Dominic Rich-‘Strange Events Permit Themselves the Luxury of Occurring’- Camden Art Centre, Curator; Steven Claydon.
‘Strange Events Permit Themselves the Luxury of Occurring’ presents over forty artworks splayed throughout four gallery spaces. At first Steven Claydon’s exhibition, seems steeped in curatorial concerns. He investigates how an artefact's presentation and material demarcates its status within art history. He also examines what is at stake when an artifact is re-contextualised. Indeed, Claydon’s art practice includes issues shared amongst curators. He prolifically appropriates and wittily alters intervenes with the many branches and twigs of art history with a penchant for late British Modernism. This is evident in Aspirin Nathandria, (2005), in which he incorporated an image of Lyn Chadwick’s, Pair of Sitting Figures III (1973). By absorbing them into his work he questions the artwork’s connotations, he deviates the artwork’s history, destablising its status as a work of art.
Camden Art Centres invitation to curate an exhibition must have been well received. The opportunity to incorporate original artefact's into his practice; to work with Chadwick’s original sculpture and to de-plinth it! Pair of Sitting Figures III was literally sat on the floor under Keith Coventry’s, Endangered Species, (2005). The sculpture stares at a wood-chip table, which holds a cluttering of artefact's. This table would feel more familiar in a Flowers East storage room. Amongst these objects Eduardo Paolozzi’s Untitled Maquette; a cast of the Incredible Hulk, small and dismembered, stands in the gaze of Elizabeth Frink’s Goggle Head (1969). Is he simply creating a chaos out of the connotations, categorisations and hierarchies, the history of art has given different movements and materials or is he making an egalitarian stance. Either way, Busts, Maquettes, props, relics, photo and video documentation of sculptures and happenings, objects that evade specific labels, bronze, copper, plaster, gelatin silver prints, ceramics; taxonomies are flattened like a pyramid of cards.
It sounds like a mess. Contrarily, the presentation is dry and austere almost to the point of boredom. Boring until the juxtaposition of archetypal museum and commercial displays comes to light. The gallery space, displaying Frink and Paolozzis' works is furnished like an archetypal parochial gallery. Carol Bove’s A Setting for A. Pomodoro, (2005), is knowingly reminiscent of many galleries on Cork Street. Bonnie Camplin’s Cancer, (2004) plays on a primordial television set, a model ubiquitous throughout British primary schools of the 90’s. Twelve or so empty school chairs watch the screen vigilantly, this could reference to educational programs.(1)
The chance to curate has added a new dimension to Claydon’s art practice, allowing him to play with the taxonomies and connotations of curatorial styles. For a student of Art History, Fine Art or Curating, this exhibition will resonate long after visiting hours. However to a member of the general public, the chaos made of connotations, taxonomies, materials and movements of Art History may have been lost anyway.
(1) This is perhaps a remark on Camden Art Centre’s transparent reliance, as an educational charity on such ‘educational programs’ for funding