Complicity: Artifice and Illusion
Curated by Rosalind Davis
Artists: Hermione Allsopp, Sasha Bowles, Guy Bigland, Mel Brimfield, Alastair Gordon, Andrew Grassie, Justin Hibbs, Debbie Lawson, Peter Liversidge, Gibson/Martelli, Helen Maurer, Damien Meade, Marion Michell, Clare Mitten, John Richert, Joella Wheatley and Virginia Verran
"The question is not what you look at but what you see." - Henry David Thoreau
Complicity is an exhibition examining the relationship between illusion and artifice in art. It looks at the inevitable complicity between audience and artist, both integral to the game of viewing an artwork. Forging, faking, imitating, camouflaging and counterfeiting are all accepted as valid tools of the artistic process, used to create new ways of looking at the world; subverting space and place, objects, identity and image and re-imagining and questioning our perceptions of reality in unexpected or subversive ways.
In the context of art and its reception, the viewer from the very outset plays an integral role in the complicit act of accepting an art object's artifice and illusion; suspending reality and disbelief. Artist and audience share a conscious desire to engage in holding the differences between art object and reality in mind simultaneously and so knowingly acknowledge the game of complicity.
"Art is a lie that makes you realise the truth, at least the truth that is given to us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies." - Picasso
Rosalind Davis, guest curator at Collyer Bristow has brought together a group of artists who share the desire to push boundaries in ambitious, playful and subversive ways in a variety of mediums that continually slip back and forth between reality, illusion and fiction.
In Helen Maurer's installations and Hermione Allsopp's sculptural works, existing objects are reconfigured, subverted and experimented with. Allsopp's works are created through undoing objects and furniture, reforming them into audacious and bold compositions. Maurer works with glass and projected light creating shadows and reflections, distorting and creating alternate realities.
The borders between the real and the illusory are blurred in Justin Hibbs's installations which disorientate and subvert our perceptual experience of space. Combining analogue and digital modes of representation, production and display these environments negotiate the changing terms of our engagement with the reality of the modern world around us. "Hibbs's works are worldly, imperfect at the outset." - Martin Herbert
Virginia Verran's paintings suggest other-worldly battlefields and virtual warzones that show the traces of action and process, of a personal world of invented motifs and symbols. Multiple perspectives, aerial scanning and surveillance, lines and motifs track back and forth between nodes.
Gibson/Martelli create an illusory world of virtual reality, where the artworks are activated through the visual codes of Dazzle Camouflage. Unlike traditional camouflage which operates on the principle of concealment, dazzle camouflage uses complex arrangements of high-contrast, interrupted geometric patterns that confuse the calculation of a ship's range, speed and bearing in an enemy's optical gunnery rangefinder.
Relationships between language, knowledge and visual experience are drawn attention to in Guy Bigland's work. Each work is generated through a system of arbitrary rules, which combine familiar and ubiquitous systems leading to unexpected results.
Joella Wheatley opens doors into the complexities and voids of solitude, through the projection of perspective. Focusing on the seclusion of a place, whether interior or exterior, the objects within symbolize the idea of isolation. Desires are visited in the works of Sasha Bowles, who intervenes onto the reproductions of Old Masters works creating a mischievous metamorphosis, subverting classical narratives into new possibilities.
The dialogue between object and image is at the heart of Clare Mitten's practice; painterly objects, constructed from packaging, paper and other stationery, function as three-dimensional sketches whereby the original is transformed through flattening, editing and error. The three dimensional works then inform the two dimensional paintings. Debbie Lawson's work takes the form of a series of episodes that invite the viewer on a journey through the landscape of the domestic interior, where popular narratives and personal histories are intertwined so that the imaginary and material reality seem inseparable. Visual codes collide, giving form to new animated hybrids with a quietly sinister inner life and aspirations to be bigger than themselves.
Marion Michell interrogates inherited memory and childhood, which are interwoven as a physical experience or object. Intense intimacy, humour, pathos, ambiguity and contradiction abound.
Andrew Grassie, Damian Meade and Alastair Gordon through exquisitely rendered paintings address associated themes with notions of authenticity and illusion lying at the heart of their collective enquiries. Gordon renders the materials and process of painterly production such as masking tape or paper on wooden panels in a form of trompe l'oeil that refers to a specific form of illusionism that proliferated in the 17th century. Meade's paintings of sculptures, are artifice within artifice; the inanimate appearing reanimated and uncanny - the actual real collapses into an illusion of the real. 'Grassie makes an unnerving comment about art's tendency to look in the mirror and be captivated by its own reflection' - Skye Sherwin. Often rendering other artworks or exhibitions in the traditional medium of egg tempera with a convincingly 'double-take' level of realism - here Grassie creates a doppleganger of a past painting of his own making.
In Peter Liversidge we witness another set of doppelgangers. Imagining a different kind of human interaction with nature, Liversidge's Winter Drawings are delicate renderings of trees, made from cut black masking tape, which embody the quiet elegance of the least adorned season of the year.
Gender stereotypes and conventions are wittily pulled apart and challenged with Mel Brimfield's performance works and paintings referencing recognizable art world figures and dismantling them. Finally John Richert's works sums up the artifice of contemporary art, of consumption and the desire in an endless loop around re-negotiation of design and art, presentation and display. Richert's fabrications accurately reproduce the materiality and irresistible allure of contemporary fine art - and so become immaculate objects of desire in themselves.