Stephen Friedman Gallery, 25-28 Old Burlington Street, London W1S 3AN
Shapeshift: Sarah Braman, Iran do Espirito Santo, Jim Hodges, Erin Shirreff
9 June - 21 July 2012
Review by Jess Furseth
It builds slowly, the ‘Shapeshift’ exhibition at the Stephen Friedman Gallery. The works, contributed by four contemporary artists, are presented in turn, meaning they may seem disparate at first. Towards the end, however, once the viewer has received input from all four artists, it starts to come together. At that point there is a clear common thread that ties it all together. But you have to wait for it, and see it through to the end.
‘Iran do’ Espirito Santo’s large grey painting is the first work that greets visitors when entering the gallery. It sits directly on the wall, or rather it looks like it digs into the wall, like a three-dimensional structure. A mirror is leaning against the wall, spilling onto the floor, inviting you to come and lean over to see what is at the bottom of the well. The glass is grey, just like the London air on this overcast afternoon, meaning there is little light reflecting back and forth between the two mirror shards today. So instead I found myself staring at my own reflection, slightly slanted as I stood up, taking a step back. Against a white background there is nothing else to look at but myself, my feet shifting self-consciously in the quiet gallery.
Sarah Braman’s works fill up another room, starting with ‘I can’t seem to drink you off my mind’, a plexiglass cube in different colours. Again you can see your reflection in the surface, blurred this time. Braman has said this technique, of colour and plexiglass, evokes the feeling of being inside a car, watching the world reflecting in the windows. As Braman’s audience walks by her piece, what is being reflected this time is us.
In the second gallery space, just across the street, we encounter Erin Shirreff. Her ‘Standing shadows’ are constructed of dark grey slabs, angular on one side and rounded on another, leaning against each other in various combinations. On the walls are photographs of the slabs, again from different angles, printed on bent paper to create yet another perspective. The glass in the frames covering the dark shapes reflects your features as you lean in to study the photographs; the physical shapes on the tables carry traces of the effort that made them, with indentations and fingerprints.
Jim Hodges’s mirror series, ‘The Betweens’ is the final element of this exhibition. Glass mosaics make up these works, either in silver, grey or black. The segments create patterns, but as you approach to look at them, all that comes back to you is the reflected light and pieces of yourself, peering. Try as you might, it is almost impossible to get a proper look, neither at the artwork nor at yourself. It all comes together in a constantly shifting performance, asking you to go along with it; it will be worth the effort, it will be fun.
‘Shapeshift’ is a small yet clever exhibition, constructed of thoughtfully chosen pieces from four artists who complement each other in unexpected ways. The title of the show sums up its theme nicely: this is about, changing points of view, personal opinions and perhaps even misconceptions. Each viewer will take something different from this exhibition, as he or she is quite literally reflected back at themselves in each of the works. We become a part of what we see, and what we take away depends on what we bring to the table.