Damien Roach review by Maggie GrayDamien Roach
’s art encourages a certain freedom of thinking, interpretation and association. In an early investigative nose around his website, I was struck for example by a collection of collages in which unlikely images were lightly and cleverly brought together. A surfer rode a wave over the crest of a dusty crater in one; archaeologists dug, happily oblivious, into an overhanging cliff in another. Roach shows how, with a bit of deft rearrangement, we can see the world imaginatively again.
There is a great deal of reimagining in Roach’s latest collage of a show. Shiiin, Jet Stream, White earphones at the David Roberts Art Foundation makes eclectic and unexpected connections at every turn. Damien Roach‘s own works, new and old, are displayed alongside art from the Foundation collection, items of furniture and design, garden ornaments and (at intervals) music, talks, discussions and drinks. This is a show intended to take the most basic elements of exhibition - space and time - and to reconsider their combined potential. We are obliged, as visitors, to engage on exactly those terms. This is a show that is impossible to observe in passing or from a distance.
There is something surprisingly refreshing about entering a gallery and not knowing quite where to tread. Once inside the door, the path to the first picture (not a Roach work at all but a Bridget Riley) is broken by squares of slate pebbled flooring which you can either stomp over or tiptoe around. Beyond that, the way is partly blocked by a series of transparent coloured screens, which let you see straight through to more works before forcing you into a more circuitous approach. Throughout, you have to negotiate the space and take time to discover the works within it. Items are grouped onto shelf-like ‘modular units,’ with those on the lower levels only emerging when you get up close or at a strange angle. Other works change as you move around them. One mural can only be fully viewed from a single, awkward spot in the corner where the painted pillar exactly aligns with the painted wall behind it. Downstairs, two projectors cast their images over the same wall-space. Move in front of one projector, and the other image becomes clear; take a step to the side, and you reveal the second; move away, and the two images coalesce again, indistinct. Other effects, such as the subtle play of coloured lights on the white walls, creep up on you more slowly. A series of talks by guests, the occasional presence of the artist, and the introduction of music to the space all promise to change the ambience temporarily in different ways.
Individually, Roach’s works already have the power to challenge our perceptions and preconceptions. One painting, Laced, turns out not to be made from paint at all but Kool-aid, LSD and potassium cyanide. A poster entitled ‘Truth’ shows mountains reflected in a lake - until you notice the image is upside-down, reflections and reality reversed. The playfully transformative collages are on display downstairs. But it seems to me that, in this context, their importance is not so much their individual strength as their combined effect. The show is a collage in itself - a dynamic one, shuffling as you move around. Items overlap and interact, bisect and transform each other. Named and dated works of art sit alongside seemingly discarded objects - sweet wrappers, coffee stirrers. There are no labels, but they do offer a list of works which, for a while, I clung to like a good little art historian desperate for details. Before long, however, I opted to do without it for a while. It seemed more important to look closely and look around.
At their best Damien Roach‘s works re-classify, re-present, and re-discover the world around us, with a refreshing lightness of touch. Shiiin, Jet-stream, White earphones does so on a more ambitious scale, forcing us to rethink the exhibition and, crucially, our expectations of one. The space Roach has created at the David Roberts Art Foundation mimics some of our most familiar or predictable spaces - the home, the garden, the white-walled gallery - but teasingly so, shifting and never settling. This intellectual and playfully inquisitive set-up compliments and strengthens the works themselves, and directly engages the visitor, who is after all a central part of the whole project.
Damien Roach, ‘Untitled proposition (JF/B)’, 2009. Courtesy of the artist and Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf
David Roberts Foundation Press Release
For his first solo exhibition in London since 2007, Damien Roach presents Shiiin, Jet Stream, White earphones. This multi-layered project sees Roach continuing his research into modes of perception and understanding, analytical thought, creativity and mental freedom. Beginning by looking at the object of an exhibition in its most simple terms - as space and time - Roach has set about creating an environment in which these two fundamentals can be used to their fullest potential.
Roach employs an ambitious and constantly shifting exhibition design, transforming the gallery into a liminal space between lounge and garden - sites that find counterparts in the most open and public communal spaces (airport lounges, parks) and the most enclosed and private situations (living room, home, garden). Borrowing expertise and problem-solving approaches from disciplines as seemingly diverse as architecture, improvised music, garden design, psychoanalysis, stand-up comedy, Quantum Physics and philosophy, the exhibition space becomes a dynamic site of potentially constructive frictions and a bridge between, or rather a conflation of, both inside and outside, public
A series of wide-ranging discussions, lectures, screenings and events will take place during the course of the exhibition, offering the audience the opportunity to engage with the space more as users than viewers. These will be uploaded here at they become available.
Burkhard Meltzer - Prototype: Furniture in Art and Design
antepress on Wednesday 20th January at David Roberts Art Foundation, London - inside the exhibition project ‘Shiiin, Jet Stream, White earphones’. Deriving from the Greek words ek (out) and phrasis (speak), ekphrasis is the rhetorical trope of ‘description’: a process of writing that verbalises and incites the mental image of something that is visual or non-textual.Full audio recording Listen or Download (Right click and save)
All images courtesy of Sol Archer
antepress was established in 2008 by Julia Calver, Patrick Coyle, Cressida Kocienski, Claire Nichols, Tamarin Norwood and Gemma Sharpe