10th September 2008 — 2nd November 2008
"But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour."
From The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe
A lonely raven greets me just inside the entrance to Matt's Gallery. The raven sets the tone for the exhibition, not quite answering, not quite giving anything away. Roy Voss has been using the exhibition space as a studio over the summer and indeed it does feel like I am entering the space from behind the scenes. Following a path of tarpaulin wings which are draped from the ceiling, I enter into the spacious set.
Turning around, I glance at the backdrop of tarpaulin, its fabric, layered almost like the pages of a book, is canvas for a wistful landscape. There is something melancholic in the air. A fleet of miniature model ships have been separated from their stands - mounted on make-shift plinths and raised to head height, they sail out towards the sunlit window at the back of the space. Every other ship has a port or starboard light bulb - the cables run down the plinths to the floor and trail on the ground like a wake, disappearing under the skirt of the picture perfect landscape. On the opposite side of the gallery space, a cluster of toy lighthouses flicker atop vintage side-tables, they are set against a dusky pink wall, highlighting notions of domesticity; the public and the private. The lighthouse is a symbol of hope; its primary function is navigation and as a marker for treacherous waters, but also it helps ships that are lost and acts as a guiding light home.
A fake wall divides the space, papered with a large picture of a black and white landscape; a road winding up a mountain into the distance reminds me of the opening credits of Stanley Kubrick’s, ‘The Shining’. Large three-dimensional words inhabit the landscape – they read ‘come’ and ‘there’, like forgotten billboards they advertise ‘some-place’, evoking notions of travel, the unknown and nostalgic road movies. Walking around the back of this fake wall I discover that a section of another fake wall is neatly cut away to reveal two porcelain figurines. Tracing my steps back into the main part of the exhibition space, I discover more of these figurines - before they seemed to blend into the backdrop, but now that I have noticed them they seem to have almost come alive. Their vacant stare reminds me of the possessed children in the film, ‘Village of the Damned’. Voss’ work has an unsettling undercurrent of contradictions; familiar versus unfamiliar; public versus domestic; happy versus sad.
The exhibition title, ‘Pine’ (the verb to pine according to the English Dictionary, is “to suffer a mental and physical decline especially because of a broken heart”) brings me directly back to Poe’s ‘The Raven’, in which the protagonist laments the loss of his lover. The one word that the black bird speaks is, “nevermore” - no future. Is this what Voss is getting at? Perhaps I am reading into things too much, but I can’t help but make these connections. A fantastic show, heart wrenching and heart warming at the same time.
42-44 Copperfield Road
London E3 4RR