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                                                                                                                  SuperNature: a response

Patrick Brandon


Asteroid 22369 Klinger, by Volker Stox is named after the German Symbolist painter Max Klinger (1857-1920), often cited as an important bridge between symbolism and the surrealist movements of the last century. Klinger is also cited in Stox’s piece Faith Cube (picture right), which samples a kneeling figure, negatived and supplicatory.

The destructive/creative collision is a theme that arches across this energetic and varied group show. With Stox’s work, a signal is received and beautifully scrambled - giving a mineral feel to digitized play. Surface topography gives way to geology, to astronomy, to the arcane, and to bold detailing that brings to mind traditions beyond immediate recognition.

Video and painting are put into fragile dialogue in Simon Jacques’ pairing of mini plasma-screen and canvas. A storm filmed on a mobile camera seems to struggle for stillness rather than movement, while, in contrast, the painting placed in opposition aches for movement. His photo pieces, From The Car and Lampost collection and translation create a poetic gap, a sense of moving through a world of experience and memory in which we play no part, as if we are moving in a night we have no chance of possessing.

Tracy Ebel presents the world read through the constriction and reversals of a camera obscura. Each image comes into being as if on a drop of blood which swells and bends the world around it in electroplate. After we are drawn into the stepped intimacy of two landscapes: Circular Pond, Tree Line and two companion close-ups Mimosa, Geranium, we move on to the beautiful yawn and stretch of Boat.

Ebel’s work seems to find continuation in Marion Taylor’s graphite and carborundum pieces where the worked surface applies a varying grip or tread. This kind of unrehearsed dialogue is exhilarating.

Paul Chaney’s hermetically sealed scenes offer no possible exits or entrances. In SW774318  we find four shipping containers stacked as neat as gaming chips or Jenga pieces. A cluster of trees, a hanged man, a suited and booted figure at ground level staring out to space. This particular endgame is a scenario-generator. We have an edit, a geological slice, but infinite possibilities lay outside of it.

The staged aspect continues with Richard Ballinger. It can sometimes be the case that a painting dresses either to the left or right. Ballinger’s paintings are tailored to both directions, enter stage left with Ghost (picture right) where the deer is cipher, the woodland suggestive of the vertical slits of a zoetrope. Enter stage right The Traveller who stands in novelistic time that has slowed and thickened to the consistency of cream. They are about hesitation, a stepping out from the camouflaged, not into full disclosure but to the disturbingly half-seen.

Kaisa Karikloski strokes at the material world until it is smoothed to a near invisibility, a paradoxical suggestion of the monolithic coaxed from close study. Roots Together has a sensuality that cannot be diminished through reductive blending. These are generous paintings.

In Rupert White’s Meadow six stalks of grass interconnect, their rhizoids replaced with thin lengths of stainless steel. Its rightness is tested by the opposition of the materials. The natural and the imposed are spliced. A weird form of grafting is alluded to in the video piece, Trinity (picture left), which refers to the Christian orthodoxy of God/Son/Holy Spirit, yet its source material in the film 'The Wicker Man' further connects the Christian with the pagan.  A strained religious iconography saturates two other pieces. One, Skull, balanced over its mirror, becomes a multidimensional Rorschach, its shadow a martyred chrysalis. In the other, a Starbucks coffee cup is pierced with blackthorn. Caffeine meets superfood. The associative sparks are startling.

Relative scale permeates the work of Jesse Leroy Smith. His are small, even discreet paintings. Yet they have a sense of movement and space that far exceeds their occupancy. Perversely, these are enormous works. There are no illusionistic games at play. In Giant there are no comparative dimensions set out for us. The reflective surfaces of copper and mirror are both wall and window. A mix of play and wit tempered with a deep seriousness. We go on trust and feel.

Lloyd Durling has slowed his heartbeat to such a degree that our time flows rapidly around his hand. Into the Forest is stilled and furred with detail upon detail, while the shift in intensity and direction in Falling Further and Further (picture right) disorients and delights in equal measure. These are, in many ways, badlands rather than candy-lands, with enough dark energy to tension the lightness which on first inspection dominates. They have that request of closer; closer still which tradition teaches us will lead to a bad end. Yet closer we are compelled to get.

James Hankey conflates the stride with the scratch-work the hand might make over the photo surface, a retinal tracking as the eye moves over the landscape. Carrying a torch across a lunar lit landscape, the long exposure where two light sources vie for a kind of dominance, he creates works that seem to consume itself. Here the artist is messenger delivering a descriptive tract in all senses of the word.



Supernature was at View Gallery, Bristol  12/8/09 - 27/9/09. See also exhibition review with installation views.

Patrick Brandon's most recent collection of poetry is published by Bloodaxe: