Jerwood Contemporary Makers, Jerwood Space, London
Tuesday 29 June 2010
This exhibition at the Jerwood Space in south London, the third in a series, shows us work by applied artists that has stolen a march on all those stuck-up fine artists out there. It is a collection of unique, hand-made objects crafted in a variety of materials, including felt, glass, clay, wood, plastic and woven basketware.
These are works that often begin in the idea of usefulness, and then do a unique sideways drift into something slightly odder. They play with our expectations of how objects are to be used: Emma Woffenden's I Never Really Knew Her is a two-part sculpture fashioned from painted bottles. The subject is suspended copulation; it looks like a wildly humorous take on an Epstein.
The show cracks jokes at the expense of the weightily pretentious title. It leads us in one direction, then abruptly shifts us somewhere else altogether. Look at Robert Dawson's Willow Pattern with Uncertainty, for example, a bone-china dinner plate overprinted with that oh-so-familiar willow pattern. Except that this is not quite true. It is over-printed only in part. As your eye moves across the plate, the patterning begins to fog, fade, mist over. You are denied that customary pleasure. Kirsty McDougall's piece consists of a gorgeous length of fabric carelessly thrown down. Its title is New Dandy.
The show offers a range of pleasing variants on useful things. Take Nicola Malkin's brash and noisy My Charm Bracelet. Have you ever seen such a glitzy, hefty and highly glazed collection of charms on a brass chain? There's a Roadmaster bus, a bunch of bananas, a well-crimped Cornish pasty, a pregnant Madonna and a loving partnership of Yale keys... High and low art are all mixed up together, the tasteful with the brashly kitsch, the rough with the smooth, the raw with the cooked.
Materials behave in unusual and uncharacteristic ways. Laura Ellen Bacon's Surface Form is made out of the densely woven twigs of a Somerset willow, the stuff out of which a basket might be made. But this time the object is a sweeping sculptural form that turns back on itself like the artfully/artlessly tossed sweep of a self-conscious young girl's hair. It spills over the edge of the surface on which it rests, eating into it, almost engulfing it, like some voracious predator.
To 25 July (020 7654 0171)
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