19 April – 4 May
Curated by Caitlyn Holly Main
Assembly House, Leeds
Assembly House is already underway in its seven month painting programme, a mammoth series of guest curated shows all dedicated to contemporary painting, it is as relentless as it is ambitious, the breadth of art equaled by the depth in exploration of concept. It is in itself, a feat of anti-establishment action, as it puts the role of curatorship squarely in the hands of emerging artists.
This current show, curated by Caitlyn Holly Main, features works by Richard Maguire, Flo Gordon, Yvette Bathgate, Hannah Gibson and Flo Gordon and in the words of the curator “seeks to examine definitions of painting, with particular focus upon the periphery, and gendered artefact”.
In the show Maguire offers small, diminutive figurative and bodily drawings in graphite which, vulnerable in pose and instilled with sensitivity, are set against a contrast of cold metallic plates. His works are strategically strewn around the space, cast to the fringes and in danger of being overlooked. This positioning of artefacts operates as a function of discovery and with his additions of offset mirrors, further scrutiny; inviting the viewer to delve
deeper into a struggle between the masculine/feminine, submissiveness/dominance and voyeurism/vanity.
Gibson’s stand out piece is her stone grey painting, replete with gestural strokes of soft whites embedded with harsher black daubs which seem to oscillate between glyphs and figures. Her black symbols appear to be in an ongoing dance, breaking apart and entwining, making the work pulsate with a sense of visual narrative. In stark contrast to the painterly strokes is a stone-like object which is perched on top of the work, incongruous to the motion of the paint. Its presence is either that of passive observer or more portentously, an obstinate objector to the ballet at play.
Bathgate’s contribution is where the show tests the limits of painting. This piece comprises of a sheen pink plastic sheet stretched out as if it is a conveyor belt for enquiry. It supports a series of objects which differ in materiality; glass, stone, possibly metal and other geological curiosities. The pink belt is activated by the curvature of a steel structure; this disruption of space brings about a perception of time as the work appears to lurch into motion. The metal structure itself spirals out in form, branching out into different directions making the functionality of this device uncertain and the origins of it unknowable. Bathgate’s piece performs as a machine for considering the taxonomy elements, earthly elements; the elements so often used in making and defining art itself.
Found throughout the walls of the space and even on the show’s floor plan are smeared hues of residue, often flesh-like in tone and makeup-like in materiality, these cosmetic secretions are the work of Flo Gordon. One piece in particular; a pair of used tissues muddied in powder are set against a hard chrome sheet. It forms a material dialogue with Maguire’s work invoking similar battles of dichotomies and dualities. Gordons use of these modest materials is subtly vital, her invasive applications give the show an immersive quality acting as a crucial unifier, allowing every piece to be considered in totality and as a whole.
At first consideration the show’s title suggests a sense of passivity but after spending time with the different artefacts it seems more likely a stance of nonchalance in the arena of the institutional art space and the perceived standards of categorization. The works on display are bound in ambiguity, a fluctuating nebulous of primordial matter, pregnant with a nascent future that, much like the operandi of Assembly House’s programme strives to evolve beyond both the norms of the art establishment and established societal modes of knowing.