ARTHOUSE1 45 Grange Road London SE1 3BH 4th - 24th September Thursday -Sunday, 3.00pm - 7.00pm, or by appointment,

‘Topographically Collage’ Mixed media, 70cm x 100cm

(courtesy of the artist)

A project space called ’I’

“This is an exhibition of an artist curating herself – in more than one meaning of the act. ‘A project space called ‘I’’ is the first London solo exhibition for artist, curator and writer, Jane Boyer. In 2013, Boyer curated and was awarded an Arts Council grant and private sponsorship for the touring group show ‘This ‘Me’ of Mine.’ Now she takes up the challenge of curating her own work, a prospect she finds particularly difficult,

“I find it incredibly hard to be both creator and curator, to be the object and subject of my own exhibition simultaneously. But that’s exactly why I’m doing it, because it is hard.”

A theme of communication runs throughout this exhibition, not only as a curator communicating with an audience, but also as a self communicating with a self.  Collage plays an important role in these works, not only as an art form, but also as a metaphor for the process of communication. The artworks in this exhibition tell a story. The details of the story aren’t important, what is important are the ways in which the means of telling a story are translated into visual terms: the repetitions, linkages and transitions, the relationships created through images and objects, the layering of imagery, things reclaimed and reused, things appropriated, and the gaps which provide the space for mutability.” (from exhibition press release)

Our forming, the becoming of ‘I’ proceeds through the development of dispositional traits, not chosen, given, revealed in action. We find out who we are, even as we state who we are. Dispositions are the product of raw experience; Pavlov’s dogs did not choose to dribble. We become close and distant, embrace and recoil through nerve endings as our story writes us. Jane Boyer’s work here is to do with ‘I’ the artist and ’I’ the curator, both simultaneous and alternating one with the other. Implicit in this is separation, is a duality, a stepping back to gain perspective on the ‘I’ that is observed. The evolution of curation from presentation to interpretation to the refolding use of art as material in itself through which the curator appropriates creativity in the manner of the artist, has been reappropriated here, (re)absorbed as the working process(es) of the artist. A collage of actions becomes an osmosis of roles. This is an exhibition with struggle at its heart. Who am ‘I’? How am ‘I’, it concerns the matter of becoming, through fragments collaged, memories recovered, experiences revisited. In that sense it is deeply personal – in her ’Bias’ series, (‘Bias’ a reference to her notion of ‘inherited family styles bias’) concerning a familial ‘style’ instrumental in the development of self, ‘Poison Bottle’ is fraught with the sort of threat that might circumscribe childhood behaviour. Used in the killing of moths, the lepidopterist’s bottle and its contents are everyday things; familial habit effaces the enormity of their function; style is everywhere an ideological thing going to the heart of value in families as in art. But she also states above, ‘The artworks in this exhibition tell a story. the details of the story aren’t important…..’. She is concerned with structure ‘…the ways in which the means of telling the story are translated into visual terms…’

Sadness wells up through a title that makes redundant the physical work, ‘On that day, two hairs fell from my head’. A hair is secured sperm-tail-like to each of two postage-stamp heads, on either half of a paper divided vertically, black one half and paper white the other, a woman on one stamp (a reproduced Seurat drawing) a jug on the second. Such quietly insignificant happenings as the falling of hair belie the power of their meanings; become little deaths in a cacophony of simultaneity.  But the title folds and refolds back into the work too, with its divided composition, black/white contrasts, and sense that the possibilities of consummation are suspended. That ‘I’ become at all is a chancy business.

By contrast, the infinitely reproducible ‘Bias’ series of dye sublimation prints intimates a virtual future for hairs that fall. In ‘Remember Me’, another in the ‘Bias’ series, an original pen and ink drawing of an apple and its shadow has become a digitally rendered memory of former physicality, a simulacrum in a kind of privatisation and commodification of image and experience; ontological shift replaces possibilities of physical intimacy with the lure of ownership. ‘Remember Me’ attempts to reach back to the hand that made its drawing, its transparency a wistfulness betrayed by modern materials. There is a longing to return, an ‘I’ in the process of remembering itself, speaking from an imprisoned image; a seeming conflation of real and virtual points to a contemporary condition of uncertainty. ‘Am I this? or Am I this?’.

‘Remember Me’ Dye sublimation print 46.2cm x 31.7cm

(courtesy of the artist)

‘Fade’, a found photograph mounted in a frame deteriorates slowly as a consequence of that same light that caused it. In it the figure of a woman has been partially outlined in pen, a knowingly vain effort to stem the loss. The work tells of desperation. Elements from other pieces of Boyer’s work are placed on it, like stones might be to hold a picnic cloth on a windy day.

‘Graphite’  Dye sublimation print, 91.4cm x 90.7cm

(courtesy of the artist)

Whilst we might empathise with a kind of comfort in decay, an adjacent piece, ’Graphite’ is lovely. It has a beautiful surface. Formed from a digital photograph of a road surface and developed into a symmetrical pattern, perhaps it is simply a beautiful surface. A warning? Pleasure in the experience of lovely things might be a dangerous corruption of the intellect by real flesh. And there is more pleasure. In paint. Juicy thick paint in ‘Flag’ from 2008, in ‘Ebb’ where paint finds paths over which Boyer suggests she had no control. (both a telling and debatable insight in the context of the exhibition.) In ‘Framed Debate’ pleasure is questioned. A black and white painting is placed in an old brown frame. The strings by which it should hang cross its front. Nevertheless, it hangs, an ironic compromise on the gallery wall.

‘Framed Debate’  mixed media collage 70cm x 100cm

‘We’re no longer seeing, but reading.’ of 2011, is ‘curated’ into an installation which has a foot in modernism and a title that taps at its own ankles. It hangs in front of and partially obscures, Boyer’s ‘Enigma Wall’ wallpaper, a notion perhaps of digital ubiquity based upon repeated printing and change, the space between them a kind of intuitive leap, whilst ‘Flag’ the painted subject of the printed paper looks on from aside.

‘Enigma Wall’ Mixed media installation

The past is everywhere ‘here’. The past of works and the past of self – the past of form and of its (dis)contents.  At the heart of the notion of collage is that of material recollection, of found objects, serendipitous coincidences, evocative tints, shades and colours. At one extreme a hand-tinted photograph glued to a surface (in Topographically Collage’) opens space for imagination and family connection and at another the dye sublimation prints of the ‘Bias’ series encapsulates nostalgic content in contemporary material. In a biographical sense, the materials that we know are a measure of experiences inextricably bound up with time and place. The objectivity of the autobiographical business of looking back, of ‘remembering’ is tinted with the wish that some things could have been different, and perhaps too an alchemical hope that things will turn out not as they seemed.

A short black and white video, ‘ 2 Minutes’, flickers, back projected onto a glass screen in a door in the entrance to Arthouse, which upon entry introduces dualities tensions and strains of the show, and upon exit is reconstituted as summary in an echo of the artist – curator. Consisting of two videos combined one above the other, in the lower, we are inside looking out. We look through a basement window reminiscent of a grand Georgian Townhouse past cast-iron railings, as shadows of passers-by flit across.  In the upper image we are outside looking in. It shows us a softened, out of focus video taken from outside the Cafe at Tate Modern. A person  inside sits tapping at a computer, maybe drinking. There is some movement around.

David Minton

September 2015

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