The world is made of things: objects; animals named by Adam in the Garden of Eden, an inventory of all that is. But at the heart of our understanding of the world is not the things themselves, but the relationships and connections between them and us. As we generate interconnectivities of understanding through our conceptual manipulation of the world, we also generate material interconnected systems that change the planet.
Over time, these meaningful connections take the form of stories. M+R’s bronzes containing abstract poetic provocations of other people’s memories which outlive physical events reflect the nature of their work, where the substance of the finished piece remains an unfinished conversation. The transformation of daily tasks into transcendental and meaningful experience through interwoven fact and fiction is the basis for Sarah Marshall’s work, which retells her personal stories through text, photography and installation and involves viewers in this search for meaning. Issues of interpretation are played out in Morna Hinton’s ‘A Small Book of Hazards’, based on a list of risks in the construction industry published by the Health and Safety Executive. These signs rely on the reader connecting words and symbolic colours to decipher meaning, showing how the importance of assigning conceptual connections to physical material can be a matter of life and death.
In the virtual world of early-nineties computer games, Michael Coppelov’s paintings elevate the viewer to a god-like position looking down on a microcosmic world below. Though presented with a bewilderingly infinite number of possibilities that extend beyond the canvas, the isometric grids remind us that the support structures and networks that underpin both the virtual and ‘real’ worlds remain largely unseen. Despite limitless possibilities, we remain limited by the laws of these structures and their demands on our human state. Ruth Helen Smith’s paintings delve beneath this isometric surface, depicting construction sites and roadworks as moments where the skin of the city is pulled back, revealing the anatomy beneath. A tension arises as for every surface that is pulled back, another surface is revealed, and any understanding of the material construction of our environments remains inextricably bound to experience. In the paintings, as with the subject, a type of unknowable ‘mud’ is rearranged into a thing of new meaning.
For John Wyatt-Clarke, lug worms are metaphors for the process of making, depicted through reference to scientific diagrams which connect a complex web of information into simple line drawings with minimal arrows and labels, positing that we can never experience things in themselves but only data about things. However, the data in these paintings are skewed, untethered from scientific exactitude, complicating the viewer’s attempts to decipher them, emphasising not only the systems of nature, but also of the scientific method and its communication.
We are more interconnected than ever, but not just by social media, the internet and sophisticated transport networks. We have become a force of nature, defining the current geological age as ‘Anthropocene’. But whether our connections are benign or malign is open to interpretation