Thick lines of indigo appear scraped onto a canvas; the layering of paint and marks is confusing. Examining the work, you get a sense of painting’s history, how conventional pictures revolve on the tension between the making and storage of time and effect: the paint is layered, you feel the time pass. In Anthony Miller’s painting ‘Not Titled’ (2020), tallied lines seem to brashly count down the days of lockdown. Arriving in London days before the first preventative measures to tackle the virus were announced, Miller planned to stay for a brief artist’s residency and left after having spent almost 100 days caught up in a situation that you tend to go on residency to avoid, unable to fully explore the new locality he was left to sit and reconsider his artistic practice.
Miller admits that he had previously “put the idea away” for these tally paintings, originally a fleeting thought he had while waiting for a plane to take off. The airport itself seems emblematic of this work, a place where time is inert, as you wait in between locations. Moreover, this is a painting about the nature of being an artist, which, like everything right now, has been put into question by the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘06’ is a both an online and physical exhibition, envisioned by the gallery PM/AM, as “a collective status check, a unique opportunity for self-assessment” that came together after the gallery set up a discussion between several artists, offering a form of exchange to collectively examine how the pandemic was impacting their daily lives. But rather than positioning the exhibition as a response to Covid-19, the discussions became a mediation on this new collective moment of re-evaluation.
This is maybe most emblematic in Ittah Yoda’s (the combined moniker of Kai Yoda and Virgile Ittah) moving-image work, featured online and created during lockdown. ‘Body Alights - A Fragmented Memory’ (2020) was produced as a way to connect viewers to their work at a time when physically experiencing it wasn’t possible. The film seems to fluctuate between an advert and nature documentary, as if the viewer has been invited in to see the inner workings of the artists’ collective mind. And it works – in a world where ‘the real’ is a potentially harmful space, this uptake of the virtual is inspired and feels generative.
The play between physical and digital worlds, both heavily present in the works and realised in the combined physical and online presentations of ‘06’, feels most reflective of our lives after Covid-19. From the further normalisation of remote working and video calls, to our even further reliance on technology, ‘06’ suggests there is a new reality that these works speak to.This is a society where we are becoming ever-connected – no longer fearful, but thankful that technology has brought friends and families together after periods of imposed isolation.
Ry David Bradley’s digitally woven tapestries mirror Jack Warne’s painting across the room – both are works that carry this sense of the digital creeping further into our daily lives. Bradley presents the image already corrupted, the glitching picture plane constructed by a machine. Warne, however, invites the viewer to complete the work using an AR filter on a mobile device. Cited as offering “a different viewpoint”, the resulting combination of pulsating sound and image has a palpable energy. The desire to break away from flat images, even realism, is not new to painting. Here, it feels as if the work is pointing to the future. Cited as incorporating elements of “his personal history”, the work reads as if Warne wants us to examine him in order for his practice to move forward.
However, the overall exhibition presentation, curation and online presence feels more like a return to the new normal than, what could have been, an opportunity for vast new potentials. The touted themes of reappraisal and an embrace of new media have been familiar terms since the emergence of post-modernism. And so here, although arresting, the format feels a little staid after the promise of re-evaluation and reconsideration. The show repeats, rather than breaks from, the traditional hang-ups and conventions of galleries, and does not quite align with the thrilling nature of the works on display.