Beautiful Triggers: Elly Clarke's 'Time and Place'

Artvehicle 44/Review

18th June 2009 — 28th July 2009

Continuing at the Artilllerie gallery, Berlin until 12th September 2009

Enter the hospital and turn left in the direction of Pathology. Avoid collision with the patient trolleys and doctors and nurses busy on life-saving missions.  Past the restaurant and through the swing doors and  up the ramped floor, you are indeed on a stairway to heaven, final stop the mortuary. Yet between life and death, there is contemplation. Gaston Bachelard's seminal work, Poetics of Space (1958) speaks of how our surroundings affect our perceptions and experiences. Seeking to connect people with the latent spirituality of an environment, highlighting certain behavioural idiosyncrasies and addressing the poetics of a space can challenge any artist. Functioning as both art showcase and last stop before the mortuary, Elly's "self portraits" capturing man's compulsive restlessness for new experiences by juxtaposing a multitude of random locations, are exactly what the doctor ordered.  How many of us have taken delight in spreading a box of old photographs across the floor to recollect places and people loved and lost? Order is given to the eclectic collage by Elly's visual arrest in terms of judging complimentary or contradicting line, form, shape and colour relationships between two images yet retaining a child's play. Seeing our memories through a child's eyes can bring sheer delight. A child with a camera will snap and snap as long as he can.  How can we know what is truly worth remembering? Her sometimes banal subject matter of "incidentals" and "indistinguishables" may "trigger" a memory for the artist and audience alike. Images both empty and full, nod to painterly formalism thus elevating the soon obsolete 6x4 format used here from being just a series of holiday snaps. This very private recollection of an artist's journey, allows the audience to recognise a number of settings and scenarios without ever having been there. We are then given further clues to their exact identity by name tags of places and dates, yet the poetics in the work come from not knowing where many of the works were composed. Social networking sites such as Blogger and Facebook allow access to our personal journey's at speed for all the world to see. We upload instantly and share with our friends. We have erased the wait for what could be a disappointing coloured print as in "olden days". For the amateur, rolls and rolls of film would be developed post summer holiday expedition to find a few photographic "hits". Yet lets celebrate the "misses". In our digital revolution, many images are taken and then simply deleted.  How can we say in years to come what it was that actually helped us to remember an experience? 

Visual language impacts all avenues of our lives, in our domestic home lives and institutional environments we may be familiar with and those not so on a daily basis. We only need cite architect David Adjaye's coloured windows on Tower Hamlet's Idea Store library spaces referencing 1930's modernism of simple colour acting as a reflective and harmonising experience. Adjaye transformed a pre-supposed mundane setting into something vibrant, funky and a benefit to the whole community. At the start of the year I met Victoria Hume, Arts Manager for Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust who has for a number of years successfully integrated art works into the hospital environment with various site-specific art works and events providing a contemplative pause in for what can be a period of distress for both patients and their families alike. Removing the idea of hospital art as being mere "universal social decoration", Hume elevates morale with her thought-provoking and challenging interventions which have blossomed into a number of off-site projects. Elly's work indeed extends this, providing poetic triggers to an otherwise impersonal and here somewhat eerie environment.

Lee Campbell held a discussion of Elly's work with artists Jenny Baines, Mike Ryder and Marcus Woodcock and others invited to talk about issues surrounding and arising from the work in July 2009.

Lee Campbell

Queen Elizabeth Hospital
Stadium Road
London SE18 4QH

Beautiful Triggers: Elly Clarke's 'Time and Place' — Hackney LAXtoLHR 2008 2006

Hackney LAXtoLHR 2008 2006

Beautiful Triggers: Elly Clarke's 'Time and Place' — HackneyLondon MartinGropiusBauBerlin 2007 2008

HackneyLondon MartinGropiusBauBerlin 2007 2008

Beautiful Triggers: Elly Clarke's 'Time and Place' — TijuanaMexico PsychoBuildingsHaywardGalleryLondon 2006 2008

TijuanaMexico PsychoBuildingsHaywardGalleryLondon 2006 2008