Diagrams, currently on display at The Holden Gallery, is a collection of work by four artists that considers the – sometimes – antagonistic boundaries between art and science, playfully disrupting them.
The exhibition begins with two football formations by Simon Patterson that use the characters of the last supper. The key ‘players’ in each are St James the Lesser and St James the Greater, and St Peter and Judas – the first two being the disciples least talked about in the gospels, and the latter arguably the two most important in terms of involvement in events that shape theology. With ‘Jesus Christ in Goal’ in both, in one diagram the James’s are on the bench while Peter shields Christ from Judas, and in the second it is Peter and Judas who are not out on the field. This playful theology is balanced by secular fun in Patterson’s ll Quattro, a periodic table where the elements are replaced with the names of characters (fictional and non-fictional), all with some kind of cryptic crossword link to the word they replace.
Langlands and Bell also bring two works to the exhibition. Logo Works uses the floor plans of offices of well-known brands, and sets them against a background of primary colours (and black), thereby defining a ‘logo’ by architecture. Their Air Routes of the World very literally displays the world according to aeroplanes. Even without the title this is clear as the diagram shows the curved lines that we have come to associate with easy-jet adverts, but beyond that the information presented by the maps is obscure. The work offers a series of close-ups that fade into one another in quick succession: none of the places – identified by the meeting of lines – are labelled and the speed at which the images move on prevents the viewer from working it out.
Mark Titchner‘s Symbolic Hieronymous Machine (Gold) is closest to the scientific aesthetic, with satisfying order and clean lines that remind viewers of the level of artistry necessary in science to make diagrams clear, while his White Stains is a large QR code, carved like a wood block with the negative space painted silver and then turned into a stick figure.
The final artist represented is Angela Bulloch, whose Copper Stack has a certain retro feel to it, made entirely modern by the subtleties of colour used. The ‘stack’ is made of light boxes that change colour without rhythm, using colours taken from television pixels, with the result that it is the earthy colours of real life that emanate from the boxes rather than lurid primary colours.
Artistry – or creativity – has always tended to stand in opposition to scientific thought, although this lack of dialogue makes little sense given the creative thought necessary for scientific discoveries and a certain ‘scientific’ approach that is adopted by many artists. This wonderfully enjoyable exhibition gently points out the strength in adopting the language of diagrams in communicating ideas.
Susanna Hill is a writer and PhD candidate at the University of Manchester, considering the collecting of Outsider Art in the UK. She is also working part time for the Halle Orchestra Concert Society.