Noel Clueit – Towards Monumental Sculpture, Bureau

Text by Hannah Elizabeth Allan

Towards Monumental Sculpture sees North West based artist Noel Clueit return to working with Bureau following his 2011 residency with the art organisation. The solo exhibition features two pieces created this year, which both reflect Clueit’s interest in referencing, remaking and appropriating art history within his work, connecting it to the present through interdisciplinary methods.

The work referred to within the title of the show is appropriately large, occupying the main thoroughfare of the ground floor reception, and created specifically for this site. The second piece – Rehearsals For Semiotic Movements (Mavericks Version) – is a dual screen film work tucked into a corner, removed from the immediacy and impact of the large scale work. These two quite different approaches demonstrate both the varied practice of Clueit, and illustrate two potential directions for the artist attempting to occupy the suitably administrative (yet challenging) environment that is Bureau’s gallery space.

The grand scale of Clueit’s sculpture is balanced by the temporary nature of its materials and installation (black and white prints on a large five by eight metre framework). It is a work which seeks to explore the nature of sculpture placed within this type of corporate setting: questioning if such pieces might function as more than window dressing for the cavernous entrances of business premises. It is a work which fills and overwhelms its site, yet, retains a flimsy, ethereal presence. Rather than the solid permanence of the commissioned public artwork in bronze or stone, we are presented with the suggestion of one.

This ghost of a future work also reflects upon sculpture’s past presence. The enlarged glimpses of monochrome suggest a Modernist lineage; the forms of Henry Moore, speaking of a tradition and connection to earlier generations of sculptors, yet ones ultimately misplaced within this urban environment. The monumental of an earlier age is transposed and redefined, shaped by chrome and glass rather than the gallery or natural landscape.

The parallel film work Rehearsals For Semiotic Movements offers both a more solid presence (in its reassuringly boxy monitors), and in its smaller scale enters into a different, more intimate dialogue with both the viewer and space. The piece features a series of repeated motions carried out by a hand over a laptop mouse pad. A stylised performance, the motions are nonetheless recognisable, such as when carrying out the spreading movement of enlarging an image.

Clueit positions these simple and pared down actions as a system of signs recognisable to viewers. A choreography for now – the semiotics of digital consumption. Again, this piece can be seen in reference to earlier seminal works, by Bruce Nauman (Dance Or Exercise On The Perimeter Of A Square, 1968) and Yvonne Rainer (Hand Movie, 1966) both of which also identify and repeat a recognisable series of signs through physical performance in a scenario where the artist is restrained to a particular environment, framed by the camera.

The two works on show demonstrate a skilful negotiation of the Bureau space by Clueit, reflecting not only on the place of art within this commercial environment, but entering into a deeper dialogue around the situation and physicality of sculptural and performance work.

Towards Monumental Sculpture continues at Bureau (3 Hardman Square, Spinningfields, Manchester) until 31 October 2014.

Hannah Elizabeth Allan is an artist and writer.

Published 30.10.2014 by Lauren Velvick in Reviews

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