Rob Chavasse: OFF SEASON, review by Karl Musson
Anyone presently involved in education will be all too aware of the irrelevance to reality, and counter-productiveness to learning, of the current governmental fashion for measurement and standardisation - an obsession with homogenity disguised as equality. The primary driver of convection is difference, and, refreshingly, ‘Off Season’, a solo exhibition by Rob Chavasse at The Sunday Painter, is a body of work which presents us with visible, and beautiful manifestations of phenomena invisible to us - namely the qualitative effects of difference.
‘Séance’ (2013) uses speakers outside of the gallery to play the sound of a stormy wind. Interestingly, it sounds like wind from a rural place, with no accompanying urban sounds. Already then, we are presented with a different place. The six works, all of different media, stem from a common conceptual starting point - the movement of the earth’s atmosphere. ‘Kola cube Cola’ (2013) is a screen print on a mirror. As a starting point for this exhibition, it reflects us in a cold light, but in a frame of fake snow, which seems to follow on from the wind now audible from outside the gallery. Another litereally reflective piece is ‘Not too clever emoticon’ (2013), in which a rectangular ceramic heating panel is shown to have a strong sculptural presence in the context of a pristine white cube gallery. As much as the use of the ready-made can hardly avoid referring to a lineage which can go back to Duchamp, the effect of a piece of work which feels hotter the closer one gets, can similarly scarcely avoid association with Mona Hatoum. But in this thoughtful exhibition, there is more than the appropriation of the already established.
‘S.A.D.’(2013) appears to unite the two previous pieces both formally, in terms of its use of both ranges of the tonal values of ‘Séance’ (2013) and ‘Kola cube Cola’ (2013), and contextually insofar as the certainties of two hard glass surfaces become resolved in a maleable rubbery surface which can only exist in its legible form because it is supported by steel bars, and is only visible to us because of the light shining through it from a window behind. A theme here is the movement of air currents as a result of temperature difference. Throughout the viewing of this exhibition, the sound of a strong, stormy wind continues to fill the bright, coldly lit gallery. This sense of coldness is the context for the moving air currents caused by the difference between coldness and heat. The visual dynamism of this exhibition, its rich differences with shared aesthetic connections, stands as a strong metaphor for the movement of air currents within the gallery, created not by specific temperatures per se, but by difference. This in turn is a demonstration of the earth’s atmosphere. If one of the cultural functions of art is to inspire people to think, ‘Off Season’ achieves this as a lesson in reality. That lesson being that the things we can see and measure are not what are dynamic. Dynamism comes from difference.