Friday, 26 October 2007

Matt Calderwood: Projections - Valentina Ravaglia

Matt Calderwood: Projections
David Risley Gallery, 7 September – 11 October 2007

With this second solo exhibition at David Risley Gallery, London-based artist Matt Calderwood adds a new chapter to his series of investigations on the poetics of banal objects, in which their common uses and physical laws are defied, denied or pushed to their very limits. As his recent works generally took the form of video-recorded performances (see for example Tape, 2005, Light, 2004 and Battery, 2003), the choice of the exhibition title seems to ironically dissimulate his return to sculptural research. The monumental scale of the five structures, which occupy the whole gallery space, has thus a kind of unexpected effect on the visitor, who probably expects a dark projection room and is instead presented with a light-filled, labyrinthine environment, articulated around the very tangible presence of Calderwood’s plastic constructions.

The Projections series seems to investigate a relationship of physical dependency between two elements, a precarious equilibrium that transmits an eerie sense of uneasiness, as the inner tension that governs these awkward, vaguely menacing structures seems to subtly affect the perception of their surrounding space. In fact, it would be physically impossible for the five angular plasterboard sculptures to stand erect, without the aid of plastic barrels filled with water, strategically placed to balance their centre of mass. In spite of their trivial and rather dull material aspect, these unstable objects possess a true pathetic quality; far from being cold minimal abstractions or mere visual riddles, they powerfully work as embodiments of human fragility, of the need to hold on to someone or something, in order not to collapse. They are indeed quite irritating to look at, like temporary makeshift structures waiting to be fixed, conveying a sense of anxiety and danger somehow similar to the borderline state of mind that precedes a psychological breakdown.

In a way, though, the formal purity of these sculptural works manages to counter their threatening nature, the same way as the weight of the water alone opposes the mechanic entropy of gravitational laws. Still, the choice of industrial, mass-produced materials underscores the ambiguous quality of Calderwood’s works, which deny familiar objects their use and, with it, their meaning. The final effect is a hybrid of ready-made aesthetics, minimalism and poverism, with a nineties flavour that reminds of Graham Hudson’s similarly dramatic plasterboard constructions. Yet these sculptural works manage to appear subtly original and intrinsically equivocal, at the same time unhomely objects and monuments to a sense of pointlessness and frustration that feels way too familiar. The choice of materials could also refer to a temporary state of living, to a denial or restriction of pleasure, to the suffocating anxiety of working for mere survival or of economic dependency... The shades of strain that can be projected on these objects by the viewer are potentially infinite, ranging from the personal experience to the social sphere. In this sense, they can reflect and reveal some of the grimmer sides of the human condition, but only to those who can look at them with a keen, sympathetic eye.
Valentina Ravaglia

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