Materially, both artists devise extraordinary soups from which the paintings and sculpture are distilled or drawn out. The resultant works bear witness to this fluid, transformative process, and they each acknowledge the eternal flux that refuses to allow objects, even artefacts, to calcify their values and significances once made. Change is embedded in the artists’ approach to working with pigments and plastics (Van San), and crystal-forming sulphates and porous substrates (Hallum). Fluidity is also acknowledged in the language of forms and images, which linger like ruins within the works’ constituent parts and in the experience of their totality. The exhibition itself develops this feeling for the impossibility of stasis by the artists’ dynamic engagement with the architecture of the gallery and in the reflexive relationship between the two artists’ works.
In her new series of un-stretched paintings, Jacqui Hallum casually transcribes sections of a medieval woodcut, greatly enlarged. Dürer’s image Knight and Landsknecht (1497) is anachronistically re-cast as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, and it is the duality of these two protagonists as they navigate the world experientially and imaginatively that provides a metaphor for the relationships between the areas of colour information that interrupt, animate and camouflage the illustration fragment. Just as Dürer/Cervantes’ narratives provide a mutable framework for Hallum’s exploration of non-static painting, so too the painting substrate is itself a porous host for the stains and saturations, as well as the reactive crystalline growth, that flicker and hum across its surface.
Pigmented stains re-occur in Tamara Van San’s new sculpture, but here they have become three-dimensional forms that inhabit space rather than ingress the fabric of an object or a surface. Of her process she says: “[I want] to make colour stains like they are lying in a hammock. [Then] maybe put them on their side, or build a wall…” Van San’s desire to freeze and make solid something as insubstantial as a stain requires a protracted and experimental negotiation with her materials, which must be carefully trained to behave at the edges of their intended function or purpose. Her embrace of fluorescent pigments, which appear brighter than other colours because they transform light wavelengths rather than merely reflect light, and of installations, which formally re-organise themselves as the viewer moves past, around or through them, mean that whatever control she manages in the work’s making is never entirely definitive.
The exhibition title refers to the horticultural practice of employing one living plant to form the armature for another to grow up and through. This method embraces contingency, change and mutuality within gardening. And gardening is itself a mimetic interpretation of that which lies somewhere beyond the garden wall; it is a domesticated version of the natural world. So too these works, through their making and in the continuum of their transforming, speak modestly and eloquently of the world and our negotiation of it.