Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, City Library and Arts Centre, Fawcett Street, Sunderland, SR1 1RE

  • Ant Macari In the beginning small Press 2010
    Title : Ant Macari In the beginning small Press 2010
  • Ant Macari Ruach Hashem Drawing 2009
    Title : Ant Macari Ruach Hashem Drawing 2009
  • Ant Macari ethnological forgery series no4 2010
    Title : Ant Macari ethnological forgery series no4 2010
  • Ant Macari tutorial 2010
    Title : Ant Macari tutorial 2010
  • Ant Macari yosemite 2009
    Title : Ant Macari yosemite 2009
  • Ant Maracri Ruach Ha Shem Installation Shot zoo 2009
    Title : Ant Maracri Ruach Ha Shem Installation Shot zoo 2009

Ant Macari, Get out and troop the shape of a void, review by Rebecca Morrill and Guy Tindale

The result of a six-month artist residency at NGCA is an exhibition that the artist describes as a ‘doughnut’. This idea references scientific theories that the universe itself has a hollow centre. Visitors circumnavigate a ‘ring’ of galleries before entering the central ‘hole’, unwittingly ‘trooping the shape of a void’ as the exhibition title instructs.

Best-known for his highly detailed drawings, Ant Macari here extends his practice to lithographs, performance, video, installation and readymade objects (including a bag of chips taped to the wall and the shavings of his own beard arranged in a halo).

The exhibition begins with Memento Mori (End Papers) (2011) a drawing on a book’s final pages. This tension between opposites - beginning/end, black/white, small/large, object/void, belief/doubt, premeditation/spontaneity - continues throughout the show.

The visitor soon glimpses Macari’s central ‘void’ installation, Ruach HaShem (Brain of God) (2009-11), which they will later enter through a hole in the wall shaped like the God of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. The cultural references in his work are diverse: from Giotto to Robert Smithson, Gordon Matta Clark and Raymond Pettibon alongside the Bible, Walter Benjamin, Homer’s Odyssey and skater culture. Drawing them together, Macari investigates the biggest issues: faith, religion, death, the origins of mankind and the end of the world.

The visitor continues along past a file of outstretched forearms, plaster cast from the artist’s own, holding harmonograph drawings of doughnut-like forms in red ink - not made by the hand of the artist, but with his hands literally present in their display. Next a Zen Garden: Full Moon, Empty Mind (2011), complete with raked sand and a bench from which to contemplate. Instead of rocks, boxy televisions meet one’s gaze, showing videos of the artist in white robes, engaged in repetitive tasks such as grinding pigment or brushing his teeth, presented like rituals of a Japanese tea ceremony.

A cabinet of densely-filled sketchbooks shows the extent to which drawing continues to be utterly central to Macari, who states that “drawing [is] a verb’ an action that transforms and continues the world”, while a quote of G.K. Chesterton, painted high on the wall in the artist’s distinctive font, asserts that “Art like morality consists in drawing a line somewhere”.

In The Middle Way (2010), a video and accompanying photographs document a performance in which the robed artist pushes a white art crate across the wild landscape from Melrose Abbey to Lindisfarne; the reverse of the journey made by ninth-century monks moving St Cuthbert’s body to safety. The parallel between the transport of precious relics and precious artworks is obvious, but the viewer is left unsure what to believe, whether the artist really made the sixty-mile journey or simply staged thirty minutes worth of footage.

The visitor’s journey ends with a step through a God-shaped hole into a room covered in an Escher-like grid pattern that baffles the eye. At the centre stands the slightly battered white art crate, still sealed so there is no chance of determining the value (or even presence) of any contents. And on the wall, a final image of doughnut forms: a reminder of the journey undertaken, the futility of a snake biting its own tail and the endless circle of life.

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