SLOE is only a small space, so it’s perhaps fitting that they present an exhibition on the theme of ‘tiny’. The curators of TINY, Amy Mizrahi and Robin Sukatorn, have selected pieces from eleven artists asking questions about the smallest details.
As you’d expect there are some miniature works on display. But the themes they deal with are not petite or insignificant.
Lynn Allingham’s hyper-realistic ‘Miniatures’ (2017) is a collection of little foodstuffs, presented as parts of a feast. Rather than displaying the perfection of a set of doll’s house toys, the tiers of a wedding cake have had a slice hacked from them, jam smeared across the stand. The halved apple is starting to brown. Individual liquorice allsorts, each no bigger than a pin-head and individually crafted by hand, are strewn out of their bag. We peer in at her models with intrigue, wondering at her detailed artistic endeavour, but we stand back with a dash of melancholy as her burst egg yolks spill over the miniature plates.
Jake Francis presents ‘Match’ (2017) a series of nine open matchboxes each illustrating modern disasters and moments of terror. From shootouts and riots to the Falklands War and 9/11 these are reminders that while huge fires may burn out of control, each starts with a tiny match.
There are no microscopes in this exhibition, allaying fears that visitors might be asked to squint at artworks inserted into the eyes of needles. There are magnifying glasses though, suspended in mid-air as part of Anže Sever’s installation ‘Untitled’ (2017). In the right light, each of us is reminded of the experience of focusing the sun’s rays onto a tiny spot, either in a bid to start a campfire, or to chase an ant. A less destructive view is to inspect the shadows and imperfections on the gallery wall – either way, we’re all encouraged to think small for a moment and to look in close detail.
The works aren’t all small, though. ‘Unknown Lands’ (2017) by Joseph Haigh and Helena Gregory uses microscopic photography images of text fragments, blown up to a huge scale. In part they suggest the mystery and enormity of a far planet’s surface, but while we’re searching for rivers and mountains, we’re in fact more likely to be peering at specks and particles. Will Webster’s ‘99p’ (2017) is a reproduction of a day-glow sticky price label, reworked into a hefty image and emblazoned on the gallery wall. The price might be modest, but the presentation is bombastic and flashy.
There’s a pleasing pace to the selection of artworks in this display, each encouraging us to look and sense in different ways. Like a pair of varifocals, some pieces invite hunching, peering and squinting. Others ask us to stand back and reflect. The exhibition represent SLOE Gallery’s continuation of programming timely and meaningful work in their two-room basement underneath PS Mirabel.
While TINY might only be small in size, it gives us a wide enough framework to look, just for a moment, at the world both in and out of focus.
TINY, SLOE Gallery, Manchester.
13 January – 10 February 2018.
Steve Slack is a writer and museum consultant based in Manchester.