Text by Luke Healey
The sign on the way to Paper Gallery which announces it as a “micro” space isn’t joking: there really is just about enough room to squeeze between the works by the twelve artists on show at their current exhibition Interim. The result of these spatial limitations which are really evidence of resourcefulness, of making good use of the available space at Mirabel Studios, just across the Irwell in the shadow of Victoria Station is that two particular works come rather to dominate the room.
The former, which is the noisiest work on show, is by Mary Stark, a textile artist, who has fed one of her tape measures into a rattling old 16mm projector, with the light shining through to cast a montage of numbers and lines onto the back wall of the space. Pulled together from disparate sources, the work nonetheless has a kind of tight, self-referential logic that calls to mind some great lost Structuralist film. The latter, which occupies the most floor space, is by Sarbjit Kaur, and is actually a conjoined display of three smaller works, all untitled. Made from crank clay and manganese dioxide, Kaur’s rough, terracotta coloured sculptures of bodily fragments a bust, a foot, and something relatively indescribable are supposedly a means for the artist to work through her relationship with her father. There is a clear line to be drawn between Kaur’s work and the work of a sculptor like Paloma Varga Weisz, whose figures seem similarly stippled with emotional intensity. Both artists more or less merit their accidentally commanding position within this group show.
The title ‘Interim’ refers to the partwaythere status of the current PhD students whose works make up the show, and there is an implicit invitation for the viewer to turn supervisor and judge the relative mileage of the ideas being put to work. Appropriately, many of the pieces appear as snapshots of longerterm research projects. Simon Woolham’s ongoing social-historical research into the Wythenshawe area is presented in the form of a series of deeply banal fixed camera shots of residential streets, overlaid with a somewhat more exotic procession of oral histories focusing on fighting, shagging, and shitting off roofs. Ralph Mills’s installation of charity shop trinkets on a specially installed mantlepiece is both a celebration of the gentle surrealism of vernacular ornament and the precursor to a more rigorous archaeological study into the phenomenon.
Although they present less superficially openended work, there is also bags of potential in offerings by Lokesh Ghai, with his recording of a ritual insult song sung by Indian seamstresses whose craft is dying out, and Anna Frew, whose exhaustingly analogue presentation of a protohyperlinked text about the relationship between technology, materialism and literature might have something to say about the relative slickness of online reading experiences. Ghai and Frew’s work is unobtrusive even in a room as small as this, and yet both pieces seem to open out onto much larger cultural terrains. One hopes that they are both able to find the space in which to expand their craft.