From Confusion to Clarity
15 February - 24 March 2012
TJ Boulting is delighted to present the gallery’s first solo show with British artist Colin Glen. The starting point for this new body of work is two found wire objects, a tangled ball and a simple circle from his collection of detritus. Displayed in vitrines like museum objects or relics, the ball of wire was kept from a building site in the late 1990’s, the wire circle from a lampshade found more recently on the street between his home and studio. From these he has produced two pencil on paper drawings, carefully considered and minimal in appearance. The wiry remnants, already resembling drawn lines, became the focus of the artist’s lengthy contemplation of ideas surrounding the existence of objects, to produce drawings through many hours of considered mark-marking. The gradual formation of ideas over time is analogous to the process by which Glen’s drawings develop; a texture of faint lines accumulates imperceptibly to evoke a shadow, stain or smear from which the ‘figure’ is discovered, showing itself like a photograph in the developing tray.
The work refers largely to Conceptual art, in particular the work of Joseph Kosuth and his ‘One and Three Chairs’ (1965-7) where a real chair sits alongside a photograph of a chair as well as a dictionary definition of the word ‘chair’; and Surrealist ideas where the object subverts both its representation and reproduction, such as Duchamp’s use of the bicycle wheel and bottle rack. Glen similarly asks us to consider the reality of the object through its subsequent re-presentation.
One stage of reproduction evolves to the next, with the drawings acting as the starting point for paintings, the image of the object enlarged, and drawing simulated through a mixture of graphite powder and oil, applied to an unprimed 5 x 4 feet canvas. Although the ball and the circle represent an apparently straightforward structural duality on which to focus – one is simple and one is tangled – it is through the translations employed in the reproduction of the object, first ‘life study’ then enlargement, that the differences initially apparent in the dichotomy between complexity and simplicity are dissolved. The conceptual process presented by the project is the attempt to move from a state of confusion to that of clarity by understanding the complex possibilities of reproduction.
A further translation involves a crop of one area of the ball of wire painting for enlargement on a canvas measuring 10 x 8 feet. Here the chosen crop itself is not of an area of the ball, but of its shadow. Exploring the idea of the shadow as something negative, an indicator of something absent, at such a scale it is also an unsettling and unbalancing viewpoint, and draws on the recognition of the shadow in our psyches - where is the shadow being cast from, and at this size? It also refers directly to Marcel Duchamp’s last painting ‘Tu m’’ of 1918 in which the shadows of his readymades, bicycle wheel, corkscrew and coat rack, were transferred onto canvas.
Glen’s focus on the animated quality of shadows suggests that the marks made on the canvas can be seen as physical traces of where thoughts have been made, as ‘pentimenti’ or marks of altered thinking. Vitally, it is the imagination of the viewer that is enlisted to make sense of the blurry accumulation of drawn marks. In this provocation, Glen proposes that if the object stands for concrete reality accessible to conscious interpretation, shadows evoke the imagination. For Glen ‘it is your shadow that goes before you and projects you, like your mortality - which through a sense of future absence, emphasises the vitality of being present’. Entitling the work ‘Confusion to Clarity’ traces the cycle of ideas relating to the original objects – through their translations - and back again. The time spent contemplating the objects and their reproductions through various stages beckons us to move back and forth between the confusion and clarity to which Glen refers.