Text by David McLeavy
The title of Doug Bowen’s most recent presentation of works gives nothing away at first impression. Stuff is the culmination of a four week long residency at Bloc Projects, Sheffield, and houses a variety of works showcasing Bowen’s playful approach to a variety of subject matters.
With careful titling and meticulous placement the works seem to be simple in their gesture yet remarkably poignant in their content. Multiple holes are drilled at consistent intervals around the top of the gallery walls resulting in an almost bullet hole like pattern. In addition to this the dust generated by drilling the holes then settles along the edge of the walls themselves, creating a silhouette of the gallery’s floor plan. The title of this specific work being [‘’’’’] (drilled holes, 10mm) and [,,,,,] (mixed media from making [‘’’’’] seems to be a pictorial reference to language itself with the font and titling representing a direct parallel with the visual nature of the work. His use of language plays a heavy role in the show and is carried through to “You Can’t C Me”, a work consisting of a series of two way mirrors taking the form of a cube. Another work of note is tumbleweeds #1, #2, #3, #4, which are presented as a series of wooden discs in the shape of the iconic symbol of the tumbleweed. The works themselves stand out in the gallery as they posses some of the only elements of colour in the show and by doing so they question their own existence as objects. Tumbleweeds themselves are widely considered to be a signifier of emptiness and solitude, however by producing them intentionally to then be presented within a gallery poses interesting questions.
The stand out work however has to be Rider #1 (at Bloc Projects, Sheffield on Friday 8th August 2014). The work consists of a series of requests by the artist in order for him to complete the show, similar to the way a rock band or pop act may request certain things for their dressing rooms pre-performance. Less ridiculous than a lot of pop divas requests, Bowen asks for 1 double room, 6 Samuel Smith’s Ales and 1 large smiley face pizza amongst other things. This work not only questions the authority of the artist and his/her role when presenting an exhibition but it also examines the relationship between artist and curator.
Stuff provides definite questions and seems to be happy in not necessarily answering them, thus leaving the viewer to formulate their own conclusions. With playful use of language and by employing clever objective signifiers, Bowen creates interesting links between our approach to situations and our interaction with ‘things’, regardless of whether we know anything about art or not.
Doug Bowen – Stuff is the culmination of a four week residency as part of Bloc Projects’ graduate programme and continues until 23 August 2014 at Bloc Projects, Sheffield.
David McLeavy is an Artist and Curator based in Sheffield.