Visual Art

“Rift i ‘iy't‘; kill) l)l {AV/INN HALEY TOMPKINS The Modern Institute, Glasgow, until Fri 2 Sep 0...

The thing with Hayley Tompkins is that you know what you're getting, but you don‘t know how to get it.

Her very-srnall-indeed-scale works, be they on paper or board, are usually dubbed ‘fragile’ or ‘slight‘, and they are, but there is something defiant about them too. They defy the usual critical framework a viewer brings to the gallery - there's no point asking what these paintings and drawings are about, or trying to grasp at some over-riding theme or underlying concept, because they are for looking at, and are about themselves and each other.

That sounds like a cop-out, but faced with Tompkins‘ tiny triangles, squares, skinny oblongs and irregularly- shaped boards, each marked with paint that follows the form of the surface beneath it, you can’t help but look hard, and can't escape a feeling that something is going on.

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In this show of new work, there’s a new question: is it finished? Some of the pieces (all of which are untitled) sit on tables, which look like tidied-up little replicas of the trestles found in studios, as if they have been carried down from Tompkins’ working space. There are pages torn from sketchbooks, marked with almost- squares of black or blue, red or grey, and a folded monochrome clipping from a magazine. On the wall behind the tables, two irregular boards are coated with gesso, the chalky acrylic used to prime canvases, as if the pair are paintings waiting to happen.

This is in marked contrast to most of the works on the walls, which, whether they’re loosely marked or strongly delineated, suggest completion. Perhaps the sketchier pieces are a clue - if you can’t fathom whether they're in progress or done and dusted, it is probably not worth hassling them, or the more obviously final pieces shown alongside them, with more bothersome questions. Just have a look.

(Jack Mottram)

HENRY COOMBES The Jail, Glasgow. Thu 28 Jul—Sun 31 Jul (now closed) 0...

ivi’ nsieur l tira'r told us that the superego commands us to ‘Enjoy!' This wasn't an it I‘~.ll.illf ill to a buffet. lrut an order to take every mannered wish beyond itself into tr l“ sublr: i re pleasure beyond tl re pleasure principle. Henry Coombes' most fitment video work (silo-.vr'rg at “the Jail'. Bridgeton. wrth Laurna Mclntyre. Lotta tier t/. Charlie l larrrrnond and Nrrk Lvans) records; the glorious urge to toy with the 1' hit}- >rvraut of subjectivity to hurld rnanlraps. bombs and threatening

|a<,ur left) to tl-.vart the glrhness and capriciousness of artistic creation before it even gets off the ground. the work records false starts wrthin the psyche: his

r layiu'r “‘3‘; r‘: not to be mistaken for chance or a lack of seriousness.

vii leo sketches are reminiscent of a very early Paul McCarthy, but in thrst we hit: repetitions do not lead to physical but mental and artistic

exirzzuutrr Hr. l to comes at his task from cruntless angles until every intonation and l: we y-rk is exorr *ised (he speal‘ s to himself. makes his belly button talk in ‘Nrgel'. at d sl~ \uts at p; ssers by on the street through soundproof double- gla/rr ;g Ill 'l ley Krd!‘ and 'In Da Club'). the Alexandnanism of a certain Glasgow renter-r wary art bubble rs easily popped with his sharp slapstick.

Near the W monitor a little Jesomite man squats on stinging nettles like a debauched Sadean figurine. ()n the walls. pages from someone else's imaginary diary rer ord the everyday shit v.1} all wade through. with the increasing violence .'/e w ipr )lf?’»f3 bubbling like mad up through the fault lines of sentences.



St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, Glasgow, until Sun 30 Oct 0..

Documentary photography often treads a thin line between faithfully representing the subject and incorporating the artist's vision photographs are so easily distorted. misinterpreted or sensationalised. Yet photographer Jenny Matthews' images of women, caught up both in war and its aftermath, never once seem guilty of contrivance.

From El Salvadore to Afghanistan. the artistry of her images appears incidental to portraying the mass poverty. defiance. shock and endurance she has continued to capture since she started taking photos in 1982. Her eye is unflinching rather than condescending. and she throws up no visual gimmicks. An image of a woman waiting for her prosthetic limbs. or a picture of a mother burying her baby are filled with pathos not pity.

Although she shoots in classic black and white. she forgoes the kind of stick aesthetic style akin to other docwnentary photographers such as Sebastiao Salgado. What her spare style does create. however, is a grave sense of tirnelessness in these images of suffering and war. where photos taken decades apart look as if they could have been shot on the same day.

Yet deSpite the general sound of the exhibition title. which presumes to cover more than even Matthews can offer, this is not solely a pertrait of victirnised women. She is quick to record women as perpetrators of genocide as much as they are victims of it. and Matthews adds her own diary notes to accompany photographs of female Rwandan prisoners.

But while she refuses to preach at us with politics. the images are densely packed together. The photographs are perhaps too small, and the cramped area unbearably blunts the perceptiveness of images that warrant more than our attention they hold us to account.

(Isla Leaver Yap)