Artvehicle 26/Review

20th October 2007 — 11th November 2007

In the introduction to the catalogue for this exhibition, curator and artist Gaia Persico describes Isobar as 'a temporary and variable line'. This meteorological definition articulates very neatly the ephemerality and fluidity of contemporary drawing practice which is the focus of the current show at Fieldgate Gallery. The notion of drawing as a process involving the making of marks on a two-dimensional surface has been exploded over recent decades, and the range of media that artists use are now more diverse than they have ever been before. Of the forty works on show here, for example, only a handful incorporate graphite. In its place, fruit, computer components, dust and 8mm film.

Natural and organic processes feature prominently among the first group of pieces on display. Finlay Taylor's snail-eaten books have instant appeal, both for the relic-like quality of the objects presented and the humour in the idea of employing armies of small animals to assist in the process of making. For one piece, East Dulwich Library, Taylor left a dictionary in the earth for 6 months to be worked on by slugs, snails, worms and woodlice. The resulting object appears as a kind of mummified rarity, the fabric of the hardback cover like muslin wrapped around skin. This is surely a remnant of an extinct civilisation. Perhaps a comment on the fragile status of the hard copy in our age of digitilisation. Alongside Taylor is one of Tonico Lemos Auad's trademark banana bunches. The British-born Brazilian uses pins to score the surface of the skin which, after several days, turns black. Skeleton forms appear. Eventually the black turns to white as the fruit deteriorates further creating a negative of the original image.

In contrast to these artist's fascination with nature Jools Johnson addresses man-made technology. His constructions using redundant computer parts stand as monuments to his own mixed feelings about the act of staring at pixelated screens for hours on end. With an incredible economy he creates sublime forms with perhaps just three or four components. There is a touch of George Lucas in the aesthetic of these pieces though this is apparently not conscious on Johnson's part. These works are fixed to the wall using screws from the same machines he dismantles, which creates a pleasing circularity of process. Another entirely separate piece of work by the same artist appears from a distance as a strip of green Astroturf. It seems that the 'grass' is slightly too long and it is not until we are much closer that it becomes apparent that the carpet is made from wooden golf tees; 12,000 of them in two shades of green. There is something almost religiously ritualistic about the iterative manner in which this piece has come to be.

Sarah Woodfine exhibits what might be considered the most traditional kind of drawing, employing pencil on paper, though it is by no means conventional. Her technique is painstaking and results in extremely seductive surfaces. In one piece Junior, a werewolf stands against a night sky - the blacks as smooth and dark as possible. On the reverse, an orchid. The paper is mounted on card which stands inside a bell jar. In another, Alfred's Story II, a car lies submerged in a lake. We can only make a barely informed guess at the content of the narrative here but the visual strength of this piece is sufficient to hold our attention.

There is so much good work in this exhibition that it seems unfair covering only a few of the artists here. It is clear that a great deal of energy has gone into the curation and every artist makes a significant contribution to the over-arching agenda. Michael Robbs's animation Mistrust of the Image as Representation is a brilliant comment on the discrepancy between truth and reality in the way that we see. In attempting to draw a straight line using Photoshop the magnified results of the various tools highlight their inadequacies to render what is desired of them. But it is probably Claude Heath's computer-generated animation Universe which embodies the spirit of the show more than any other piece. Like a global weather system, particles of what could be pixelated dust swarm around a voided sphere. The 'cloud' appears to be swelling and expanding outwards. Drawing as a discipline has morphed and expanded through its incorporation of so many different methodologies and Heath's Universe somehow seems to express something of this transformation.


Fieldgate Gallery
14 Fieldgate Street
London E1 1ES

Friday-Sunday, 1pm-6pm

Isobar —