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Waterloo Gallery, London
10 October - 11 November 2007
Reviewed by: Anna Hales »
Thin Skinned pulls together the work of four printmakers; LUCE, Katherine Jones, Wuon Gean Ho and Steve Edwards, to create an understated, yet acutely penetrating body of works. Each artist exhibits a different approach to printmaking which presents an engaging look at the diversity of the practice. What is particularly captivating about this collection of work are the dynamic undertones generated between the pieces; subdued common themes appear to be wrapping themselves tautly around each of the works.
Although the works are aesthetically different, and the subject matter varied, there is a sensitivity evident between the works that provokes a unified pull toward notions of fragility and mystery. The works are simultaneously unobtrusive and poetic, unnerving and troubled. There is an element of suppression and discovery, of desire and the disturbed. The shadowy undertones of the work presents a protective yet brittle strength; one that could shatter at the tiniest of reverberations.
LUCE presents a distinctive layering approach to printmaking, exploring topics that relate to the unconscious, mystery and discovery. The multiple layers serve to both reveal and conceal, giving the sense that although one is venturing toward discovery, a large amount of significant information will continue to remain hidden. Mystery is reinvented as perception alters and as knowledge increases. One becomes aware of the humanness of mystery; of the fact that it is generated through an inability of one's mind to comprehend, not actually from the notion that information is hidden. It is from here that one understands the elegant futility of the constant search that is apparent in LUCE's prints.
Katherine Jones presents collagraph prints and hanging sculptural pieces that address structures in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. Although the visual language presents an exquisite otherworldliness, there is an assertive element of the real world revealed in Jones' landscapes: The structures display a sense of strength and energy, allied with the grave threat of undoing and defeat. The works are fragmented and nervous, which relates uncomfortably (and yet effortlessly) to today's sensitivities concerning security and protection. One becomes voyeur of these images rather than simply viewer; a dark feeling of suspense ensues, as though one is waiting for something to happen, or for something to be revealed.
Wuon Gean Ho uses the traditional Japanese woodblock technique in a contemporary manner to create subtle prints with a transparent layered effect. Exploring the relationship between people and animals, Wuon Gean reverses the classic hunt scene to portray a young girl being caught and eaten. These images are sombre and chilly, recalling the way in which humans have hunted and gathered animals as specimens and trophies. These prints are unnerving in that although the subject matter is horrific, they lack explicit violence. The notion of the situation is so unreal, that one cannot begin to comprehend the extent of the horror. Wuon Gean presents the vulnerability inherent in such constructed relationships, which, she reminds us, are not necessarily developed from mutual considerations.
Steve Edwards exhibits a series of reclining/sleeping figures appearing to be in a state of dream. His images question typical notions of manhood and masculinity, and in doing so, strip away stereotyped ideas such as strength, virility and robustness. Edwards finds his inspiration in the low-fi imagery of men displayed on the internet. His work questions the varied ways that they choose to portray themselves in this public arena. Aspects of desire and fetish intertwine with elements of intimate confession. What is particularly striking about Edwards' work is the presentation of the sexual: He steps away from the absolute objectification of the body that is evident in pornography, and infuses his work with discrete suggestions of insecurity and loss, thus bringing back the delicacy of the human condition.
Thin Skinned presents a cross-section of different approaches to printmaking, revealing the flexibility of the various processes and the subtle effects that can be achieved. Each work in this show appears to be on the brink of a discovery, and yet the viewer is simultaneously aware that nothing will be unveiled: Through each element of investigation the questions and mysteries become ever more deeply set.
Anna Hales is a writer based in London. MA Aesthetics and Art Theory.
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