Totemic; Polemic. Olive

Back in 1999 S Club 7 told us to reach for the stars. Ever since that song the beauty of rainbows has never been up for deliberation: and rightly so. Rainbows are intrinsically enchanting. Yet aside from the alluring phenomenon of light being refracted through water, Caustic Coastal’s latest exhibition ‘Totemic; Polemic. Olive’ offers us an insight into stylising gallery spaces.

Operating as a cumulative group show, whereby a new artist is added week-by-week, ‘Totemic; Polemic. Olive’ featured the work of Felicity Black, Sean Edwards, Lauren Godfrey and Harry Meadows. Responsible for ‘Occasional Rainbow’ (2015), Felicity Black was first to enter the space. Black’s decision to make a sun dependent artwork in the city of Manchester was an admirable gesture, and one that was juggled subtly by painting the gallery walls an array of off white shades. Black also marks out the landscape with a set of Chinese ring puzzle drawings that prove to be tangled up in the mist of failure. Simplistically drawn, and portrayed on a small scale, these complex objects offered little more than confusion due to their compressing translation. Purposefully designed, arguably, by Black to embody the objects original perplexing essence. Harry Meadows, last to enter the space, framed some of his digitally printed silk fabrics with a thin, red acrylic plastic that had been etched into the wall to resemble an enlarged charity wristband. Causing some head scratching reactions, Lauren Godfrey, in a similar vein reminds us not to take her assemblages of found objects too seriously. Arriving to Manchester with nothing, Godfrey has engaged with her surrounding by using materials at hand. During her week in the gallery the artist has progressed into constructing her own pasta alphabet, which when deciphered reads ‘Taste The Rainbow’.

The real crux of ‘Totemic; Polemic. Olive’ besides when you stop to consider what happens to the nature of all the work knowing that it has been accumulated rather than simply installed. Typical for a Caustic Coastal exhibition, the linguistics of displaying art are up for interrogation, and the die-hard habit of pedestaling work is avoided like the plague. Pushing us towards a method of interpretation that exercises our understanding of cerebral practices, it is difficult not to cynically ask the question how do all these images, that become sculptures in the space, add up? Clearly aware of each others’ presence our instincts conceivably could draw the conclusion that all four practices are loaded with nothing but their own individual connotations. Offering us little more in the way of references to classic 1990s pop music or a particular brand of sweets notorious catchphrase. Such a devil’s advocate attitude though is easily disjointed, as it is in our nature to desire subsistence. Thus we begin to nourish our understanding by projecting a series of never-ending connections / minor associations to animate the ‘coming to life’ of works, which when alone offer very little in terms of fulfillment or understanding.

It is rare that an exhibition causes you contemplate the trajectory of deciphering art as much as ‘Totemic; Polemic. Olive’ conjures. Due to the exhibition’s discourse you feel ingrained in the sensation of being just as confused as you did when you entered the space. There is no logical conclusion. ‘Totemic; Polemic. Olive’s’ hindrance is arguably it’s very achievement. Leaving nothing but for us do but to hum along to S Club 7 and perhaps become more aware of our own inherent confusion.

Photography courtesy of Caustic Coastal.

Ashleigh Owen is an artist based in Manchester.

Totemic; Polemic. Olive, Caustic Coastal, Manchester.

4 April – 30 April 2015.

Published 14.05.2015 by James Schofield in Reviews

595 words