- Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art
- North East England
I find extreme comfort in the space between contradictions. Anything can happen there. Neither one nor the other.
I was initially interested in Calderwoods show because of the distinct push pull within it, there is something very active about the work, the artist seemed very present, appearing forcefully throughout the show to instigate change and shift. Quite often an artist’s touch is spoken of because of its lightness and delicacy creating work through preciousness and sensitivity. So when reading the press release for ‘Paper Over The Cracks’ I was struck by this purposeful destruction and deconstruction. This hijacking of a authored endpoint, very literally pushing the possibilities of sculpture, I really want to say testing its metal – but I can never be sure if 2 terrible jokes in one sentence is acceptable.
I find new surroundings disorientating anyway, but the entrance to Baltic39 is deceptively small and incredibly slick, I feel a little bit like I am somewhere I shouldn’t be, there are people sat at picnic tables having a lovely time and I am confused where the big space is that’s in all the install photos. However I find a lift which does most of the navigating and after a while its doors open to a hacking crashing sound.
There is something about the sound of shattering glass that makes your teeth cringe, it very rarely has positive connotations. The brittle noise echo’s from the dark room. I stand for a while and watch the lighting being repetitively smashed, out and out damage. Perhaps because I search for irony and seem to have a conscious will to make connections between things, I enjoy that the only lighting source in the room is a film of lighting being destroyed.
Natural light pulls me back towards the navigation lift and I see the geometric weathered white shapes, waiting outside in the temporary sculpture garden. There surface (metal covered with paper) acting as a diary, much like a human skin. Accepting damage and marking it for reference another time. Immediately I think about reliance and looking at the shapes, how forms rely on aspects of themselves or a site for strength and structure. The natural tarring questions notions of permanence and the vulnerability of materials. I want to try and get out to them, closely look at the direct process, and experience the climate they are experiencing for a second, see how I hold up. But I can’t find a way out, so stand staring out of the window thinking about how weird it is that as artists we often go places to stare at things, so why should I feel so disconnected from them just because there is some glass in the middle.
The large space is littered with geometric forms linking together like a transformer or a 3-d tetris. On the surface there is something very 80’s future about it.
Monochrome angular shapes, cut the space up. On the wall dense prints which seem to play with perspective and echo and mirror the shapes in the physical space. It feels very slick, in comparison to the overt destruction of the two other works. However the more time spent it soon becomes clear that the prints are a result of using the modular sculptures as large printing blocks. The surface is not smooth and you quickly realise the pressure in the texture is a result of the force applied in the making. I have a mental image of the artist running at the wall with the large blocks covered in ink and it feels quite absurd, in a good way.
The sculptures in the main space seem more fixed, even if they do emit a certain precarious tension. The only colour comes from the straps which are used to bind one of the pieces together and this intrusion seems very purposeful almost like a drawing. The unweathered pieces seem almost jarring and showroomey. Like the difference between a new and a second hand version of the same car. Each have their qualities, one untouched, the other tried, tested and reliable. I wondered what the starting points for the shapes were, they nod to lots of things but it is unclear if they directly reference any or indeed need to.
In the far room of the gallery I find, almost in a direct line to the outside space reconstructed versions of the weathered paper and metal forms. They are lit only by the other side of the light film. Though beaten it is interesting to see how they still hold their shape and understand their composition. Back outside the weathering sculptures are status’d by pallet plinths while they sit in wait to be de/reconstructed, I now realise are the only works to be given this formal position.
There is a swirling flux within the space, in physics there is an energy source called potential energy, this is the energy a ball has just before its dropped, all these works now seem to hum with that. What is complete what has the potential to change. The geometric forms now are loaded with endless outcomes, while the prints act almost a template for possibilities. I begin to think of the shapes like a kit, a build your own set with expansive results. This naturally leads on to ideas of authorship and I suddenly count 5 C’s in the outline of the works in the large gallery space, a subliminal motif perhaps.
As I leave (in the lift) I think about dualities the push and pull, the systematic forms, the tightness, the need to link and system, sharp angles and the trickier of perspective. The active pushing against this with uncertainty and destruction, the tension of balance, and the precious gesture of binding. I also think about the space between the object and the human, and how these things, this collection of sculptures, prints and films have become personified, tested and forced by nature and physics to behave in a new way, subjects of their environments.
Perhaps the gallery is no longer an end point for work, but a lab to push these things to a new resolve or unpredictable ends.