Taking its cue from concrete poetry, ‘Concrete Fictions’ at New Art Projects presents works by Kadie Salmon, Jessie Makinson, Ricardo Alcaide and Ayo & Oni Oshodi, the majority of which have been specially commissioned. Across four semi-discrete rooms, the exhibition seeks to uncover the ways that objects and images coalesce into structures or forms that produce narrative effects.
The first room is dedicated to a number of photographic tableaux by Salmon, also the exhibition’s curator. Highly romanticised self-portraits feature in three large hand-tinted black and white photographs. Set within a domestic environment repeated from different angles, perspectives are subtly altered and spaces disoriented across the three works. The images are evocative of dream-like, nostalgic cinema and the scenes contain a deliberate sense of anticipation, even longing, for an event that will never come to pass. Two further photographs, folded, propped and precariously balanced, depict buildings modelled with throwaway materials. Constructed from the artist’s memory, these works continue to probe the construction of fiction in relation to remembered image and physical space. That each of Salmon’s works is from a series titled ‘PALE YELLOW’ (2015), foregrounds the sense of their role within a larger, open-ended narrative.
Nearby, a sense of waiting also pervades Makinson’s unsettling oil paintings. Female figures in haute couture clothing are positioned in rooms decorated with patterns of seductive, heightened colour. Perspectives are skewed or flattened out. Despite the luxury interiors and clothing, a feeling of mundanity or boredom is palpable. None of the figures look directly out from their frame, rather, repetition between paintings infers an entrapment within each narrative arena. This disconcerting effect is compounded by a lack of discernible interaction between the figures. Three women are seated on a bed within ‘Southampton Way’ (2015), for instance, yet it is as if each were collaged, as if each were alone. Their narrative is impenetrable.
The construction of domestic space is central to Alcaide’s works. Pages torn from luxury interior magazines advertising property in São Paulo are partly obscured by brightly painted blocks of colour in his ‘Intrusion On’ series (2013). These almost aggressive geometric forms undermine the attempted narrative of the photographs, rendering the original focus of each image invisible. These small works occupy political ground, highlighting the problematics of extravagant homes in a country deeply affected by poverty. Alcaide’s ‘Prototype’ series (2012) make the point more explicitly. In his de-saturated colour photographs, clouded with delicate grey-blue tones, are small-scale recreations of luxury apartment blocks in cardboard that parallel Salmon’s fragile model buildings. Alcaide’s models, however, are photographed directly on the streets of São Paulo and the cardboard is sourced from the city’s ‘shanty’ town dwellings. The works are a world away from the fantasy lifestyle of the developers’ advertisements.
By far the most disparate selection of work comes from the Oshodi twins. These draw out many of the exhibition’s interwoven narrative threads. Investigations of intimacy in relation to portraiture and the social are deepened in ‘The Friends Series: F-X and O’ (2014-15). The work, comprised of an iPhone mounted to the gallery wall, purports to show a series of ‘selfies’ of two of the artists’ friends. The presentation of the private portrait in public, via an invitation to swipe through the lives of others confined behind glass, feels uncomfortable and important. Participation is tentative, permission doubtful. The sculpture ‘Crush on You’ (2015), meanwhile, features a pair of found snail shells coated with glossy black nail varnish. Accompanied by the ambivalently handwritten text, #BLACK LIVES MATTER, the almost dizzyingly complex work opens up a host of narrative and contextual possibilities. Questions of identity construction, identicalness, beauty, political occupation and location can be found in the whirl of these tiny snail shells.
That New Art Projects is constructed from four interconnecting rooms looping around a central staircase heightens the sense of narratives beginning, sliding across one another, repeating, layering and repeating. Characters, scenes and props, all fragments of individual concrete fictions, collapse and re-assemble; are propped up and undermined again, just as another set of ideas unfolds.