Helen Marten: Plank Salad
23 November 2012 - 27 January 2013
A solo exhibition by Helen Marten, featuring a new body of sculptural works set within a bespoke installation environment. This is Marten’s first solo exhibition in a UK public gallery.
In her installations, sculptures and videos, Marten plays upon our reference systems of physical stuff and a coding of the visual that establishes our most elemental relationships to the material world. Language and image become stylised outings of error, misalignment or perversion. Using the outlines of recognisable things as shorthand emblems for social activity or exchange, Marten explores what it means to be a human body preoccupied with the status of toothpaste, the floppiness of pasta or the eroticism of rubbish.
Marten creates a symbolic, pictographic landscape where the banal formlessness of informational compression meets the brute force of a more awkward slapstick narrative - at once seductive and ludicrous. Trash is pedastaled, desks are frustrated and chairs libidinous; alcohol lubricates the graphic, and translations of known things are scrambled and rewritten.
Marten revels in what she describes as the ‘speed’ of the materials she uses. Components such as wood, steel, Formica or clay are butted up against elements more commonly found in domestic interiors, or the things you might keep in your pocket or trip over in the street. Materials are used as punctuations of and within surface; snags and seams settle in places where we are accustomed to seeing totalised pictures, and a perishable tea bag is assumed as worthy of content or gravity as a perfectly sealed steel unit.
In a text written by Marten to accompany her Chisenhale exhibition she departs from a consideration of carbohydrate to explore the processes by which matter is transformed through linguistic operations rendered physical. The crisp definition of salad is contrasted with the mysterious gloopiness of other, starch filled foodstuffs to consider the question: ‘what happens to image when substance goes on a diet’’ The ‘plank salad’ of the exhibition’s title conjures an image with uncomfortable physical implications and infinitely dumb, yet comic possibilities.