Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, Sun 12 May-Fri 7 Jun
It’s hard to get a handle on the work of Cathy Wilkes. In the past, she has shown paintings, drawings and assemblies of found objects. Some pieces are adorned with texts that might be clues to meaning or red herrings; others feature objects that seem to be obviously symbolic, but defy immediate interpretation.
But for those who like their art chock-full of meaning as well as being easily digestible, Wilkes can be a frustrating proposition. For those underwhelmed by the fad for pithy quips and overt statements, her work is a breath of fresh, if confusing, air.
For her solo show at Inverleith House, Wilkes seems to be dipping a toe in more concrete waters, filling the lower floors of the gallery with a single, two-part piece. ‘I sort of know what it’s going to look like,’ she says. ‘I’m making two things that are approximately symmetrical to each other for each of the rooms, so it will almost be that you see the same thing twice, but they differ in terms of detail. I’m working with hardwoods, making linear hardwood sculpture things, and
with paintings and drawings. The sculptures are big reclining figures, one in each room. They’re very formal, really hard-edged and not expressive looking. The paintings and drawings are quite cartoony, and they all come together to make the one piece.’
This move towards something closer to a traditional conception of sculpture, as opposed to the combinations of found items that have characterised Wilkes’ previous efforts, is a deliberate one.
‘There’s a lot more making in what I do now’ she says. “There’s the idea of the physical material value of a thing in there. The value of labour, the value of skills, the value of emotion: all of those things. That’s not all there is, and that’s not expanded on in the piece, but it is there in the background. It’s like the idea of directly observing, almost as if you’re photographing something, but as I don’t have a starting point, it’s about the involuntary impulses you have - your conscience, your delusions - that make things unobservable in a very definite way.’
It’s tempting to dismiss the above as obfuscatory artspeak, but in Wilkes’ case there is no key to understanding the work and none is needed, given its subtle, hinting nature: ‘I try not
Thief, 2002 (detail)
to think about what people are going to think when they see the work,’ she says. ‘lt’s just different realities that I’m demonstrating, and I don’t know how they will appear to others. There’s quite a lot of emptiness, quite a lot of hardness in it. It’s not terribly forthcoming.’ (Jack Mottram)
ARCHIVE 1 AND HERO
St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow, until Fri 31 May (Archive 1); until Sat 18 May (Hero) 0000
John Carberry’s evocative photography
The Feast of the Pentecost celebrates the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles 50 days after the resurrection of Christ. However. this year the “feast of weeks' at St Mary’s Cathedral will be of interest even to non-believers. To celebrate the completion of twenty years of restoration work, the Cathedral is welcoming artists. poets. and musicians to exhibit and perform throughout May. Archive 7. the first of two visual art exhibitions taking place. is a display of evocative photographs by John
90 THE LIST 9—23 May 2002
Carberry which record the restoration process and the daily life of the congregation. A workman's dusty glove. the choir in song. pews wrapped in polythene and the elaborate gown of the organist make up some of the most memorable images.
Group exhibition Hero. curated by Ian Balch. provides unexpected interventions throughout the rest of the cathedral. Twelve local artists have responded to the invitation to make new works for this highly loaded yet tranquil setting. The high altar of the cathedral has been mischievously augmented with various site specific works by Christy Cole. constructed variously from a 70s curtain. walking sticks, a fishing rod and a golf club. Steve Hollingsw0rth has installed Count Christi, a film work about the effect of static on clothes. among the silver pipes of the organ cabinet. while a punch bag swings from the rafters. courtesy of Ross Birrell.
Helge Mruck has covered the stained glass windows on the street side with black plastic. and flooded the back windows with brilliant halogen lighting. creating a false darkness and a fake daylight within. Sculptor Sue Brind combines enigmatic silver forms with strands of her own hair and her mother's within a small wooden vitrine.
Meanwhile. down in the crypt. Annette Heyer‘s work references the architecture and light through the leaded windows. Everywhere. quiet reverberation exists between the works and the artefacts. as if each are exchanging silent nods. (Sarah Lowndes)
MIXED MEDIA DAVID MACH: HELL BENT Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, until Sun 29 Sep 000
In the ground floor gallery at GOMA. thousands of copies of The Hera/d newspaper have been meticulously arranged to form huge swirls of newsprint. Echoing the classical designs of the ornate columns in the space. this giant tidal wave of paper engulfs the empty shells of burnt-out cars. The amber glow of the rusty remains. now devoid of any previous ownership. are surprisingly beautiful. Glimpses of headlines. purposely visible - ‘lraq'. ‘Troops' - serve as a time frame.
David Mach and his team spent just under a month creating the installation. titled Bangers And Mash. Raising questions about overproduction and car-crime. Mach's large-scale installation is flaunted in front of the viewer in the form of sculpture.
Pity then. that the installation was only given half the space. It has to vie for attention with a selection of the usual Earth Gallery exhibits. This area of Mach‘s repertoire is where he excels most. I can't help feeling that GOMA has missed a great opportunity here.
Of the other works in this major exhibition of work by the Fife-born artist. the self-confessed “material junkie' shows the range of his working practice. He transforms everyday consumer durables. from matchsticks to coat hangers into something new. But in the cluttered Air Gallery. his sculptures again have to jostle for space.
Mach's inspired Spaceman. made entirely from coat hangers. reveal his clever choice of material. The shimmering hollow SCulpture evokes the hazy. first television pictures of Neil Armstrong's first footsteps on the moon. The other hanger piece. however. of an oversized. buxom woman is less successful.
And then it gets a bit silly. Jeff Koons-esque cuddly teddy bears with gnashing teeth. brandish power drills and food mixers. A grizzly bear clutches stone cutting tools in his paws and garden gnomes misbehave with chainsaws. It’s really quite embarrassing.
And while the small-scale models of previous projects such as Temp/e At Tyre. Big Heids and Train. offer an insight into his work in the pubic domain. it only serves as a reminder of what Mach does best. (Helen Monaghan)
Artist David Mach with his creation Bangers And Mash