Lauren Gault’s exhibition ‘C I T H R A’ at Gasworks, London, is a show of strange encounters. The installation continues the artist’s interest in the possibilities of materials, using ‘sculptural language as a connective tissue’ for her wider research. Gault poses subtle interventions into the space, encouraging the viewer to crouch and lean, to look to the ceiling and to the floor. The work rarely meets us at eye level. Gault has created an environment on the brink of disruption, the sterility of its whites and creams making the viewer keenly aware of their potential to unsettle its balance. Responding to the ancient statue of the god Mithras sacrificing a bull, as well as the writings of explorer, scientist and inventor Martha Craig, the installation explores the human impact on the environment; the domestication of species; agriculture; and rewilding.
A floor landscape intersperses a chemical garden with miniature cattle; a half-eaten strawberry sits among blown glass flames. Agricultural milk powder is heaped in a corner of the gallery, spilling through a gap in the installation’s carefully constructed Lycra membrane. This white Lycra is stretched over objects that we cannot identify, creating a translucent womb-like structure that cloaks what might be beneath its surface. Referencing the Mithras statue in its triangular shape, a human hand sits on top of the work, beneath it a bolus gun, an agricultural tool used to administer pharmaceuticals to livestock, balancing threateningly on the structure. The space between the tool and its delivering hand is palpable. The skin of Gault’s installation becomes the skin of the earth, perforated by human intervention; the work heavy with the threat of puncture. The jaw of a dog sculpture (one of two in the exhibition) clamps the Lycra where the bull’s throat would be, teeth about to pierce. We almost expect to see roses of blood, seeping from the dog’s mouth to smear the sterility of this womb.
A directional soundscape, composed by Richy Carey, seeps from the gallery’s ventilation system, reverberating almost as a call and response between both rooms. The layer of sound surrounds us and then pulls away sharply, punctuated by silences which leave us in a state of high alert, like the silence after a twig has cracked in a nighttime forest. But despite the pressure of this sound, the gallery’s second space offers a moment of release. Gault has built and installed a second ceiling here, housing vacuum formed acrylic panels; water tanks that filter and refract light into the room. Beneath these panels, we exist in a liminal space - a stretched out impossibility between air and water. It is this sense of fragility, of being on a precipice, that characterises the subtlety of ‘C I T H R A’’s commentary on the ways in which we tread upon the earth. Gault illustrates our human impact without morality but offers a move back to water, back to the wild, as an opportunity to start to seal the punctures we have made.