As can be seen from this show at the East GalleryNUA, individually, their works are evocative and often provocative, but in contrast they complement, parry and riposte in ways that aren’t entirely predictable. If one should wish to mark out the common ground it probably is not to be found in the formal precepts and conventions of painting or sculpture, but in a shared sense of mischief in against the same; and to paraphrase the Greek proverb, they are both accustomed to ‘…kicking against the pricks’, if you will. Whilst some works within the show may be familiar from outings at Tate Britain (Wilding’s ‘Largo’ et al.), or R.A. or Serpentine in Jaray’s case, Norwich University of the Arts and Karsten Schubert are especially pleased to be introducing significant new works from both artists within the context of this exhibition.
Further to this, and by way of some explanation, the artists have shown together in more limited ways previously and indeed have published intelligent and insightful commentaries on each other’s oeuvre; Alison Wilding’s ‘Thoughts on an undated page from a sketchbook’, are included in the in the substantial monograph, ‘The Art of Tess Jaray’, (Ridinghouse, 2014), and in her narrative on Jaray we gain an invaluable insight into the practice of both artists and their varying relationships with art history, architecture and perspective. In interpreting Jaray’s work, Wilding speaks about ‘unfixed’ viewpoints, and in a brief – but deeply perceptive moment – offers clues to the perceptual preoccupations of both artists with space and landscape and the conventions defining the visible and emotional limits of these.
Jaray’s indelible depiction of Wilding’s work in ‘The Blue Cupboard: Inspirations and Recollections’ (Royal Academy of Arts, 2014), is a super-articulate foray into the contrasts, tensions and contradictions embodied by Wilding’s sculptures. In fathoming the work Jaray appositely cites Nietzsche’s ‘Beyond Good and Evil’, quoting: “Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der
Abgrund auch in dich hinein.” (And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.”).
And so to the title of this exhibition, ‘Extra Terrestrial’. This patently is not an homage to popular film culture, but speaks in relation to both artists work, of their uniquely conceptual occupations with landscape, perspective and ontological objecthood. The works of Jaray and Wilding occupy physical and reflective space and offer the viewer an intervening layer of realised ‘otherness’, above and beyond either the picture plane or the physiognomy of sculpture –Wilding’s ‘Terrestrial’ being the specific reference in point.
By way of final acknowledgement, this show would simply not have happened without the hugely positive approach and willingness of the artists and the close collaboration between the University, Karsten Schubert and Tom Rowland; the University is delighted to have worked as the key partner in this production and to have helped originate and co-curate such an important regional and national showcase for new and important works. This exhibition is part of the University’s ‘Created and Contested Territories’ research programme.