the forms of the materials furnished by Nature, in
such a way as to make them useful to him.’ The form of wood, he
is altered, by making a table out of it. Yet, for all that, the table
continues to be that common, every-day thing, wood. But, so soon as it
steps forth as a commodity, it is changed into something transcendent.
It not only stands with its feet on the ground, but, in relation to all other
commodities, it stands on its head, and evolves out of its wooden brain
grotesque ideas, far more wonderful than ‘table-turning’ ever was.
Marx’s open secret is that commodity transformation is more
wonderful – yet, importantly, more real – than any ‘table-turning’,
that occult practice in which a group gather around a table, their
hands flat on its top, and wait for communiqués from the spiritual
beyond, expressed by the table’s rotation. Indeed, while the
table-turners are all preoccupied with the other side, he implies,
they’re being distracted from doing the real work of understanding
the mystifications that beset commonplace human relations. Marx’s
writing on the commodity turned the table into a paradigmatic item
of furniture caught between an older order of magical thinking and
the modern commodity in industrial capitalism – its top, then, a
highly charged space for display.
The window is a transparent framed view of the world; the mirror is
a rebounding mimetic opacity. With nihilistic élan, Marcel Duchamp
enfolded the two foundational devices for perspectival painting – the
window and the mirror – to produce Fresh Widow (1921), a miniature
French window with all of its eight glass panes blinded by swatches
of black leather. These swatches, Duchamp instructed, were to be
‘shined everyday like shoes’. If this hybrid object negated the
function or use of its constituent parts, it would also forever
complicate art’s relation to knowledge, of the external world and the
self, resolutely closing the French door on illusion. (I can hear
Duchamp’s wicked laughter at the metaphysical labour of polishing
dim lustrous skin to find one’s image.)
A collaborative exhibition of artwork by Tam Aitchison and Tim Dodds in C02, Edinburgh College of Art, 21st October
It’s enclosed and disorientating. A phallic shape juts forward and beside it a painting, feminine. Who or what is the tin man? A living sculpture? It might be a mannequin rather than real. Is it a staged space? A conversation between 2 people? Natural forms are re-sculpting into something more abstract, obscured. The plastic gives delicacy though it’s claustrophobic. There’s writing upside down on plasterboard. Taking control of the viewer’s experience, it’s such that you are forced to walk around the layout. Outside in, inside out. An authentic experience as some awkwardness from real life seeps in. Destroy plastic?? A futuristic gallery, giving the gallery feeling, avoiding the outside. The photos are like Daft Punk. They are taken in this room. An alternative version is suggested, all in silver foil. Kate is overwhelmed from having taken so much in. The paintings are a weird treat. These materials shouldn’t work together. In contrast, Stephen felt at peace. The sheets moved and responded to his steps. The photos are airy, breathing, floating. Anything could be put in like computers, the internet. The plastic’s getting ripped. There’s a person in a tin suit. You can see the pixels in the prints and the borders are not where you expect them, playing with expectations. It’s a weird mix, man-made and organic. Polytunnels for growing seedlings. A light, humid, milky tone. ET’s quarantine. Weird and uncomfortable, it lulls you in like an erotic science fiction fantasy. Infinite layered spaces navigating flatness which the phallic object disrupts. Sensitive stuff is destroyed by it. Weightlessness, figures floating. Contamination. Some people, who are sensitive to electromagnetic waves, wallpaper their rooms with tinfoil and have special slippers. The photos are neurotic or fun and playful. Blue light evokes sci-fi.
Neil didn’t see the figure in the photo because of the way it’s printed (soft and diffuse). It looks like a landscape. In the other photo, there’s a sense of the figure’s lifted arm having disrupted the picture plane, creating rippling light. Like polythene, it’s unstable – able to expand and contract. The space is really big, it could go on forever above the polythene cover, but there’s a sweaty atmosphere. The plasterboard is low, on its side, and infantilises the space. Plasterboard is typically used to create a whitespace gallery, a dressing screen. The sculpture has a preparatory look, laid armature, a provisional feel. The material qualities work well. The printouts aren’t high quality. The paintings are displayed like props on a set. There are inversions of scale like Alice shrinking. Mannequins could be a still life. You are made to feel awkward about your own scale.
Andrew sensed the transition between spaces and had the satisfying feeling of being in an incubator. It feels like another world – Barbarella, Superman. He’s less attracted to the paintings. They’re not integral to the space. There aren’t many shows where you have to take your shoes off (Lamont Young?). There’s something curious about having to do it. It prepares you. The polythene covered wall and floor and above, adds another dimension.
People said it felt quite contemporary – like a contemporary art show. The squat armature adds to this, and the paintings – the way they are shown makes them intriguing. With the photos hung on the polythene covered walls, there’s a layering of textures. The digitized cold light becomes more painterly. They’re shonky images which relates to the provisional aspect of the paintings anyway. The sculpture also has an armature with clay laid on like the foil layers. There’s a smell, something in the air, a paint smell. It’s like the 1970s, comical, with a light-touch, airy, improvised feel. The photos themselves could be seen as armatures, preparatory images, for large photo-real paintings.
Leave the Capitol: An Exploration of Contemporary Identity by the Masters Programme, Edinburgh College of Art
I submitted ‘Still life with a Tree Nymph’ for ‘Leave the Capitol’ exhibition at the Fleming Collection in London…
Works by staff and students selected by Head of the School of Art, Stuart Bennett, and lecturer for Postgraduate Taught Programmes, Kenny Hunter, alongside Director of The Fleming Collection Selina Skipwith.
Until 16 Nov
13 Berkeley Street