It all seemed to happen in the last week of May . A visit to the opening of an exhibition in a small gallery in Hoxton, east London and a studio visit to an artist based in south London. Both quite different, both centred around sculpture, and both memorable for different reasons.
If you’ve ever wondered why gallery assistants accost you, with degrees of politeness or hostility, when they spot you carrying bags whilst visiting an exhibition – the first unexpected moment will almost certainly answer that question for you once and for all. The gallery space in east London that we visited occupied a small basement floor beautifully laid out for the current exhibition showing a sculptor who worked in mixed mediums. It was a first solo show and the combination of unusual found objects separated from their original purpose or identity and reconfigured with the artists own “additions” – often made from a different medium – was both intriguing and stimulating. Each sculpture told a mixed story of old and new recreated to present a quite different concept from the objects themselves.
But then it happened. Amidst the murmur of conversations and people, small movements and manoeuvring as the space filled up with visitors, the air was punctured with a heavy sound of smashing glass on the concrete floor. The gallery was silenced in an instant. We didn’t need to turn to guess what had happened – it was written all over the faces of those looking in the direction of the noise – “thank god it wasn’t me!”. An accidental swing of a shoulder bag had unseated one of the sculptures and brought about its noisy end. A corporeal unwinding. As I was leaving the exhibition I heard a visitor talking to the artist “You must have been so angry?” , “no, I wasn’t angry , not everything works out”. An unanticipated and forgiving moment.
A studio visit is always unexpected in terms of what you’ll find- and is probably one of the
most rewarding aspects of what we do as a Collective. A rare opportunity, not just to view art but to get beneath it to the creator and learn more about how, why and what motivates them to make the art they do. – and in the space they do it! So it was we went to see artist Tom Dale at his studio in south London. All six households turned up for the occasion.
Tom calls himself a Sculptor, although video and digital photography feature in his collection in addition to the objects. There doesn’t seem to be a restriction in what materials he favours and uses, or what size they are as long as it “creates a reaction”.”What I’m
interested in is creating an immediate and visceral response so that you ask yourself – why do I feel like this?” Tom likes to steer away from over intellectual explanations and prefers that you ask questions – both of him and his works – mainly because his art “begins with an idea I have to solve – a question – and through the making of the work I try to answer that question”. The result may be that it encourages you to ask more questions
as the viewer. Tom’s openness to his approach is refreshing and his down to earth way of speaking engaged us all as he went through his works past and present (and not all of them in his studio). In 2005 he wanted to see if he could improve on the idea of something that was essentially a “perfect “sphere and added a castor wheel from a chair. In so doing he made the ball useless – trapped in immobility. “it might seem banal” says Tom”but there was a specific thought behind it”.
With castor wheels in mind there was one work on the wall of his studio that had already grabbed our “Collective” attention. Called “witness” it consisted of a small off-white blanket with four castor wheels attached.
“Only in the moment of being hung does it look like a figure – on the floor it would collapse without
substance” says Tom. Just an ordinary blanket – with wheels. Can that ever be ordinary, I wondered? We all had different interpretations from quite dark thoughts of faceless and threatening figures to totally playful images of animated sheep ! “I like the idea of objects having a life of their own” – and this one certainly did.
Copper pipes and taps giving testimony to a networked and connected world (that could nevertheless be switched off) , grey painted Russian dolls representing interconnected world currencies (that could disappear inside each other) and redundant coin-covered motorbike petrol tank covers provided a remarkable afternoon of unforeseen highlights .
“I make lots of work – but not loads. Ideas take time and often have a slow release”. Just as living with art allows us a slow release of acknowledgement and unexpected moments of reflection and pleasure over time.
Thanks Tom Dale.