Dumb Shadow – Supercollider

Text by Hannah Elizabeth Allan

Dumb Shadow features work by the three Bristol based artists exploring a shallow, obsessive engagement with surface – the sensorial qualities of blankness.

Menna Cominetti, Sebastian Jefford and James Parkinson are all recent graduates, earning acclaim through practices which utilise or mimic everyday objects and textures. The exhibition could be interpreted as an indictment against a failing market economy, yet, the work in the show functions as ‘dumb’. It holds no polemic position, it is simply itself, a performative utterance of paint/clay/vinyl… Everything else is projection.

Cominetti’s layered tonal paintings explore the prevailing blankness in its most singular form. Smooth minimal surfaces offer shifts through the application and depth of paint, layers form and fade out. Traces of the artist’s choices are visible (reflected in all of the works in the show). Not absenting the individual in this exploration of the surface creates a sense of dialogue between the subject, artist and audience, rather than the distancing an entirely clinical approach might affect.

Interdisciplinary artist Jefford has produced a number of works for the show including a series in clay, and a reclaimed, altered sculpture. The untitled video piece features a looping clip of an outdated promotional video. The repeated demonstration of snow tracks beneath a car wheel is stilted and amateurish, the frames almost animated in their jerked motion and too-soon jump cut. This video activates the object in a way which the rest of the show does not: it provides a counterpoint to the pointed purposelessness found in the surrounding works. The covered panels used in the installation by Jefford reference these tyre tracks, giving them physicality yet their purpose is negated and abstracted into the aesthetic.

The two works by Parkinson particularly feel in dialogue with Cominetti’s paintings. In Alter with Finger he has produced a pair of canvases which also utilise sensations of tonal blankness and surface texture. They are two canvases painted white. The piece explores a shift: one side pulsing with a cold blue light, a sheen open to puckering, its opposite a yellow tinted dull, uniform matt. The absence of other detail allows these qualities to be explored.

Also produced by Parkinson, 70%, covers the large gallery windows: a clear vinyl tint intended for cars is inexpertly applied, trapping bubbles of air and abstracting the view in and out of the space. The function of the window has been altered, and in doing so it has become something other – it has been made more present as surface through the reduction of its usefulness. All three artists have to varying degrees carried out this process in their pieces. The utilitarian purpose has been removed from materials, objects and media in order to explore surface alone, a purity of blankness.

Both the exhibition and gallery space leave a Ballardian impression: a focus on the remains and fragments of objects, echoed in a cool sense of detachment in the non emotional intention of, and response to, the work. Dumb Shadow marks a particularly coherent and balanced curatorial project from the artists and Supercollider.

Dumb Shadow is on display at Supercollider, Blackpool until 30th November 2013.

Hannah Elizabeth Allan is an artist, writer and researcher based in Lancashire. Current PhD candidate with Manchester Metropolitan University.

Published 29.11.2013 by Lauren Velvick in Reviews

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