For curator/ exhibitor Josh Leeson, the table being placed outside the home and into the gallery, becomes a mirror onto questions of how we judge objects; through an aesthetic or functional scale, via ownership ? A chance to explore how the role which a table occupies in the home, can be translated within an ‘Art’ context.
Zoë Preece was invited to contribute work based on her recent installation works, which wittily capture everyday objects literally carved into the fabric of the table structure itself, like fossilised moments, embedded forever. Or spoons which defy laws of physics and hold themselves in space, like a magic trick. Preece raises objects out of the ordinary.
Sculptor Arthur Goodfellow and ceramicist Yusun Won were introduced to collaborate on new work for the exhibition, forging a conversation which reveals as much about their own work, through the consideration of another. Balance, fragility and strength are evident in a symbiotic dialogue between Yusun’s ceramic forms and the materials and structure of Arthur’s improvised responses to them.
Yusun Won works with the negative space between vessels, to encourage the regard of the common in an uncommon way, asking us to question assumptive relationships. “A significant synergy in which daily life expands into a realm of art,” Won says. Goodfellow also comes from a ceramic/ sculptural background, his work formerly a response to invisible forces and physical laws of ‘entropy’ , creating improvised structures in answer to Won’s slanted vessel forms.
This visual conversation, with Won’s objects asking for Goodfellows’ response, makes the interplay of balance, imbalance and structure visible. His table-like constructions, are more like props, compensating and making right something which appears to be slipping. His structural ‘tables’ reveal a fragile co-dependent state.
In parallel, as co-curator artist Zozë Gingell commissioned two painters; Tess Gray and Rhiannon Davies to make work which relate to the tradition of Still life, as a means to examine choice, through a contemporary eye. The formal pictorial presentation of ‘Tableaux, an opportunity to consider the process of selection; i.e. which objects would gain status by being painted. Through formalising the familiar and the everyday into tableaux, the element of staging and the constructed choice of what to paint, invites more than observational skill into the room. The backstory is there at the table.
For Rhiannon Davies, who often paints people from old photographs or magazines, the act of choosing items to paint from life from objects within her own home felt like an exposure of the private space. Beyond the kitsch or ornamental, Davies sets up the inter-relationships between objects, of different scales and ambition, like a randomised collection, to create what feels like a narrative subtext, as we search for connections between them.
For Tess Gray, it is the plate and the objects which are to be consumed by the eye in painting or eating, which hold symbolic power. Gemstones sit next to food as if offerings rather than a menu choice, and nicely subvert and pay homage to classic set ups of Dutch still life or classic tableaux.
For Max Cahn, whose painted constructions could be invented; it’s “the visual echoes of things,” that take centre stage like assemblages, which have arrived because they won’t disappear, rather than by design. A subconscious image, without reason. Less designer domesticity, more like drawing the absurd aspirational desires perhaps.
Ultimately it’s the material itself which holds the objects up, and makes them stand. Eleanor Whiteman is a print maker who has collaborated with ceramicist Phil Hughes on a series of ceramic bowls which bear the physical imprint of the inside rings of a felled tree. Now served as a reference to something living, they sit placed upon a table made of wooden stair treads brought back by Leeson from a former family home in the far off land of childhood France, reshaped and ‘repurposed’ into a tableform, time re-incarnated through living use.
It is this acknowledgment to the thingness and materiality which enters our lives, with which the artists here have engaged with, that elevates the regard of the everyday item to the level of a philosophical conversation. Think of Sartre’s Nausea.
Ideas such as the balance/ imbalance of an object wedded to the table surface which enables it to be level, the line of still life objects like characters appearing in a play, serves up the relationship between things, and us - revealing the fragile line between the practical, and the slipperiness of memory; echoes of time locked within the material endurance of things. At a deeper level, to question what is real, to look beyond the surface at the narrative which underpins the everyday. Zoë Gingell, May 2022