There were three artists taking part in the exhibition curated by the Platform Arts: Ben Craig, Lucas Dillon and Paul Quast. The following is not a review of the exhibition, rather a brief meditation on some of the ideas raised by Ben Craig’s objects.
This installation view points to a multitude of materials and functions, mostly of objects with practical use, i.e. table, chairs, microwave oven… Craig let them huddle in groups with shared habit, it was not enough to counter the feeling of chaotic display. Until, that is, the objects useful for life receded when my attention focused on an useless object, the one lit up in the centre of the view. Even without seeing the lovingly made details, the assemblage insisted on punching a hole in the chaos, dominating it, challenging it by right – angled order. That in turn became crowned by voluminous weight reminiscent of an asteroid. It is landing on all the small rectangles which hold the construction sturdy and upright.
Craig labeled this shot “a plinth” suggesting that the mass above it is the dominant part of the exhibit, like sculpture on a plinth. Evoking early 20th C effort to liberate sculpture from plinths and pedestal, it directly disputes Brancusi’s conviction. To some degree it undermines its own – the plinth is punctured with numerous absences of matter.
So – in brief, the right angled, carefully balanced order of flat parts, lovingly placed, supports the weight of somewhat amorphous mass. Its volume balances as if on the slim point of contact. Its weight is an optical illusion. Emergency blankets and paint do not weigh much. This dual aesthetics of geometry and of its complete absence creates uncomfortable tension and incongruous humour. Letting the eye to caress the stains of paint, the exact distances between the nails, the joy of tactile surfaces – minimizes the discomfort and in turn, shifts the voluminous blob into the sphere of carnevals/ theatre. Even the look of the plinth provides a comforting link to early 20th C constructivism and De Stijl, thus familiarising the new by paying respect to the old.
Similarly, the seemingly heavy top object appears as an overweight, oversized abstraction, a gestural spill that became three-dimensional nod to abstract expressionism.
The internal fascination with learning from other art continues in exquisitely melodic Twirly.
Found objects are allowed their own previous identity, however, they share the new whole effortlessly and gracefully. Thinking of Orphism? Frantisek Kupka comes to mind.
Craig’s third object announces the source of learning in its title:
However, the discipline of high modernism gives way to informal play, chance allowing the fragments to land where ever. A smile at the chaos, a part of Craig’s creative space, space for work.
Objects arrive and descend, some by chance, some by careful placement, stimulating thoughts about their independence from the contexts they left behind, holding on to the associated memory of their practical function. A sort of variant on the concept of Tracy Emin’s My Bed, 1998 – they carry imprints of living whose particulars they hide. The whole cannot be reduced to enumeration of all its parts, nor to the associations with other similar installations. The interesting layer in this is both the respect to the visibility of each object and severe denial to give out content of each part. The meaning is carried – as it were, in the air above them all – it is my space for work. And even that may not be true – the installation will cease exist when the exhibition ends.
Again, it is the internal fascination of possible being, possible truth, slipping into opposites or just hiding away silently.
Craig anchors his work both in the mundane and in the elite of grand masters of older art. In this he revives the honesty of the medieval journeyman, like Albrecht Durer, who traveled to Italy to learn about painting a naked body from Giovanni Bellini.
You Live and Learn….
Images from the exhibition courtesy Ben Craig.