Last week for Magnus Quaife’s exhibition at works/projects

Sacha Waldron reviews Manchester based artist Magnus Quaife‘s exhibition 1968 and Other Myths. Quaife’s work is featured in the current edition of Corridor8 3.2.

1968 and Other Myths is the first exhibition by Magnus Quaife at works/projects, Bristol, where he has recently been added to the gallery’s stable of artists. Produced over three years, the new series of watercolour paintings on view depict moments from the Paris riots of May 1968 and other news events from this period; Vietnam bombers, David Gilmore from Pink Floyd playing a Fender telecaster with his mouth wide open, his features distorted, he appears either singing or screaming. The faded colours and blotchiness of the watercolour both capture the moment, news-reel squares of film cells or newspaper slides, and acknowledge the passage of time. In Untitled NASA (2009) a uniformed astronaut is apparently examined by a suited official, referencing the enormous space-race push of this period. In 1968, the Apollo programme had been running  for five years, Apollo 1 had the year before lost three of its crew in a launch pad explosion and the year to follow, 1969, would see the man’s first steps on the moon. The world was expanding and contracting. The painting questions the solidity of these events. A single purplish drip runs off the end of the image, revealing it to be not so well fixed as we first imagined.

Image courtesy of Magnus Quaife and works/projects, 2012

Image courtesy of Magnus Quaife and works/projects, 2012

Image courtesy of Magnus Quaife and works/projects, 2012

Quaife sources his images from internet searches, capturing the moments that are in visual circulation rather than trying to present any kind of formalised truth. He is interested in all of the misleading avenues, misinformation and accidental historical slippages that come from finding material in this way. The protests and rioting of 1968 are a key moment in the modern artistic imagination and also an artistic cliché. Some theorists have speculated that history itself ended in 1968. Perhaps it did and perhaps it did not, who would ever be able to tell us for sure and what if you were born after this time, is  existing after the end of history a freedom or a curse? For a lot of us, including Quaife (born in 1975), the closest we will get to 1968 is in the imagery produced and mythology constructed since. In the watercolours, the seemingly disappearing images create their own atmospheric memory. Like corroding slides, in fifty years it is easy to imagine that the wooden frames and white paper of Quaife’s series will remain but the image gone. Or perhaps simply replaced by something else instead.

1968 and Other Myths by Magnus Quaife will run at works/projects from 5 May to 16 June 2012.

Sacha Waldron is a writer and curator based in Bristol. She is currently the Curatorial Fellow at Arnolfini.

Published 08.06.2012 by Bryony Bond

489 words