Under a Falling Sky, Laura Bartlett Gallery

Under a falling sky, a group exhibition including works by John Divola, Cyprien Gaillard, Beatrice Gibson, Michail Pirgelis, Daniel Turner was held at Laura Bartlett Gallery. The exhibition title is beautifully brought to life by Michail Pigelis’ Pre (2016), an aluminium window frame, and Kapsel 2 (2012), a fiberglass and aluminium domestic unit taken from discontinued aircraft that have been left to the elements in the aviation graveyards of Arizona and California.

Their years of service seem rather at odds against their restored slickness as they jut from the walls as if cadavers of a socio-historical autopsy. Lying on the floor close by, Daniel Turner’s Untitled (2016) consists of two nickel-plated brass overlapping tubes, corroded and functionless apart from being an exhibit of industrial decay. United by their focus on the afterlife of their materials once their original function has been completed, a peculiar tension arises.

This tension is infectious and leads the viewer to three tall plinths with glass cases. It is Cyprien Gaillard’s Untitled (Tooth) (2016). In each glass case is an eroded excavator tooth. Here Gaillard, along with Pigelis and Turner oscillate in a time of evolution, whereby are they still merely tools of industry that have past their usefulness or are they important artefacts of a bygone time? What is waste to us and who has the right or permission to prioritize a certain object as an important? This is rather interesting when looking at contemporary art, where presently it is being produced in an abundance – are we going to over-saturate and pollute our own legacy due to monetary market trends?

John Divola’s Dogs Chasing My Car in the Desert (1996) edges into a powerful portrayal of humankind and nature. In it, a black dog is seen charging across the foreground in a powerful blur. Streaks created by the landscape create a ripple effect of near-horizontal lines along the animal’s muscular body, creating a sense of speed and the inevitability of tiring out. The viewer is placed in the position of the driver, looking out at the chasing dog. Its fate, whether it tires out and falls back or becomes a martyr, is unknown but its futile efforts against mankind’s desire to conquer the earth is melancholy and tragic. The dog has entered a battle with the driver and car that it cannot fully comprehend makes the viewer feel mockingly foolhardy.

In another series of photos by Divola, each titled Diptychs/Untitled (1983), dichotomies are formed by the image’s contextual ambiguity. In one, a close-up of a dolphin, is juxtaposed by a series of luminously coloured squares in the act of flipping. In another, a fan with a magenta overlay is juxtaposed by an image of an ice cube with a blue overlay. This ambiguity spreads to rather sharp shift in work in the case of Beatrice Gibson’s video Agatha (2012). Based upon a dream by composer Cornelius Cardew, an unspecified narrator guides the viewer trustingly through physical and mental landscapes that exist beyond words. As no words are spoken the viewer relies solely on visual interpretation. In doing so the ability of visual language to exist without definition allows a fluidity to exist and the possibility for redesigning our very way of existing becomes possible.

William Davie

UNDER A FALLING SKY: John Divola, Cyprien Gaillard, Beatrice Gibson, Michail Pirgelis, Daniel Turner ran from 29 April – 5 June at Laura Bartlett Gallery. 

1. Under a Falling Sky  Installation view, Laura Bartlett Gallery, London, 2016
2. John Divola  Diptychs / Untitled 1983 Cibachrome Print, framed 57.7 x 83 x 3 cm
3. John Divola  Diptychs / Untitled 1983 Cibachrome Print, Framed 57.6 x 83 x 3 cm
4. Under a Falling Sky  Installation view, Laura Bartlett Gallery, London, 2016 
5. Beatrice Gibson  Agatha 2012 Colour, sound, 16 mm transferred to HD, Duration 14 minutes