- Margaret Harvey Gallery
- South East England
My first view of this exhibition was one of blinds drawn, impenetrable building, just off the main drag of St Albans shopping area, then I realised, it was shut. Having tried to check the opening hours online (there was no info listed) and set off with a sense of optimism (“I’m sure it’ll be open by 11am”), I got a bit cross when faced with a set of locked doors – glass – showing me what I was missing. It’s fine to have restricted opening hours if that’s all funding allows, but please galleries, put it on the website!
After pleading with the security guard, he let me in for a few minutes, and had a wander round himself, but couldn’t be drawn on his thoughts to the pieces (I love to know what these people think – it’s just their job to share the exhibition space with the works on show, and they end up spending more time there than the curators or the artists, living with the works day to day).
Christina has made the space seem tranquil, with no colour to interrupt the little scenes of lines, drawings with wire jutting out to meet you into what feels like a private space. There’s a little tension in this, as one can relate to the depicted domestic sets we’re all aware of – doorways, stairs and other negative spaces, their mundane familiarity by which we usually ignore them. It’s nice to re-examine and imagine these spaces afresh.
Just like the locked glass doors I was first faced with, many of the works seem just out of reach, but so familiar they evoke an emotional response. The large installation of a doorway is set up in three parts, so the viewer has to find the right place to stand for the perspective to ‘work’. At first I wanted to be told where I should be standing, with an x-marks-the-spot, then I realised it was more rewarding to explore where this ‘correct’ place was. And that was quite a shift: we should draw our own conclusions and create our own views.
The space has been constructed so you have a bit of a journey through it, rather than just everything laid out in a four-wall format. This made me question my relationship with the space a lot more and consider each piece more thoughtfully.
Some past ‘skins’ of previous performances hung from the ceilings at different heights, like ghosts from another time, reminders of the events. As objects, they are interesting in themselves, but more important is their ability to act as records of the event. To be able to inhabit these spaces from the inside, for an ‘artist’s view’ was to really get an idea of the fundamental processes going on in Christina’s work. When the performance is taking place, it is almost impossible for the viewer to remain a casual observer without influencing the direction of the work itself: you are liable to get drawn on to the skin of the house. And this is the crux of it: You are drawn in to watching the performance, perhaps unaware at first that a relationship has begun with the space you inhabit and the space you are watching and the lines that are appearing in the space. And it keeps happening, the figure in the house keeping drawing line and perspective until there is nothing to record.
Pulling lines from 2D to 3D and, through these performances, into 4D durational events, is to really pull our relationship with space into focus as something tangible, something we can all too often see physically yet can’t express our relationship to it emotionally. It seems all the more real for not being there.