AboutFor his first solo exhibition at Vegas Gallery, British artist Shane Bradford presents his Encyclopedia Series, entitled Hermetic Seel which brings to the fore the historical and painterly narratives so crucial to the artist's practice.
The âpost Pollock' dipping technique which Bradford has pioneered is central to the current show which features a complete series of fourteen art historical encyclopedias, all of which have been subjected to this process. For those familiar with Bradford's work, the current show will provide a sense of visual continuity and philosophical familiarity in that the dialogue between the dipping process and the subject matter it suggests is brilliantly maintained from the days of dipping Paul Smith toothbrushes, spoons and lollipop sticks. The artist's exploration of the possibilities of paint continues unabated. However, the oral fascination so evident in earlier series is dramatically reduced here, having been replaced by an emphasis on the cathartic properties of the process. Through the dipping process, which sees the encyclopedias being submerged repeatedly in multi-colored emulsions, Bradford has simultaneously paid homage to the artists contained within the volumes and rendered the pages partially unreadable he has duly absorbed the art historical cannon as it is presented here and is now relinquishing it finally to the realm of history. The marriage of subject matter with process is central to this ritual through Bradford's colour choices and painterly technique he has mirrored what he understands to be the essence of the artists ensconced on the dipped pages, thus contributing to the cathartic process through intervention and interpretation.
As always, the transformative effect of the process on the object is tantalizingly tangible. Each encyclopedia is subjected to a parochial process which eventually renders the original object an abstracted version of itself, seemingly transformed by the distracting aestheticism of the drip and the artistic construction of surface depth and geometricism. As wondrous as the finished product makes it appear, the limitations of the process, which has been described as fascistic by the artist himself, necessarily implies that there are only so many ways the finished product can go. These restrictions mimic the limitations of history, an entity which is very much present in Bradford's work and which is, by its very nature, confined to the narrative interpretations of the historian, as is made evident by the highly subjective selections and omissions specific to this 1959 Chambers Edition.
However, Bradford's considered colour choices and glossy finishes provide another dimension to the works, allowing the viewer to indulge in the pure, unadulterated beauty of the pieces without considering how they might have looked in their original, naked state or how they might function as elements of his socio-historical commentary.
Shane Bradford's Hermetic Seel is a beautiful example of how the basic tools of artistic production can be used in the successful construction of a narrative expression. The beauty of Bradford's stalactite formations recreates one of the simplest processes found in nature and reprocesses this technique in the manufacture of a very impressive graphic composition. Bradford's process challenges the perceptions of the viewer by reinterpreting the usual construction of surface decoration. Astoundingly impressive and technically ingenuous a perfect marriage of process and concept.
Michelle Davis © 2008