Rosaline Nashasibi & Lucy Skaer
Cooper Gallery Dundee, 30th September – 10th December
For the next three months the Cooper Gallery will be displaying the collaborative work of Rosalind Nashashibi and Lucy Skaer, who have been working and exhibiting together since 2005. The exhibition, Chimera, is an enigmatic manifestation of new and familiar work by both artists in conjunction with music by Will Caeslake and Olivia Ray. Utilising a range of media including, film, sound, and sculpture the exhibition ruminates on transformation, experience, and time.
Chimera takes the viewer through the tactile experience of Spring lambing to the iconographic ephemerality of art and history in the face of such physical experience. Like so many things, farm life, politics, and art are all experienced through theory, one reads about them in books, purchases images to display and use as metaphors. The living things become untethered by the messy confines of biology and experience.
In the foyer the first thing one sees upon entering the gallery is the first of three collaborative films on display, Lamb. The piece depicts a series of lambings, accompanied by the music of Will Carslake and Olivia Ray, framed by two columns in front of the doorway the piece is at its most effective in that first moment you enter the gallery space. It is a very sudden and striking shift that takes you immediately into the psychological space of the work, an uncompromising physicality that exists beyond the bounds of our control.
Beyond that first room and up the stairs are two more exhibition spaces, each unique in their use of the architecture and design of the space. The first floor entrance way is host to a blend of prints, paintings and photographs all bold illustrative pieces that reflect on the iconography of transformation. The spectre of language lingers over these works as an interpretive factor, boldly underscoring the work on display. The print Our Magnolia is of particular interest here, combining the Paul Nash painting, Flight of the Magnolia, with a portrait of Margaret Thatcher side by side above the words: ‘Our Magnolia’. The use of possessive pronouns recontextualizes and there is a table of recommended reading materials supplied by the artists, including a transcript of an interview centring on the exhibition.
The final space features two films, alongside a series of sculptures and paintings, these works command the space, directing the viewer naturally without overwhelming them or forcing them through the space. The films, Our Magnolia (not to be confused with the print of the same name) and Bear stand in physical opposition, projected on two facing walls. Both utilise creative manipulation, but in very different ways, with Our Magnolia using brightly coloured static and blurriness over images of a rotting carcass, alongside Nash’s painting and images of Margaret Thatcher and Bear using animation overlaid on the images of a lambing. These operate in a fascinating contrast to the film Lamb which appears unedited outside of the transitions. Between these films, a series of stone and bronze sculptures, and immense paintings stretch across the far wall and floor of the room. Using simple shapes and muted naturalistic colours that play off each other and bring a physicality to the film without overwhelming the viewing space.
While the enigmatic nature of Nashashibi and Skaer’s work lifts it beyond the practice of pigeonholing themes and objective discourse, the use of political imagery and the wider context of a post-pandemic practice give the work an altogether different tone. There is a serene menace to repetition, the idea that all passes into history, and perhaps ten years from now these lived experiences will dissipate into the iconography of photographs and storytelling. What Chimera achieves is a temporal displacement, the consideration of a time before and after our own, the use of sound and architectural space to permeate the anatomy of the building itself provides an effective immersive experience and an ambience that enhances work so carefully crafted by the artists.