Vilma Gold

Brian Griffiths’ new exhibition at Vilma Gold is comprised of five large cuboid structures. Covered with sheets of used canvas in a variety of off-white tones, these ramshackle tent-like structures fill most of the exhibition space with an empty volume. At first glance, the exhibition perhaps appears a little subdued particularly in comparison with some of Griffiths’ more explicitly kitsch or playful work such as Stone Face Bear (2008) or Battenberg (2010), his Fourth Plinth proposal for an oversized cake sculpture. However, this essential ‘lack’ forces the viewer to scrutinise visually and conceptually what is there, and the harder you look, the more you will see.

The large structures squat conspicuously within the space and are uncomfortably positioned so as to leave only just enough room for the viewer to squeeze past. This pushes our faces physically near to the canvas wrappings, and forces us to examine the tiny surface details: the folds, creases, stitches, splashes and variations in colour. Through this process of close scrutiny the work assumes a delicate, sparse kind of beauty reminiscent of a minimalist painting.

Conversely, whilst being drawn into the surface of the work, the viewer is also being excluded from it at a deeper level. Whatever may be concealed inside the structures remains hidden and we can only speculate on these possibilities (a blank canvas, if you will). This psychological push and pull is engaging, and it is not the first time that Griffiths has tantalised the viewer in such a way. Life is a Laugh (2007), his 70m long installation on the platform on a disused Gloucester Road Underground Station, was similarly frustratingly physically inaccessible, viewable only from within a passing tube train.

The viewer’s examination of the exhibition is not an easy one. The work is bleak and unsettling: reminiscent of desert camouflage or bandaging. And yet, the title of the exhibition refers to the dark humour of Griffiths’ wider practice, as it sets out an intriguing if somewhat ridiculous contradiction to explore.

In short, The Invisible Show is a neat and cohesive exhibition. It brings to mind Yves Klein’s exhibition The Void (1958), and Griffiths’ self-acknowledged literary overtones of the H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man (1897), whilst retaining a contemporary starkly beautiful aesthetic. Griffiths’ sculptures are stripped back, make-shift and uncertain but they are not invisible, and he uses this essential disparity to create an engaging presentation, knowing that we will be compelled to fill in the gaps.