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Milton Keynes Gallery, Milton Keynes
16 April - 8 June 2008
Reviewed by: Clare Carswell »
The current exhibition at the excellent Milton Keynes Gallery is a series of paintings and scattered sculptural works by Glasgow based artist and newly announced, Turner Prize nominee Cathy Wilkes. Three cavernous galleries contain assembled groups of objects from the domestic environment that are intended and associative in their meaning. They are familiar and rather seedy, compelling and disturbing in equal measure. Passive in their unadulterated waiting, a sense of the inevitable loss within creation is everywhere. Saucers are denied their function, up-ended and trapped within bleak paintings. A rickety ladder is clearly a death trap waiting to trap. There is depressing and grimy kitchen detritus and the Wilkes familiar - the mannequin, here disturbingly blind-folded by a macabre necklace of driftwood, cups and dregs and junk shop finds. Appearing to offer a narrative yet actually refuting one, this is visual autobiography at work and play but compressed through the now familiar language of twentieth century sculpture. Essentially ready-mades, we can tiptoe carefully amongst the paraphernalia but there is no particular invitation to engage with it. These indications of other realities stem from the artist's experiences as woman and mother and whilst knowing are also tinged with forlornness. These works are canny and clever, displaying the confidence of experience and of patronage but interestingly too, the tremor of an artist who is genuinely enquiring and testing, an artist in flux and only just holding the whole shebang together. And that is the way art making often is and what is so fascinating about it.
With an all too rare and pleasingly liberating lack of curators texts on the wall to shoe-horn us into the work, this exhibition faces us head on and it isn't an easy gaze to meet. It's very nakedness strips us too and it is hard not to feel exposed in the face of such scrutiny. This is not art for the faint-hearted for sure but it is intriguing and certainly well worth the journey. It runs until 8th June.
Clare Carswell is an interdisciplinary artist writer and curator based in Oxford UK and Berlin Germany.
Milton Keynes Gallery
900 Midsummer Boulevard Central Milton Keynes MK9 3QA
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