Interstice: curator's essay

Xiaoqing Zhu, stills from "5am".

April 2 - 15, 2017

Curated by Frances Lightbound

Featuring work by Melanie Teresa Bohrer and Pablo Vindel, Michael Rado and Joyce Rado, Fraser Taylor, Norman Teague Jan Tichy and Xiaoqing Zhu

 

 

An interstice is a space between things. Frequently it refers to a physical gap or fissure, but its meaning can also be temporal - describing a brief pause between events - or figurative, in the sense of breaks or anomalies in something that is otherwise fixed. The word’s Latin root interstitium comprises the prefix inter- (“between”), and –stes (“standing”).

This title seemed an appropriate umbrella under which to gather these six artists, all of whom deal in some way with notions of space, (dis)connection, and states of ‘in-betweenness’. Melanie Teresa Bohrer and Pablo Vindel, Michael Rado and Joyce Rado, Fraser Taylor, Norman Teague Jan Tichy and Xiaoqing Zhu work across print, drawing, collage, sculpture, fibers, video and book forms – yet despite the diversity of these practices, and the range of definitions of space that are applicable to the works included here (physical, architectural, bodily, mathematical, pictorial, linguistic, cultural) – there are persistent themes of touch, fragility, order and disorder that occur. 

Melanie Teresa Bohrer and Pablo Vindel’s collaborative artist book takes the form of six loose-leaf pages, combining handmade paper with translucent animal intestine and cotton suture. The fragility of the pages is at odds with their scale and the physical interaction required to handle them: indeed, the book is intended to be ‘read’ by two people, the delicacy of this task pointing to the fragility of human connection and linguistic communication. Bohrer and Vindel, both of whom are bilingual, each explore aspects of language and the body in their individual practices.

Jan Tichy’s series of screen prints On the Decomposition of a Plane, eight of which are included in the exhibition, are formed of tessellating patterns of irregular pentagons. In certain prints, an element of chance is brought in as Tichy allows the screens to mis-register, breaking the mathematical precision of the tiled patterns and introducing a rhythmic dissonance to the otherwise orderly formations. This binary of perfection and disorder is more complex than it initially appears, however, with subtle evidence of the hand present even in the ‘unbroken’ prints. Under scrutiny, the fallibility of the hand, eye and printing process are subtly at odds with the perfection of the mathematical system. The prints themselves are made up of shades graded from black to white, taken from Ansel Adams’ Zone System, which comprises the eleven tonal values perceptible by the human eye. These tonal gradations appeal to the brain’s tendency to find depth and form within images, creating a frisson between two- and three- dimensional space within the prints. 

Michael and Joyce Rado’s sculptural series Traps sees artist Michael Rado collaborate with his 80 year old grandmother, drawing upon materials that have, in some instances, passed through generations of their family. This intergenerational collaboration gives new function to otherwise overlooked or disused objects – utilizing these materials in ways that are technically logical (albeit a “lazy logic”, as the artists describe it), yet run counter to the objects’ prescribed function or value. This new functionality is short-lived – the traps, though suggestive of function, become fixed once more within the context of the gallery, their green utility mats effectively serving as pedestals that freeze them in precarious moments of tension and balance.

There is evidence of both casualness and care in the artists’ treatment of the materials, attitudes that are echoed in Xiaoqing Zhu’s interactions with abandoned objects in her video work 5am. The video follows a series of actions performed and filmed by the artist during multiple early-morning walks whilst on residency in Puebla, Mexico. Xiaoqing’s sustained attention to these spaces and objects is in turns humorous, tender and absurd: we watch her carefully move and alter discarded gloves, a poster, a polystyrene cup, with a logic that is appealingly direct, yet at odds with our normal interactions (or lack thereof) with objects inhabiting the peripheries of public space.

Fraser Taylor’s work operates in a space between figuration and abstraction, referencing landforms and the human body whilst exercising an expressive vocabulary of mark making and creating conditions that embrace chance and uncertainty.  In Expulsion, a series of ten mixed media drawings made in response to Masaccio’s Expulsion of Adam and Eve From Eden (1425-27), lines and forms develop and fracture, producing moments that feel both poignant and precarious. Drawing using tools such as twigs dipped in black ink allows for a productive “blunting of facility”, creating pictorial spaces within which figurative elements emerge yet seem to elude a viewer’s grasp. Shetland, a cloth work produced on the remote Island of Shetland off the north coast of Scotland, embraces pattern and is suggestive of land forms, maps and aerial views, whilst resisting truely pictorial form.

Designer Norman Teague’s rocking Sinmi stool is a striking object, both in its occupation of space and in the complex invitation it extends to the human body. The stool is unsteady yet grounded, accommodating the body whilst also destabilizing it. The action of rocking has the capacity to be comforting, playful or unsettling, depending on its context. The element of precariousness common to many of these works feels especially resonant amidst the uncertainty of the current political moment. Yet there is hopefulness, too – in the possibility of new connections, human and otherwise, and in the value of these spaces between binaries as productive sites of possibility, alterity, and complexity, where existing systems and structures might be blurred, interrupted and challenged. The interstice is in turns a division, a site of connection, a transitional space, and a gap that allows light in.

- Frances Lightbound, curator