Memories, Moments & Other Curiosities
Photographs by Cathal Carey
Nicola Dale, Claire Douglass, Liz Frolich, Simon Le Ruez and Kelly McCallum
11th August – 7th October 2007, Saltburn Artists’ Projects
This exhibition posed questions reflecting on domestic spaces, personal experiences and disintegration. I worked with artists whose practice incorporates ideas involving memory, passage of time and decay, whilst producing delicate, fragile and subtle pieces. It was my intention to work with artists looking at similar issues to myself; however, the artists chosen (and the works used) were not straight-forward. The artists approach their concerns from differing angles, cross paths and develop in varying directions. Individual interpretations of the works, when coupled with the relationship my chosen display imposed upon them, resulted in an exhibition which was both physically and intellectually multi-faceted.
The gallery at Saltburn Artists’ Projects is not designed as a space to exhibit artworks. The building has been used a bakery and a kitchen showroom in the past. Remnants of this history remain in the space to this day: a domestic skirting board separates the floor from the walls, whilst lead lined window panes emit light. Due to the domestic connotations within the chosen works, it seems pertinent to utilise what the space gave, effectively creating a site-specific installation with other artists’ works. Standard issue gallery furniture was dismissed, to be replaced with dark wooden dining chairs, a low-level coffee table and an armchair, complete with antimacassars. The furniture suggested the relationships between the individual works and created an installation for the audience. The approach served to activate the space, ‘turning up the volume’ on the meaning of the individual works and their interrelationships. The entire space, from the floor to the ceiling was used for display, the space and distance between the works implying as much as the sometimes close proximity.
Simon Le Ruez’s delicately disquieting sculptures use materials subversively to create physical and psychological tensions. His process-driven practice reflects on a range of scenarios and incidents where ‘meanings, like memories, need to be pieced together’. Le Ruez’s work, although unnerving, does just this – it builds various materials together, creating narratives. Nicola Dale’s work physically destroys narratives, by deconstructing books, as opposed to making them. A Secret Heliotropism was created in response to ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’ by Walter Benjamin. Benjamin suggests that our view of history changes depending on our position; Dale illustrates this by cutting long leafed flowers from the pages of the populist history book The People’s Century. She states that ‘just as a flower follows the sun round the sky, so we too change the meaning of historical events to suit ourselves’.
A collector of curiosities, Kelly McCallum is interested in how things age, how they decay or are preserved. Combining Victorian taxidermy with insects and precious metals, she juxtaposes the strange half-life led by her animal subjects with that those creatures which feed on death. On the surface, McCallum and le Ruez’s works appear as disturbing, and indeed shocking portrayals of life and death. In contrast, Dale’s beautiful destruction of the container of the written word is just that – beautiful. But this beauty is usurped by the realisation of this destructive act, whereas the jewel-like adornments on McCallum’s birds and the fragile mountain which arise from le Ruez’s doormat, become a deeper sort of beauty, one which also shows us its flaws.
This exhibition was cited by The Guardian as one of the top five exhibitions to see during August 2007.