“For mankind is a small model of the universe, a microcosm in macrocosm.”?Kenneth Walker- from ‘A study of Gurdjieffs Teaching’??Hidden behind the Nottingham Ice Arena, masked by a deceptive shop front, the Surface Gallery stands to reward those who seek it out. This month the Gallery hosts the ‘Open Show 2009,’ a 19-piece exhibit featuring film, painting, sculpture, installation and new media. ??The varied choice of medium hits you as you enter – the humming of Judith Alder’s video, the wavering light of the TV screens. Throughout the installations I couldn’t help but notice manifestations of our individual and collaborative impact on the world. Our actions here leave a trace – shown from the basic physical use of carpet fabric in Sam Clift’s ‘Fabrication’, to the more conceptual mark burnt by advertising campaigns, depicted in ‘Enthusiastic Slogans’.
The first room is like a hallway with large paintings claiming three of the walls. Ian Maslen’s ‘Untitled’ is the first thing to catch the eye: a sheet of voile held an inch from the square white canvas. Twisted black paint strokes scar the voile, while a grey shadow dominates the canvas. It reminded me of the strange almost deliberate shapes seen in cloud formations. Each angle of approach sprung newly recognisable objects, as if they were shadowed spectres of their former selves trapped in black and white.
‘Hiema’ stood at the centre of the next room, a collection of mugs and household paraphernalia buried in a cocoon shaped fabric, as if shielding these mementos of a time and place. To the right, ‘Field’, a selection of 3 canvases littered with stuck-on toy soldiers, each canvas painted a different brown shade. It looked like the battlefield had claimed them mid-action – and quite like the album cover of Muse’s ‘Absolution’!
Obviously synonymous with the impact of wartime, the muddy colours of ‘Field’ were like the dust kicked up when running. Not so obvious however was just how antlike the soldiers looked from a distance. These soldiers were not only engaged in an individual fight, but a collective one – from a distance; we would remember the footprint of the whole in our history books – the world shaped by many and not by one or a few. Once again this echoed the theme of our transient mark in this world.??The Surface Gallery demonstrates that big things really do come in small packages. The limited space of the gallery has resulted in only the most thought provoking and aesthetically unique pieces making the cut. In short, an impressive array of artwork: an illustration that modern conceptual art can challenge your perceptions should you take the time to glance beneath the surface.
By Chris Walker