Sean Edwards: Drawn in Cursive
27 July - 22 September 2013
Review by Denise Kwan
Fragments, absence and seepages characterise the latest show of Sean Edwards at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff entitled ‘Drawn in Cursive’. The exhibition becomes a playground of collected reflections and subtle interventions that reveal the structures that contain experience and expectation. While the gallery is a generous space, the artworks occupy a quiet presence as wooden school chairs are interspersed throughout the gallery; always they are placed singularly in the middle of the room or near a wall, almost lonesome in their individuality. A feeling of dislocation grows further as a filmstrip projector shows a pair of hands pensive and agitated as they continuously rub and pick at the skin underneath the fingernails.
A dusky dry aroma floats towards the entrance of the exhibition that seemingly belongs to a large wall comprised of MDF blocks. Stretching to fill more than half the length of the gallery, it measures almost ten metres long. Bare and unadorned without paint or gloss, each and every block is identical in size and decoration. Despite its barren appearance, they are seductively smooth. Appearing defiant, strong and secured, the wall both towers and stretches beyond the dimensions of the body.
The placement of each block is slightly uneven, teetering on toppling as sharp slithers of light seep from behind. In places, the blocks jut out highlighting a wobbly temperament and a realisation dawns: the blocks are not secured with nails, glue or brackets but are only precariously placed on top of each other. The illusion is broken and the robust object admits a stark vulnerability. The other side of the wall indicates another persona; it is not a wall at all but is comprised of compartments alluding to a library bookcase. Refusing a functional assignment, there is absence of any ornaments or books that might suggest the object usable. As a child might find the cardboard box more interesting than the toy or the cake mixture more delicious than the baked goods, there is an invitation here to appreciate the unnoticed structures of the everyday experience.
Ideas of removal and debris continue to percolate the artworks, and most explicitly resonate through architectural interventions. Objects are removed or quietly introduced to uncover the history and location as doorways and windows become peepholes out of the white cube and into the external world. For example, a door is left open wide in the gallery, but oddly the doorway itself is blocked with cladding while a long length of baton is placed purposely, as though a marker of human presence in an entirely defunct space. Elsewhere, some of the gallery walls are strategically punctured to reveal sash windows, highlighting the history of the building as a former school dating from 1905.
A large photograph of a wooden block hangs on a wall. Similar to the wall-like-library, from afar it appears like a chiseled miniature house but on closer inspection, they are strips of batons cut at an angle and held together with masking tape. Jagged edges and pencil marks give an impression they were originally carpentry off cuts and it lingers that these incidental pieces of baton typically would be binned from the workshop floor. However these disparate wooden scraps have found each other and together they form a rather unusual yet satisfying object.
Perhaps the most inconspicuous artwork belongs in the ‘Lightbox’. To be viewed from street level, the ‘Lightbox’ is a large window space in which artists such as Phil Collins and Maurizio Anzeri have displayed decorative statements. However this time, there is a negation of assertion and instead the windows offer a view over the terraced houses of Canton that is known for its multi-cultural roots and working class heritage. The viewer is encouraged to consider the overlapping of place and the broader context of location whether that is historical or social. As absence avoids didacticism or implication, the action of removal and understated placement becomes a potent gesture. Here the white cube has not succumbed to the pressure to heroically fill space but rather objects within the space act as gentle encouraging nudges to connect the creative activity with a wider historical and social context.