Contemporary Art Society, 59 Central Street, London EC1V 3AF

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Contemporary Art Society Displays - Louisa Fairclough
13 February - 1 March 2013
Review by Leela Clarke

Following hot on the heels of 2012 Turner prize winner Elizabeth Price’s video work ‘User Group Disco’ (2009), British artist Louisa Fairclough’s 16mm film projection ‘Bore Song’ (2011) signals the second of the Contemporary Art Society’s new series of monthly Displays. This new initiative provides a platform to showcase artworks which the Contemporary Art Society have donated to museums and public galleries across the UK, and supported by a programme of talks, it also allows for a range of important recent works to receive the attention they deserve.

Situated beneath sleek new offices in Old Street, designed and purpose-built by Carmody Groarke (award-winning architectural studio also responsible for Frieze Art Fair), Fairclough’s intimate work ‘Bore Song’, displayed alongside related drawings, is sympathetic to the petit basement exhibition space. Recently donated to Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, ‘Bore Song’ relates to the Severn Bore; a regularly occurring natural phenomenon whereby a large tidal wave surges up the estuary of the River Severn in Gloucestershire. A 16mm film loop, suspended vertically from a floor-based projector to the ceiling projects onto a small piece of float glass. On this frosty screen is an ethereal image of a woman in profile by the river and as the ripples of the bore come in, she sings a single note to signal its passing. On a 28-second loop; the time it takes for the tide to pass, ‘Bore Song’ attempts to describe distance, time and emotion in physical terms and on a personal level, the performer’s release of breath onto the tide acts as a metaphor for washing away the artist’s own grief.

The work is part of a wider body made over a period of three years directly on the banks of the Severn and displayed alongside is a selection of related on-going drawings from Fairclough’s ‘Ground Truth’ project. Made at night in the artist’s studio, they act as a testament to and attempt to conjure her moonlit experiences of camping out on the land. Looking not dissimilar to overexposed photographs, these small canvases depict partially erased forms of tents, sleeping bags, kit bags and other less easily identifiable objects emerging through dense white space. Displayed in a cluster, Fairclough’s delicate and in some cases barely there drawings have a lack of fixity; the skeletal, shell-like structures on each one act as a trace of her temporary residence, and the natural materials they are made with - watercolour, gesso and spit - further connect them back to her bodily experience in the landscape.

More good things are set to come from the Contemporary Art Society Displays; from 20 March - 16 April three of renowned British artist Phyllida Barlow’s anti-monumental sculptures, recently gifted to Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery, will be on display along with selected work from the museum’s collection and following that, Berlin-based British artist Ivan Seal takes to the stage.

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