France-Lise McGurn: 3am
Ambiguous mixed media works from the Collective Gallery’s Satellites Programme
This article is from 2015.
Questions of language, gender and identity permeate this body of work by Glasgow-based France-Lise McGurn being shown as part of Collective’s Satellites Programme for emerging artists. A sound work, broadcasting softly to the crowds on Calton Hill, sets the tone. Inspired by castrato singers, it immediately creates ambiguity: male or female voices? Human or electronically made?
The ambiguity continues inside. McGurn paints androgynous figures, drawn from a range of sources: illustrations in French language textbooks, product advertisements, vintage health posters. They have the confidence of line of modernist oil sketches, but any identity or meaning is veiled.
The ideas then extend into installations made from sections of printed vinyl, cardboard boxes, and knotted electrical cable sculpted into shapes, draped with paint-stained fabrics. Does one look male and the other female? I no longer trust my judgement, or my eyes.
Perhaps what McGurn has done is create a space for a negotiation of these issues. Her work is said to be ‘groping at the frustrations and instabilities of language’, but she counters this with a deliberate ambiguity which doesn’t help to pin down the problem. This is a show in which even the questions being addressed are unclear.
Collective Gallery, 556 1264, until 30 Aug, free.