WW Gallery, curated by Breese Little
6 - 23 March 2013
Review by Rebecca Newell
Behind the bejewelled shop fronts of Hatton Garden, WW Gallery presents a less shiny version of the human condition. Curated by Breese Little at the invitation of the gallery, the current exhibition brings together five international, contemporary artists and a set of vintage shots to consider the mechanics and limits of hope.
Six iconic photographs from the NASA moon missions of 1969-72 provide a political, technological and ontological paradigm that sets a context for each of the presented artist’s divergent model of human aspiration. Taking as a starting point that vintage set means that the show has a touch of retrograde about it - or at least, the exhibition-goer carries some nostalgic baggage with them. Of Tom Hackney’s three geometric, gridded offerings, only one is in colour; the other two, like almost all the other artworks in this show, are black and white. Conversely, the moon landings began two years after the introduction of colour television to the UK; technologically speaking, we were hopeful.
Considering the space programme of the ‘60s and ‘70s brings back into focus a romantic era where every child devoured, at their local library, books on space / space travel / the future-in-general with wide-eyed appetite and George Jetson worked at Spaceley’s: Space was the final frontier. At that time, NASA produced a helpful series of lurid illustrations of retro-futuristic space colonies, complete with lush gardens, flowing rivers and even cocktail parties, so wildly ambitious by today’s standards that it’s surprising they made it off the drawing board.
In stark contrast, Rowena Hughes’ textual abstractions and Joe Biel’s large lunar-like pencil landscape reference and distort classical and historical motifs - a broken bust, a cross, ruins, a long-forgotten histo-scientific text from Battersea Polytechnic library. Sam Zealey’s eerie scientific construction of jar, feathers and steel armature reminded me of Joseph Wright of Derby’s ‘An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump’ oil painting of 1768 as though referencing another time and place. In all, silvery-white surfaces are articulated by patches of dark, and each construction betrays a desolate landscape of human abandonment.
‘Sleep Talk, Sleep Walk’ (2009) is a hypnotic, experiential film work that posits an understanding of London as a breathing, humming being, addressing the natural beat of night and day within the fabric of an autonomously beating city - the film returns again and again to monochrome throughout a mesh of voices, movements through space and flow of ideas. Time-lapse technology records the cold isolation of individual workers within an artery-like network of streets filled with traffic and light and auto-piloted states of wakefulness and sleep. For Suki Chan, London is a Brave New World of segregated individuals.
This cleverly-curated show illuminates the outmoded template by which our collective aspiration is still judged in an age when our priorities have changed. Once, we dreamed in Technicolour; now the future is here human aspiration is black and white, as obvious, and earthly, as the ground beneath your feet.