Marijke Van Warmerdam - First Drop (3 stars)

  • 18 August 2006

This article is from 2006.

There is a fine zigzagging line between quirky and annoying, insightful and naïve, and Marijke van Warmerdam’s exhibition at the Fruitmarket rocks on this uneven theoretical ground, with one’s reaction quickly leaping from one extreme judgment to the next. You have to take your time with this exhibition, not for any grand revelation to illuminate, but for the threads linking the different works to become apparent.

Downstairs the viewer is confronted with two large photographs of pretty tea cups. The images hang from the ceiling and slowly spin (with the use of electric fans), revealing similar images on the ‘back’ with various additions - a pearlescent glaze that skims off the surface like steam from the cup. The theme of spinning and change continues in the film next door (‘Stirring in the Distance’) where we watch the same cup sitting on a table before a window framing a bleak snow scene. The vortex in the teacup swirls and the snow eternally falls. The looped film mirrors this circularity where, to paraphrase TS Elliot, lives are measured out in coffee spoons.

Upstairs, other photographs spin and change. A glass of water is thrown at a nondescript landscape (‘Wake Up!’), which may not have the same impact as one of Rimbaud’s poetic heroes pissing into the face of the sunset, but something poetic leaks from the mundane image. Another film continues this theme, but this time a glass of water is thrown at an idyllic image of a wildflower meadow. The landscape is revived by futile gestures that only continue nature’s processes; the creative act seems both ridiculous and vital. But then we knew that already.

Van Warmerdam’s sculptures are the most successful elements in this show, distilling and making light of themes that weigh down the photos. A silly cloud-like sculpture is anchored to the wall, and threatens to release one big ball of faux-rain (‘First Drop’). Beside it a sculpture acts as a metaphor for the relationship between colour and form, intentionally ridiculous in its throwaway profundity. (Alexander Kennedy)

Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, until 17 Sep

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