Susan Collis, When We Loved, 2017

Thinking about space as led me to look at some artists who make interesting use of space.  Susan Collis’s exhibition When we loved you best of all, 2017 doesn’t look like an exhibition.  The room appears vacant except for some odd bits left by a builder or gallery staff in the process of getting the space ready.  A chair, step-ladder, screws in the wall, pain-spattered overall hung on the wall and a blanket dropped on the floor.  These items could be overlooked or quickly dismissed – the space empty of the meaning given by the paintings or sculpture that heighten the viewer’s reverence and expectation.  But Collis is a consummate artist of trompe l’oeil, look again and the paint spatters on the ladder are in fact a carefully manipulated and crafted collection of precious and semi-precious stones ( White opal, yellow opal, Brazilian opal, cultured pearl, freshwater pearl, mother of pearl, white diamond, black diamond, sapphire, garnet, ruby, labradorite, moonstone, white howite, jadeite, citron, chrysoprase, turquoise, peridot, and emerald).  The screw in the wall, cast white gold set with a diamond and the dirty overalls are painstakingly embroidered. The idea of the everyday being something worth contemplation is subversive – this quiet room seems to be full of deep and potentially ‘loud’ meaning.

Susan Collis, Love is a Charm of Powerful Trouble, 2008

As a contrast, Jessica Stockholder is another artist I’ve been aware of for many years. I enjoy the bold way she takes over the space of the gallery with her colourful and anarchic installations.  She often starts the work on the wall, referencing the traditional place of the painting, but the pieces usually break away from the two dimensional, extending into the space of the room with seemingly random arrangements of everyday objects and architectural components. For the visitor to a gallery, the usual experience is often as two dimensional as the pictures on the wall – walking around the periphery of the space – the centre of the room a no-man’s land. Stockholder interferes with this and creates detours and hesitations in which to appreciate her love of colour and texture, shape and line.

Jessica Stockholder, Just Sew, 2009

Tape Recorders, Subsculpture 14 by Rafael Lozarno-Hemmer deals with the visitors to the gallery and the gallery space itself in a particularly interesting way.  His work consists of a long row of motorised measuring tapes that record the amount of time visitors stay in the installation.  As a computerised tracking system detects the presence of a person, the closest measuring tape starts to project upwards.  When the tape reaches the critical height of around 3 metres, it crashes down and recoils back to await the next visitor.  Each hour the computer system prints out a record of the time the room was occupied.  This work intrigues on multiple levels, a stimulation to the senses of both sight and sound, there is humour in the failure of the tapes to stay upright and tension in the anticipated crashing down.  But I’m also aware that the work makes me think about surveillance and the gathering of statistics by agencies without our permission.  I also think about the time so many spaces in galleries and museums are empty – institutions that can appear forbidding and elite.  It is only when the ‘blockbuster’ exhibition is put on, or a work that appeals to the media for whatever reason that there is a real desire triggered to see.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Tape Recorders, 2011

So not a lot from me personally about the direction I’m thinking of going.  One idea, the use of chain would be quite quiet. I’ve finally put together the small collection of chain I have and the experiment showed that 10.5 metres did not quite extend to a full floor at Trades Hall where my studio is located  – managed two sets of stairs and 2 landings.  Mostly the chain was almost invisible, but the darkened chain made a line almost like a crack and the silver, if you were looking did glint on the stairs as I walked up.

Chain marking the line of the building, Trades Hall stairs, Wellington 2019

Another work I’m starting to think about goes will take me in a quite different direction.  Watch this space.

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