External Machines

The latest group show at The Royal Standard, External Machines, presents six artists working across a variety of forms, often combining elements of different media within their works. The exhibition’s title alludes to extraneous systems, and this is reflected in the often hidden processes behind the creation of the works.

This transformation is evident in Chloë Manasseh’s abstract streaks and splodges of red and yellow paint, which have been enlarged and printed onto a long, semi-opaque scroll. It hangs from a hidden spot on a steel beam and drapes down across the concrete floor, dividing the space and quietly drawing attention to the architectural details of the gallery. The artificially large brushstrokes dwarf the viewer, turning a two-dimensional painting into a sculptural intervention. In a separate screening room, Los Angeles-based Adam Ferriss’s digital projection Cyclic Forms mesmerises with its fast-moving psychedelic patterns. Created using coding, mathematical structures are transformed into seemingly organic, and uncomfortably intense swirls and pulses.

From the carefully programmed to the rapid and transitory; David Frame uses a photocopier to document objects in a series of small works on paper, a selection of seven from a vast archive. The artist uses this mode of instant production to capture the everyday items that he encounters, and then reassembles them in rather mystifying sequences – from lactulose to cling film via a recurring deflated beach ball, in this instance. Janneke van Leeuwen’s work hangs nearby, and like Manasseh’s uses a usually two-dimensional medium to create a strong physical and sculptural presence. Van Leeuwen’s background is in neuropsychology, and this is reflected in her artistic concerns, with an ongoing series of Mind Models that seek to visualise psychological states. A photograph of a tightly pleated curtain, hanging in impenetrable concentric circles, most obviously references the constriction referred to in the exhibition’s also rather inscrutable introductory text. The image hangs tantalisingly within a cage of golden chains, its subject matter echoing the viewer’s frustration at being unable to fully engage with the work.

In contrast to the restrained photographic works is an expansive, site-specific installation by Liverpool-based artists Catrin Davies and Lewis Wright. A constructed stairway snakes across a corner of the room, rising up to the ceiling where it stops abruptly at a smeary handprint of paint. Here sculpture takes on the qualities of painting, again demonstrating a confluence of media. In a seemingly joyous, performative gesture that the audience is left to imagine, the artists poured pink paint down the staircase, which pools messily with a carpet of black wool. Items of clothing and assorted fruits strewn across the scene might appear casually abandoned but on closer inspection are individually daubed, arranged to create a sculptural still life that also references Turner in its palette and paradoxical sense of movement. In Davies and Wright’s work the external machines are the artists themselves, each surrendering control of the outcome to the other’s actions.

External Machines, The Royal Standard, Liverpool

14 March – 3 May 2015

Denise Courcoux is a writer based in Liverpool.

Published 02.05.2015 by Georgina Wright in Reviews

510 words