Mary Morgan and Gerard Carson

Mary Morgan and Gerard Carson: A Passing Breeze, Golden Thread Gallery, 4 – 27 July 2013

In the gallery’s project space, an installation of objects by Gerard Carson and of lens-based images of objects by Mary Morgan has been curated by the artist Deirdre McKenna. I have  asked her two questions.

Q 1: The current exhibits – were they made for this exhibition?

Deirdre: The work exhibited by Mary Morgan is a selection of both new and old work. Due to the nature of her practice, access to colour photographic processing required her to return to where she had studied in Brighton. Where she could hand-process her new images. I selected six images, two of which were new works. Gerard Carson’s work is made up of two compositions that belong to two different series of work, one called Package and one called Companionship. This body of  work has been in development for the past 5 months and is ongoing.  

Q 2: I sense in them some echoes of your own art practice – namely interest in things discarded or overlooked.

Deirdre: I think the work by both Mary and Gerard has elements that resonate with me as an artist, in both the physical make-up and the poetic voice of the works. They have very different aesthetic temperaments. Mary’s work has a haunting effect on me, she has captured how light shifts, while working blind (in the darkroom with no safe lights, just darkness). This appeals to me as a process of image-making, and is almost opposed to having visual control as an artist. It makes me think of alchemy. In terms of her selection of content for her images, she is whispering a story that needs to be completed by the viewer, this reflects some of my desired relationships with the viewer and my work. I also think that I’m a bit in love, with her process, very few photographers use this technique which means that this knowledge and skill is getting lost to the digital age.

Gerard’s work has a very different connection to my practice, I find it inspiring and resourceful. The materials he has used to make this work cost very little, and are abundant. He has looked at it and thought,  I see a candy-pink form that will grow from this bit of throw-away stuff. For an artist making work, usually on a non-existent budget, the found object is a priceless pathway to visualising an idea that is in your head.

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G.Carson, from the left: Companionship 2, Package 3, both 2013, note the green line on the wall.

Viewed from the entrance, a massive pentagonal construction with  a wide entrance obstructed the full view of Carson’s tiny multi-coloured cardboard objects on thin pale-blue platforms. A juxtaposition of a robust, rotund, almost wooden volume with saccharine-sweet high-key colours of hand-held scale objects may act as an irritation or / and  as a catalyst for curiosity.

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Mary Morgan, detail from When Nothing means Something, 2012-2013

On an embossed wallpaper, inside the enclosure, Mary Morgan hung a half a dozen of gris en gris images, adding tonality here and there, in uniform frames with plenty of space around the 23 x 30cm prints. The entrance looked through the windows onto the urban traffic. The soft daylight was the ideal lighting – it caressed the visibility while inserting little whispers of surprise. Moreover, it mellowed the whiteness of the wallpaper into the intensifying intimacy of an immersive space. Somewhat dreamlike, inside the embrace of the open incomplete pentagon a complete translation into the otherness of being together with  confidently poetic art mirrored the Dionysian principle. Silence and exquisite compositional rhythms not only banned any banal or vulgar elements, but also evoked a personal emotion. I tend to compare it to that evoked by Scriabin’s sonatas in G sharp minor, not as elegiac as G minor.

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Mary Morgan, detail of the installation of medium format hand processed colour prints, 2012-2013

Yet, the staged still lives were of used make-up tissues, used plate, a ring of hair pulled out of a brush – all banal and vulgar objects. Morgan calls the series  made during 2012 / 2013 WHEN NOTHING MEANS SOMETHING, giving an apt key to the meaning. It is an old saying that creativity is ability to make something out of nothing. She translates ordinary, unimportant, ready to be discarded, temporary values into aesthetic values promising a sort of afterlife in the medium she chose. Not unlike an alchemist, magician or a trickster she conjures up beauty where there was none. Consequently, I asked her to tell how she works, how her images are made.

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Mary Morgan, When Nothing Means Something, 2012 -2013, three out of series of six hand processed coloured photographs, 23 x 30 cm

Mary Morgan: The photographs are made using a medium format camera and from there I work with the negative in the colour darkroom. This is where I begin the process of hand printing which allows me to carefully manipulate and control both light and colour. It is the tactility and intimacy of this process which I feel adds to the presence of the subject.  

The wallpaper  over the corners inside the enclosure effortlessly evokes intimacy of the interior, connecting to viewers’ own homes. It is not an innocent shift away from gallery, in that it revives an older idea of gaze as a power to create intimacy.  The semi-closed interior forms a nurturing space for the photographs that in turn make up an emotional micro-climate of secure existence.  In it discarded remnants may still be beautiful and poetic.  

Gerard Carson installed two floor sculptures, Companionship 2 and Package 3.

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Gerard Carson, Companionship 2, May 2013, mixed media sculpture, dimensions variable

I have asked Gerard Carson a few questions, below are his  helpful answers:

My decision to cut the corners off the thin plinths was initially an intuitive choice. I began to see the plinths as an integral object in itself, therefore I began to associate the plinth with the aesthetic characteristics present in my sculptures. From a wider perspective, I suppose this decision is related to my background in collage, which informs my sculptural practice, where my attention is drawn towards aspects of layering, contour, and framework.

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detail of Companionship 2

The objects that I have produced share characteristics of modernist / post-modernist architecture, in particular post-war Japanese Metabolist architecture. I’m very much interested in the designs of Kisho Kurokawa, whose buildings are comprised of modular frameworks, capsules. From viewing a building such as Kurokawa’s “Nakagin Capsule Tower”, or Minoru Takeyama’s “Ni Ban Kan”, I begin to view it in more sculptural terms, from which I apply these features into my practice. I find it interesting when I view post-war architecture (both Western and Eastern) and its wider references to developments in technology and shifting social patterns.

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Companionship 2 (Package 3 in the background)

I would say that I have a slight difficulty titling my work overall, as I see my work in a more homogeneous sense, where each object, image, painting is correlated to other proximate material. The wall painting is a more recent element in my practice which I first had the opportunity to experiment with at the Golden Thread Gallery. Again this was an intuitive process, but reflected my wider aesthetic and sculptural approach. 

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Package 3 and the green line from the wall painting

At first I  zoomed on Carson’s perfect skills. Elegant machine aesthetics of the surfaces, full control of hard edge, complete trust in high key colours, seem to forge a meaning of clarity, certainty and anticipated emotion.

However, the aesthetics of their appearance is in a stark contrast to the ultimately banal materials underneath, the perishable cardboard that so willingly gave up its usefulness to the toy-like scale and to the memory of sensual hues favoured by J-A Watteau  and  F. Boucher – almost three centuries ago. Carson’s hues evoked not just the sense of sight but also of  taste – all sorts, ice cream, cupcakes…  while connecting effortlessly to  the sophistication of Minimalism. I have in mind the seminal essay by Donald Judd (1965) who started as a painter and ended as a maker of three-dimensional objects. Carson , in this exhibition,  follows the opposite direction. He has made objects with ambiguous function in ambiguous scale and with ambiguous character.

Seen from  above, both series look like models for urban environment, as well as still lives of toys, as well as abstract  geometric floor reliefs. Design, architecture, sculpture and painting are asked to collaborate in a silent deception.  First, they are requested to subdue their own rules and transform the material. Then they are allowed to restate recognisable problems like mass, volume, balance.  In a provocative re-description of what the objects may be, there is no resentment or a fantasy of revenge favoured by the Russian Constructivists, mentioned in the gallery handout as one of Carson’s references. Some want to be real objects,  like a box.

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detail of Companion 2, 2013

Other objects prefer to connect to Alice in Wonderland.

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Package 3, April 2013

Carson’s fondness for painterly values manifested in an exquisite nameless line on the wall of the gallery, a signal of enchantment with hues and with avoidance of traditional terms.

The wall painting – a line and small circles – is, in his view, the most experimental part of exhibits. It emphasizes the connectivity of the disparate objects on both plinths. The two floor sculptures faced a blunt back wall behind and the robust towering enclosure in front of them. The arrangement called for a confident ownership of the space. Walter Benjamin once coined a term thought-image – when new idea becomes visible from the arrangement.

The green line stops the flow of space away from the objects, it defines the embracing corner as their own enclosure, minimal but firm. Instead of a conservative stasis and of  a retreat to circular reasoning the objects destabilized themselves into flexible, fluent constellations of design, architecture, sculpture and painting. They relish their power to create a crisis of traditional identities and meanings. Nevertheless, they are not anxious objects (of the 1960s).  They know what makes us be secure on Earth. Dreams and inventions. Play and skills.

July 2013

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