• As Representative Of The Imaginative Faculty
    Title : As Representative Of The Imaginative Faculty
  • O,OU,OUT
    Title : O,OU,OUT
  • The Back Of The Front
    Title : The Back Of The Front
  • The Offer Up
    Title : The Offer Up
  • The Problem
    Title : The Problem
  • The Projectionist's Shadow
    Title : The Projectionist's Shadow
  • The Model Of The Dialogue
    Title : The Model Of The Dialogue
  • ThoughtForms(install)Noisy1
    Title : ThoughtForms(install)Noisy1
  • What If I Were To Make A Sculpture Of Janus' Head
    Title : What If I Were To Make A Sculpture Of Janus' Head
  • portrait
    Title : portrait

Kit Craig artist profile by Eleanor Nairne

Kit Craig has a way with words. His work titles - like What if I were to make a Sculpture of Janus’ Head’ (2010), An Anecdote About Colour Theory (2009) or O, Ou, Out (2009)’ turn phrases into strange receptacles for meaning, like when a word is said over and over until it becomes an unfamiliar object in the mouth. Idioms are visually expressed in a literal fashion: four armoured helmets are joined by a configuration of lines in the drawing A Knight’s Move Thinking (2008). The gesture is reminiscent of Christopher, the protagonist in Mark Hadden’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time (2003), who considers how a ‘metaphor’ is itself a metaphor, deriving from the Greek meaning ‘to carry from one place to another’. This simple idea takes on a profound significance when encountered through the first-person narrative, which offers a glimpse into the thought world of a fifteen-year-old with Savant syndrome.

I wonder how Christopher might respond to the work of his namesake. For Craig’s artworks demonstrate a similar ‘knowingness’ and an ability to convey seemingly incommunicable ideas. What would the boy make of the ordered board of objects laid out for inspection in the studio like the finds from a recent archaeological dig into his mind’ There is a plaster cast of his hand (like the pair that featured in The Offer Up, 2010); a ‘word head’, in which clay letters have been amassed into a palm-sized object with the density of a rubber band ball (like the one dissected for The Back of the Front, 2010); scientific apparatus such as a burette clamp, a pair of calipers and a ruler; and a graphite cast of a picture frame, all arranged into a neat grid’ These items are savant(e) in every sense of the French term - they are learned, they are technical and they are quietly performative.

A poly-linguist of media, Craig translates thought processes into drawings, maquettes and sculptures before translating them again and again until they can exist as free-floating signifiers. He shows me a drawing from 2008 that he has recently returned to, entitled The Model of the Dialogue. Two small black triangles in the bottom left- and right-hand corners converse in an alien register. Three black rods sprout from each hypotenuse, hoisting up two ambiguous white forms. The two ‘products’ of their discussion are in fact the same object, draped in a dust sheet and drawn from two different perspectives. The whole structure is lashed to a plywood block that suggests the precarious balance being struck in this exchange. The work is touchingly evocative of frustrated speech: a model dressed as an object is at the heart of a sculpture forced to live life as a drawing. But it is also enigmatic, with the history of drawing as a preparatory medium used to express the provisionality of thought. As the artist explains, the tension of such works is ‘reliant upon the circuit being left open’.

Geometric lines and grids recur throughout Craig’s work, parodying the supposed ease of communication offered by the mind map or flow chart. The wooden structure of O, Ou, Out (2009), the metal clamps of The Back of the Front (2010) or the steel joints of The Problem (2008) all speak to a technician’s logic in keeping with the meticulous attention to detail in the finish of the works. Indeed, the last of these was structurally modeled on a computer programmer’s chart from the 1980s. Used first in engineering, flow charts were designed to visually express an easy step-by-step solution to a given problem. For Craig, the dated semiotics of arrows, junctions and rectangles seem to stand for our erstwhile attempts to reduce the complexities of life to a series of controllable options and outcomes.

Craig’s practice reminds me of the work of Susan Hiller. The two artists share a particular concern with the museological language of display. For The Back of the Front (2010), Craig extruded an artwork into the component pieces of frame, glass, drawing, mount board and backboard. The drawing was of a ‘word head’ (comprised of individual clay letters taken from titles on his bookshelf), which was then dissected and positioned in cross-sections between each layer. Forced into a lateral relationship with the sculpture, the viewer’s desire for a direct look either at the object, its referent or its drawn representation is continually foiled. The frustration felt is not dissimilar to that produced by Hiller’s use of test tubes, cylinders and glass burettes in which she places the ashes of burnt paintings, each clearly labeled with their title and date (such as Measure by Measure, 1973).

Everywhere the visual language of ‘objectivity’ (the studio is littered with laboratory instruments and old photographic equipment) is at odds with a fascination for ‘subjective’ ways of seeing. Craig has a habit of looking at the world obliquely, and his works require the audience to do the same. In The Offer Up (2010) the visitor is drawn towards a pair of plaster-cast hands: behind is the wooden back of a drawing, the front of which can only be seen in the reflection of a mirror beyond. The drawing turns out to be of the negative space contained within those cupped palms. The work references the great Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi, credited with inventing geometric optical linear perspective in 1425. Drilling a hole in the centric vanishing point of his baptistery panel, he asked the viewer to hold it up to their eye and look at the painted surface through a mirror extended with their other hand.

The Offer Up is indicative of Craig’s practice in that it destabilizes our privileging of the front over the back, the eye over the mind. Like Christopher, he situates himself on a sideline, since an outsider always has a better vantage point of what lies within. The viewer can attempt to compare the space held by the hands to its drawn representation; but with an ‘original’ again denied, they will find themselves looking, obliquely, at the very act of looking.

Kit Craig, born in 1980, lives and works in London, where he is represented by Arcade Fine Arts.

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