Old Woman on a Roof is an understated exhibition of five found objects at Crown Building Studios, by first-time collaborators and former Chelsea peers, Francis Lloyd-Jones and Peter Simpson.
The artworks are seemingly matter-of-fact and occasionally mundane, but they share an attachment to the environments they were drawn from, and a consistent yet cryptic subtext: absence.
Facing the entrance is ‘Suberin’ (2015): an intermediate bulk container. This plastic tub encased by aluminium is designed to be stacked on mass for transportation, yet here it rests alone, skewed and empty. Bold as it is, ‘Suberin’ stands out against the rest of the work, but it compliments ‘Fibrous Character’ (2015): a life-size photographic print of a padded workman’s jumpsuit, which has been laid flat and compressed. Again, the in-between world of industrial docks is referenced, and an aesthetic is achieved, as the objects, denied of their clear purpose, instil a sense of abandonment.
This is mirrored in the subtlest piece of the show, ‘Palimpsest’ (2015): a square, scrap of Hamilton birch bark innocuously placed on the floor at the far side of the gallery. A historical jeu de mots is at hand here, for a palimpsest—commonly made from the type of bark used in this artwork—is a manuscript that has been wiped clear repeatedly, in order to be repurposed; a process employed in ‘gwelg2’ (2015), a print that breaks the exhibition’s preference for unfretted presentation whilst sticking to the visual theme of loss.
‘gwelg2’ is a copy of an El Greco painting (‘The View of Toledo’) that has been digitally weathered away to leave slight, abstract impressions—painterly marks that could be mistaken for a monographic print. As with ‘Palimpsest’, ‘gwalg2’ alludes to dusty libraries and scholarly pursuits, two traits evident in the show’s signature piece, ‘Greyscale’ (2015): an A2 scan of a book cover with torn edges and a far-reaching title: “Theism and Atheism in Science”.
An excerpt from this book is featured in the exhibition pamphlet, which elegantly summarises how five reappropriated objects have been made into a thematic whole: “The effect was to change the fibrous character of the links, and render them so crystalline that they broke and became useless.”
Indeed, this end has been achieved; and though an understanding of the artworks obscure references—arguably necessary to decode the exhibition—requires prior knowledge or research, the separation they signify is abundantly clear.
In Old Woman on a Roof, Lloyd-Jones and Simpson have put together a modest and subtlety eloquent show that requires patience and rewards with dry intrigue.
Simon Ward is a writer and critic from Liverpool currently studying for his MA in Writing.
Photograph by Robert Battersby.
Old Woman on a Roof
Crown Building Studios
Exhibition continues until 8 November by appointment