Walking towards the university campus, the dull grey light of heavy winter cloud seemed to eat away at the low-lying building. Yet once through the doors I entered into an environment of patterned tiles and slick 1950s design. Bright lighting, shiny lino, a sweeping staircase and tiled interior walls presented a space at odds with the exterior landscape. Situated within this unexpected building in a town that felt consumed by cloud, the gallery presented itself as a hidden and secret enclave, an island for experimentation.
An island offers a stage: everything that happens on it is practically forced to turn into a story, into a chamber piece in the middle of nowhere, into the stuff of literature â¦â¦
(Judith Schalansky Atlas of Remote Islands, 2010).
Pushing through the gallery doors Irena Kalodera's film A Swing and a Sway filled the space with a pulsating acoustic of scraping metal. The film depicts a small area of a workspace, recognisable by the glimpse of a metal stand, and the remnants of plaster or clay dust that come into view. The camera seems to be scraping along a surface, the accompanying sound suggesting a vibrating of metal or the rough and heavy pull of an object. The expected smooth shot is replaced by an oscillating traction of movement and sound, the gliding swing and sway of the title become humorously redundant in the juddering push of the camera image.
Against the back wall the film permeates the other works on show, giving the space a distinct sound and light. The cloud of the exterior seems to be creeping back in as the lights of the gallery fade making way for the projected image, the grey of the weather echoed in the film's cinematic diffusion of light.
The metaphor of the cloud, an entity that transforms the everyday through a descending dark shadow seems to resonate with the other works in the gallery space, perhaps most so with Hugues Reip's Backwater. The matt black ink of the print sucks in the light in an image of cold, deep, black water. Close to a record player displaying the vinyl Extended Play, the ripples of the water mirror the grooves on the record, the circular rings rotating in an endless loop. An endless playing or reflecting compliments the situation of this somewhat hidden gallery space. It is a space that seems to be outside of the everyday, suspended and isolated like a strange island of experimentation within the Atomic décor of the university building and the dull mist of the surrounding landscape.
Once isolate yourself on a little island in the sea of space, and the moment begins to heave and expand in great circles, the solid earth is gone, and your slippery, naked dark soul finds herself out in the timeless world .. .. you are out in the other infinity
(D.H Lawrence The Man Who Loved Islands, 1928)
Placed on the record player, the viewer is invited to listen to the experimental sounds of Extended Play. There are clear noises or acoustics in-between each track that echo like a gunshot or a brief fragment of a computer game; a noise of loosing, taking a hit or game over. Held and trapped in the enclave of the gallery space the fragments of sound become percussive accompaniments to the drone of Kalodera's filmic soundscape forming a distinct acoustic environment.
A suspension from the everyday becomes visible in Florence Paradeis' photograph Le Baiser. A couple stand locked in an embrace in front of the cityscape of Paris, but it is not the 19th century architecture we would instantly associate with the fin de siècle capital, it is a modern development, perhaps La Defense, a futuristic complex of tower blocks that echo with science fiction film-scapes. This futuristic city frames the figures clenching bodies in a space that seems both real and constructed - both contemporary and of a possible future. The lighting on the figures separates them from their surroundings, creating an uncertainty that is infused with tension. The woman looks straight at the viewer, the embrace, the kiss, becomes more of a clench, an entrapment. There feels no escape from her gaze, the looming city and her arms around the man.
A tension between the real and the constructed resonates with other works in the gallery space.
Margaret Malcolm's three metal sculptures create an element of the precarious or uncertain. The carefully shaped loops, slightly squashed or awkwardly rounded have a very distinct colour. The graying lilac is taken from the thick elastic bands that hold together bunches of asparagus ' once our memory and association of the colour with the vegetable occurs the work prompts an extraordinary displacement of scale. We are reminded of an everyday encounter, yet within the environment of the gallery this everyday is displaced, transformed and made fantastical. Within the island of the gallery space, we are at once removed from our everyday and invited to re-imagine or remember its differing forms.
Malcolm's sculptures further become a viewfinder through which a number of other works are glimpsed and framed, forming a visual and formal link throughout the exhibition. Melanie Counsell's two screen prints xx ' silver/black and xx ' orange depict geometric patterns that seem to recall spatial and architectural settings complimenting the emphasis on construction present in Kalodera's film and the delicate geometry of Malcolm's sculptures. Yet the x in the title further draws us back to the darkness of Reip's photographic print, the negative sound of gunshot or game over in Extended Play and the tension of the female figure's embrace in La Braisier, a circular loop of referencing that mirrors the formal structure of Malcolm's sculptures and their delicately formed circular lines.
Vicky Falconer's film works Untitled are shown side by side in a carefully positioned arrangement of projector, support table and projected image. Using simple metal armatures of different heights with balanced wooden boards on top of each, these elegant tables or stools become a sculptural structure through which the films are projected, and with which the films are accompanied. The two small squares of projected light capture two different images, one ' the details of a colonnade, the orange light of somewhere hot, dusty and far way, the other an arrangement of boards, laminate worktops, kitchen tables, and formica, that recall a domestic setting. Yet both images recall more than the warmth of a foreign place or the memory of a home kitchen. With the drone of Kalodera's juddering film and deafening sound track, the blank boards of colour return to a discourse on making, their material properties becoming part of the workspace projected on the back wall, or the rectangular stills of a film strip at home in the grey cinematic light of the filmic image. The details of the colonnades become more an architectural study in structure and form rather than a romaticised super 8 shot. At first appearing as pockets of colour and escape away from the workspace of the back wall, Falconer's films reveal a shared a dialogue on materials and making, complimenting the cinematic and acoustic shadow of Kalodera's workspace.
Lurking in the corner of the gallery space we encounter Kieren Reed's Untitled (after R.M Schindler), a pedestal and plinth in matt grey paint. Both objects have a curious detailing; an undulating curved profile akin to the turned wood of furniture. The small pedestal has a two white objects on top, this placement seems strangely childlike or made for a child's learning or education. An echo of the domestic forms a relationship with Extended Play where the record is ready to be listen too, the record sleeve tossed on the floor. Something of the domestic or familiar is further present in Sean Edwards' sculpture. Lying horizontally along the top of the gallery wall a small foot sticks out of the structure - this gesture of movement becomes oddly anthropomorphic, introducing an element of the figurative or childlike, a lounging body and playful form.
With a nod to familiar objects of furniture or the setting of a domestic interior Untitled (after R.M Schindler) recalls elements of both the sculpture and the prop. Located in the shadows of the gallery corner rather than in the lit centre of the space, the object takes on more of a functional connotation; something that has been put to the side, the pedestal closely stood beside the plinth, ready and waiting to be used, to be enlivened and put into play. The matt grey colour further brings into the exhibition something of the process of making, the grey of a painted undercoat, the cinematic diffusion of light from Kalodera's film and the infused grey of the weather, the low cloud encompassing the space.
This interconnection between the location of the gallery space and the experience of its interior display of works creates a distinct environment, the entirety of which becomes an overriding frame in the viewing of each of the works on show. In an interview with Phyliss Truchman in 1970 the minimalist sculptor Carl Andre described his ideal sculpture to be a road or causeway,
My ideal piece of sculpture is a road. That is, a road doesn't reveal itself at any particular point or from any particular point. Roads appear and disappear. We either have to travel on them or beside them. But we don't have a single point of view for a road at all, expect a moving one, moving along it. Most of my works ' certainly the successful ones ' have been ones that are in a way causeways ' they cause you to make your way along them or around them or to move the spectator over them. They're like roads, but certainly not fixed point vistas. I think sculpture should have an infinite point of view. There should not be one place nor even a group of places where you should be.
Walking to Oriel Sycharth gallery and encountering the collection of works, beside, through and adjacent to each other present a series of differing vistas, constellations and connections of both aesthetic values and associative references. The notion of a road as sculpture described by Andre seems to resonate with both my journey to the space and viewing the different works in the exhibition. The title Ollerplex Un-plex presents a playful linguistic twist suggesting being in all ways or places, in a space that enables all ways and places of viewing, a site unique, at odds and encompassing.
Standing in the gallery surrounded by the exterior cloud of mist and the Atomic interior of the building we are removed from what is familiar, we stand in a space of experimentation and endless possibility, a space that resonates as a sculptural enclave, recalling a further comment by Carl Andre that his work represents a movement from sculpture as structure to sculpture as form and finally sculpture as place