After a fifteen-year commitment to ceramic sculpture, the New-York based British artist, Jesse Wine, has returned to an overarching concern with motion, composition and stasis, where the conviction found in his earlier works is overturned to make space for reflection. Segregated by bright curtains, spread around the Modern Institute, ‘Carve a Hole in The Rain for Yer’ invites a pause stirred by isolation and confinement. With this note of incompletion and self-questioning comes a distancing from the sculptural subject and a closer contemplation on the process of sculpture.
Wine’s sculptures sit willingly in the pandemic space, adapting to the challenges introduced by the disruption as they are received virtually. In a way, they embody the uncertainty found in-between stretches of time, where the wait promises new possibilities, but only if we learn to welcome these pauses without expectation.
In these brief moments of clarity, you want to have faith that the sculptor acknowledges the shifting nature of our material perception. You want to trust that they will not actively resist the dragging of time, the contortion of space. Sharpened or distorted, their vision is ever-seeking. Like clay, it is rarely a finished product.
Each of Wine’s sculptures is textured with sand and has a muted palette. The more complex compositions are finished with iron or copper, invoking a natural degradation of the body, while others, painted in oranges and blues, appear to contest the regulated cycles of life and decay. Outstretched limbs poke at the clay or emerge from it. Their gestures are an outcry or a hesitation, yet orderly, even in protest. They are conscious of their own inquiry into undefined states. A hand pinches a bright orange block; a knee bumps against it. Two thick antennas emerge from a half torso.
At the far end of the gallery, two S-curved bodies ready to leap forward and collapse sit by four glass heads filled with fog and whispered memories. The leaning figures are slouched in reflective postures; the heads are hollowed and strategically positioned against white walls and dim curtains. Three are filled with sand, goldfish and letters. One is left vacant.
We intercept these bodies between two contemplations, grounded in a present that leans into the past or plummets into the future, where the now is allocated in, as their titles suggest, the ‘Meantime’ or the ‘Time Being’.
We are in a time of pause, a momentary stasis. As Gaudier-Brzeska writes, “sculptural feeling is the appreciation of masses in relation.” In the absence of any physical experience of the sculptural object, we can only wait for the possibility of its return and modify our approaches to their appreciation in preparation.
Wine’s sculptures extend their plane of reference into the field of time. They are understood not only in terms of masses and shapes, but how these are grasped and take on meaning in relation to time’s passage when they are integrated into their context of creation and observation. It matters not only that you see them, but that they are seen now. It is this occupation of the present that informs their motion, as shared longing and apathy are projected into a unified understanding of the object’s implications.
‘Presently’ (2021), the centrepiece of arms and legs struggling in all directions, speaks to the understanding of composition in a single moment. Positioned by the window, framed against the glass pane, it refers back to a momentary confrontation on the streets or on the screen, where the physical nature of the object elapses our vigilance. Wine suggests that even in the absence of direct exposure, we retain alternative means to relate to the physical object, however imperfect, because a complete and unfailing understanding was never possible to begin with.
Amidst great uncertainty, to ‘carve a hole in the rain’ is a statement: a cry for persistence despite all confusion. Wine alludes to the physical impossibilities that will nonetheless be attempted; carvings in the rain might not be preserved in material or meaning, but maybe, in the end, that doesn’t matter. They are grasped and shared in sentiment.