Collette Rayner’s latest exhibition, Tests on Previsualisation. Tests on Dredging. Tests on Floaters. at Leicester’s Two Queens gallery presents a series of intimate and delicate works focused on the human mind and body’s internal operations. As an ongoing research project, Rayner examines acts of previsualisation (creating a visual plan in order to arrange a structure for the future), dredging (bringing something deeply deposited towards a surface), and floaters (things that appear unexpectedly). It is the fourth in a series of projects at Two Queens focused towards emerging artists and curatorial relationships.
As unnerving as those themes may sound, the works on display generate an immersive experience that leans heavily on Rayner’s inspiration from science fiction to create a sense of foreboding anxiety and introspective wandering. A series of meticulously hand-drawn sketches, ‘Sometimes In A Minute’ (2019), flank the gallery space. Lit seductively with pulsing beams, they feel almost scientific, with their abstract profiles recollecting anatomical specimens found under a microscope. Rayner’s focus on previsualisation is added here, allowing for a translucent peek at the drawing on the other side.
The space’s central stop-motion animation piece, ‘The Horizon Plays Itself Back Into Being’ (2019), builds on the allusion to previsualisation. Here Rayner’s labour intensive practice takes you on a journey from the familiar and recognisable into hidden layers of contemplative microscopic detail. The scratches on the celluloid are Rayner’s way of ‘dredging’ for unseen structures and formations, which may feel insignificant or without function. ‘Floaters’ also appear unexpectedly and resonate perfectly with the soundtrack Rayner has created in parallel. Familiar sounds that one may only hear internally are juxtaposed in tandem with the floating perspective portrayed upon the screen. After becoming immersed in the hidden structures highlighted by Rayner, a creeping isolation and anxiety forms, reflecting the tonality found in science fiction. In the exhibition catalogue, she describes the exhibition as ‘in pursuit of a state of weirdness: a disconnection of understanding coupled with stabilizing scenarios’.
The other artefacts in the show contribute to creating a scenario that calls to mind a secret laboratory experiment. Further drawings expel a focus on isolated and diagrammatic specimens, shown as a selection of 35mm slides and collection of back-lit sketches. This creates a profound sense of fascination and apprehension about what is to come. A feeling of isolation and of intimacy is created in the otherwise generously spaced galleries through the darkened atmosphere, allowing for awry and unexpected shadows. Watching the slides change over and over focuses the mind, calling to mind experiments in mind control. These challenge the spectator to dredge their mind for hidden structures, moments, or ‘floaters’ of recollection.
For this exhibition, Rayner has worked in dialogue with the institution’s curators to create an atmosphere and experience that affords moments of contemplative curiosity, but also succeeds in fostering a sense of other-worldliness and creeping unease. The overall effect causes an introspective ‘dredging’ to take hold, as you are forced to confront your own mental anxieties and thoughts. Rayner shrouds any potential truths in sheer mystery, like fragments of an ongoing narrative that leave you wanting more; more knowledge of the secrecy presented, and answers to her surprising revelations of self.
Two Queens lies within the Cultural Quarter of Leicester and is an artist-run gallery space and studios. Collette Rayner’s show runs until August 31st 2019 with many more exhibitions and events planned into 2020.
Louis D’Arcy-Reed is a writer based in York.