Descending into the terrace house basement in Beeston, shiny plastic ‘bling’ and glitter adorn the floor and walls of the dark space, tumbling out of holes and covering everything from electrics box to cobwebs. All is evidence that Pippa Eason has spent two weeks preparing her current solo show, and the effect is both repulsive and captivating. The exhibition’s title ‘Set in Stone’ alludes to the fast moving popular culture that the artist seeks to crystallise into a kind of plastic permanence.
Spotlit in the first room is a rock wrapped in multiple layers of cellophane, which obscures the surface of the object so that it is almost unrecognisable. A faux-gold chain appears to tether it to the ground and the detritus of what might have been a pink glitter explosion covers the floor around it. A large sign with a Facebook-inspired ‘interested’ star is casually weaved through the chain. A small hand-held device on the wall plays internet icons and emojis in a warping, hypnotic animation that has a mildly nauseating effect. A projection reminiscent of the old analogue TV testcard stripes overlaps a gap in the ceiling. Under the stairs another spotlight points to a glitter covered object on the floor. Two gold cacti poke out of the top like antennae. Collectively, the works speak of mass media and proliferating ‘information’: they are mind-numbing visuals without content.
Pastel pink expanding foam and more glitter dominate another room of the gallery, spread around two tubular structures, one adorned with gold cacti on a flimsy gold crown and the other leaning against the wall wrapped in ‘low culture’ internet characters and celebrity icons. Pink is omnipresent and mushrooms sprout from the walls, daubed in glitter. In Eason’s work, the details of structures and objects are lost in plastic Poundshop treasure, smothered in silver plastic dollar signs and gold plastic medals, gold plastic crowns and gold plastic chains. At BasementArtsProject, Easton has responded to the dark corners and caverns of the space, arranging her garish trinkets as if pouring out of the dark fireplace hole.
The exhibition feels like the aftermath of a performance or a grotesque purge of popular culture. The cheap commodities and trash aesthetics signify a culture of desire, whilst emoji ‘likes’ reinforce a prescribed notion of populist taste. The apparently fictional world that Eason has created is in fact a frightening reflection of contemporary reality.
Image: Pippa Eason, ‘Sediment 2’ (2016), courtesy of the artist.
Alice Bradshaw is an artist, curator, writer and researcher based in West Yorkshire.