Philomene Pirecki: Image Persistence
Supplement Gallery, London
22 September - 20 October 2013
Review by David Price
Philomene Pirecki’s exhibition ‘Image Persistence’ at Supplement Gallery seems to propose a paradox: that stasis is durational, and that duration is static. Her works open out into series of iterations that flee from their source whilst keeping it somewhere in view; in parallax or in their peripheral vision. This exhibition presents examples of a number of Pirecki’s ongoing series of photographic and painted works, which are themselves set amongst another pair of works. These are the wall-based installations entitled ‘White Wall, artist’s studio (11: 22, 11: 22, fluorescent light, 6-8-13)’ and ‘White Wall, Supplement Gallery (13: 40, 13: 25, daylight, 7-9-13)’. Each of these walls reiterate, in paint as well as printed posters, photographic ‘readings’ of the works’ titular white walls. In this method (one that Pirecki uses in an ongoing set of works) the colour that the camera offers as ‘white’ is printed out in colour, scanned in a DIY shop and used to originate a custom-mixed emulsion paint, which is then applied to the gallery wall. One might say, then, that a ‘certain uncertainty’ of a past moment is placed into a relatively stable present. The way these walls face each other in the present exhibition makes evident the manner in which Pirecki’s work spans rather than separates the studio and the gallery, and attends to what is present and absent between the two.
Metaphorically speaking, the employment of these works as an environment in which other works exist dramatises the way a given work is ‘set’ within a practice, and the way a work can be read as a moment within a practice rather than as a representation of it. This is a quietly radical sensibility to foreground at a moment in which the self is so subject to performance in the space we call ‘the art world’.
In a more local sense this exhibition is also a subtle staging of the gallery’s own biography, being the first exhibition to take place in its new location. Pirecki had contributed an earlier ‘White Wall’ to a group exhibition (‘Casting Glances in All Directions’, 2012) at the gallery’s previous site. The current exhibition therefore places an invisible hinge between then and now - just as the ‘White Wall’ works place an invisible hinge within themselves: the moment between a wall being photographed and a wall being painted in echo of the photograph. There is a complex cascade of visual interpretations between these moments, but in connecting them the work acts as an institutional light metre operated with great site-sensitivity.
Pirecki’s works, within and without their material beauty, seem to suggest ideas such as these by presenting the viewer with an inverted depth of field. The most ‘material’ work in the show, the ‘White Wall’ pieces, are solid, physical representations of a past moment that is decidedly immaterial, and that only existed as a thought in the (happily) flawed consciousness of the camera. However, the most ‘immaterial’ works in this exhibition (examples of the ‘Image Persistence’ series) are those that take the form of more recognisably certain art objects. These works are immaterial in the sense that they are iterating systems of appearance that relate to other works of her own, namely paintings that are no longer in her possession. The paintings, which appear within these photographic works, are nonetheless ongoing and persistent artefacts. Furthermore, they are artefacts that are deeply ongoing, in that they exist not only ‘somewhere’ (in a collection) but are made re-present, albeit in varying degrees of proximity, with each iteration of the work. They are also placed amongst fields of other image material and physical material, in this instance displayed as colour duraclear layers that sit upon each other in translucence.
A distant, echoing analogy might be made in this regard to philosophical work such as Heidegger’s Parminedes, in which a dual retrieval is attempted: of the concept of truth, and of a poetry that survives only in fragments. The reader of that text is presented with ‘fields of withdrawing concealment’, where the act, space and nature of disclosure is made apparent. The ‘showing’ that is enacted by Pirecki’s exhibition takes place in this spirit; it is a suspended act as well as this act’s resulting display.
The opening thoughts of this review used the word static in the sense of ‘without movement’, but in all the idea-chains that the exhibition iterates there is also the other kind of static - the suggestive paradox of the ‘stationary charge’. Molecules fizz and flutter, but remain contained. This is perhaps an apt metaphor for the passages of time and site that Pirecki’s work opens and closes as if by telescopy. The term ‘series’ (a term that must be carefully qualified in relation to this work) has its roots in concepts like that of an ‘idea-chain’; things connected in row, without a specified beginning and end.