Nathan Coley (3 stars)

This article is from 2007.

Nathan Coley

A desire for something beyond good and evil

Be careful when entering this exhibition – a sturdy strip of wood runs right across the entrance just high enough to trip unsuspecting visitors flat onto the floor. This is not a health and safety oversight but artist Nathan Coley’s intervention, ‘Untitled (Threshold Sculpture)’, the first in an exhibition exploring physical and psychological boundaries.

This particular sculpture is easily overlooked, though Coley sees it as marking his ‘territory’, thus emphasising his temporary ownership of Doggerfisher. Before we can go any further another obstruction confronts us, a loosely cobbled together free-standing wall that extends halfway into the room, with irregular rectangular gaps through which we can only partially see the other side. It is amusing watching visitors ducking to see who is through the gap, yet the deliberate botched DIY aesthetic and bland colouring do little to stimulate the senses. Elsewhere, religious/anti-religious overtones prevail.

By far the most visually evocative are Coley’s ‘Annilated Confessions’. Found black and white photographs of ornate, Gothic Catholic confession boxes are framed before being partially obscured by a rough square of either white or black spray paint (representing good and evil). The paint is sprayed on the glass in front of the photo, a hovering, spectre-like representation of the confession itself. Or are the swatches of paint simple defacements, representing Coley’s much discussed disdain for religious belief? If this is so, ‘Secular Icon in Age of Moral Uncertainty’ may provide a counter argument. It is a small intentionally unimpressive rectangle of coloured lights, which represents the increasing obsession with spectacle over religion. Coley deliberately raises questions here without ramming his opinions down our throats, yet the cheeky irreverence found in some previous works seems lacking, and the sparse layout throughout leaves a desire for something more. (Rosie Lesso)

Doggerfisher, 558 7110, until 15 Sep, Tue–Fri 11am–6pm, free.

Nathan Coley

  • 3 stars

New set of installations from the Turner-shortlisted artist. The aesthetic is deliberately botched DIY, which feels somewhat disengaging, and while this exhibition continues Coley's fascination with the way religion imprints on cities, the cheeky irrereverence of his previous takes on the subject is sadly absent.

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