Doubtful Works and Copies
01 February – 26 February 2005
Jane Topping, Rupert Norfolk, Alasdair Gray
Jane Topping‘s paradoxical documents are Janus faced, both conforming to the syntactical codes of language’s grammatical goddess, and subverting her rules through idiosyncratic juxtaposition. Topping proposes to reclaim both the primary materials (the signs and tools) and the pre-existing contexts (structures and cultural artefacts) of the representative canon as her own.
This attempt to reclaim language leads to the risk of its perpetual collapse within the work. Language is presented as a combination of evocative components muddled, not in a deferral of meaning but more as a form of nostalgic reconfiguration.
This potential or actual collapse of meaning is not intended as a Babylonian chastisement. Rather it testifies to the productive reconfiguration of the speech act in its every manifestation. The work is a stage upon which the letters and words stand as figures. The images become props and the whole page a window through which semantic moment is constructed and played out.
Rupert Norfolk‘s work might be superficially diverse, but his carefully selected elements are always patterned by the same flexible logic. Leaves (shown in “Tripping Over a Varicoloured Tangle of Wires”, The Lowry, Salford. 2004) is less a simulation of natural forms than a reinvention of them, the nicks and folds of fallen leaves transformed into oddly geometric wooden shapes. Conversely, Animals records the real distortions inflicted on a number of stylised rubber toys, who seem to be trapped in a hellish artificial space just behind the surface of the paper.
In his drawings and sculptures there appears to be a kind of slippage between the information you are given and what actually seems to be happening. The tension that develops between what is implied and what exists as material, is somehow characterised by each work’s own, purported nature.
Alasdair Gray, Less well known than his literary work, Gray’s drawings and prints show varying connections to his novels, some function as direct illustrations while others hold a more autonomous status.
Having studied at The Glasgow School of Art, Gray continued his practice as an artist doing numerous mural paintings and wrote the critically acclaimed novel Lanark published in 1981. ‘A surreal mural of unsettling images and ideas vigorously coloured with anarchic humour, an epic fable that subverts submission to hypocritical social codes‘. National Library of Scotland.
Nick Evans 2005