Mystics or Rationalists?
Elegant conceptual works bend associations of the ordinary
This article is from 2011.
Stealing the show, Susan Hiller’s new levitation works are exemplary of the conceit at the heart of this group exhibition. Having infused conceptual and minimalist strategies with the influence of psychoanalysis and pop culture since the late 1960s, Hiller’s explorations into the idea of transformation here materialise into two black and whites of floating figures. These graceful works pay homage to Yves Klein’s seminal avant-garde photograph ‘Into the Void’, and simultaneously, the phantasmagorical legacy of Modernist artworks. Similarly drawing reference from an artist of times past, this exhibition takes its lead from the opening statement of Sol LeWitt’s defining text, in which he stated that conceptual artists jump to conclusions that logic could not achieve, that they are ‘mystics rather than rationalists’.
A simple light bulb emanating the pale light of the moon, Katie Paterson’s inclusion conceals a wealth of thinking and scrutiny. She’s created enough of these bulbs – which work by transmitting identical wavelengths of those to moonlight – to span the average human lifetime. Similarly considered, Simon Starling’s slide show documents his performance ‘Autoxylopyrocycloboros’ (2006), in which he sailed a steamboat on Loch Long, fuelling its fire with the boat’s own timbers, until it could no longer float.
Comparably spotlighting shifts in the ordinary, Iran do Espirito Santo’s elegant ceramics toy with changes in scale and material. Likewise, upon further scrutiny, Susan Collis’ arrangement of seemingly scrap materials reveals itself to be fashioned from rosewood, ebony veneer, mother of pearl and 24-carat gold. Further conversions come from Cornelia Parker with ‘The Collected Death of Images’ (1996), in which a beaten, spectral, sheet of silver has been styled from the remnant particles following the process of ‘fixing’ an image with photographic chemicals.
Are not only mystics or rationalists at work here, but alchemists too? Led by Hiller’s consummate works, the gentle emphasis upon transformations in this show provides an interesting departure for many of these now-familiar works.
Ingleby Gallery, 556 4441, until 24 Oct, free.