Scott Brotherton, Carla Scott Fullerton, Rosemary Hogarth, Hannah Lees and Laura McGlinchey
5-26 July, Generator Projects (25/26 Mid Wynd Industrial Estate)
What is the role of painting in contemporary art practice? Where can it be situated within art discourse, and what is its value? Hold, Sway, the current exhibition at Generator Projects, brings together five artists in an attempt to address these questions.
The show posits a transitional, mediate space between the flat plane of two-dimensional painting practice and the dynamism of sculpture, and then colonises this space as a basis for investigation. But can, or should, this between-space be colonised? That is to say, is it an empty conduit (territory for the taking), or an active, productive part of contemporary practice?
The strongest work here refuses to occupy this space, recognising, perhaps, that to occupy is to reify, and that reification is fatal to process. Scott Brotherton’s works (named, in the minimalist tradition, after their material content rather than their conceptual intent) have a quiet presence: their careful placement is delicate, lyrical. “Steel Coil Lath, Snowcrete” tumbles from ceiling to floor like a frozen waterfall; across the room, “Brass Rod, Holes, Dust” acts as both a record of past interventions into the space and as its own intervention — a moment of stillness in the chaos of things, but one that makes no promise of permanence. There is a sense of balance here, a sense that things might dissolve and reconfigure at any moment.
Hannah Lees’ “A light here required a shadow there” is similarly subtle: soft, muted streaks of vegetable dyes stain the white wall like watercolour paint. The piece calls to mind the fragile, imperfect purity of Agnes Martin’s paintings, or the Japanese notion of wabi-sabi (which has been interpreted by the artist Emily Speed as meaning “nothing is finished, nothing is perfect, nothing lasts”). Smaller in scale, and more structurally complex, Lees’ “Gives luminous to dark matter” resides in a corner: a charmingly awkward union of clay, plywood, seashells, solidified drips of wax and burning incense sticks. In the adjacent room, her “Tablet XVI” and “Tablet XXI” display a similar intermingling of organic shells and industrial mass, yet lack intimacy in the predictable choice of found materials. These tablets, with their embedded narratives of seaside and industrial remnants, lose their own particularity in the clear objective of dismantling the painting/sculpture dichotomy. The wall and corner pieces suggest a richer relationship between artist and material.
Laura McGlinchey’s sole contribution, “Did We Dance” — a huge, organic formation of layered paints and found materials — hints at an interesting practice, but lacks context, and would perhaps have been better displayed as part of a larger body of work. Meanwhile, Carla Scott Fullerton presents the materiality of the printmaking process laid bare. Her constructions — all printing screens and etching plates reconfigured into sculptural forms — turn printmaking back on itself, revealing the complex and messy mechanisms behind every neat, sharp, “finished” print, and playing with the notions of process and completion.
Rosemary Hogarth takes a more literal approach to the relationship between sculpture and painting, presenting a series of large, brightly-coloured painting-objects that resemble, by turns, children’s playground equipment and corporate “wall art”. Hogarth’s geometric shapes and sharp angles work well with Carla Scott Fullerton’s work, but the bright, monolithic nature of the pieces seems at odds with the rest of the work. Where Brotherton’s work possesses a quiet activity, Hogarth’s loudly announces itself; where Lees’ wall is soft and subtle, Hogarth’s pieces are all glare and noise.
In spite of this occasional incongruence, Hold, Sway is a strong show that, like all successful exhibitions, raises more questions than it answers, and suggests intriguing new possibilities for the exploration of materiality and process.
Josie M. Moore and Meadhbh McNutt