Intentional Decomposition

Often focusing on modernist values of architecture, lifestyle and spaces, Alex Hartley’s (b. 1963) work questions the conventional qualities of the present and the expectations that construct contemporary life. Until 16 December, Victoria Miro gallery, London, showcase a major architectural intervention in the waterside garden.

A Gentle Collapsing II (2016), is one of Hartley’s most aggressive interventions to date, representing fractured elements from a domestic  building that has been seemingly exposed to the natural elements. Whilst also depicting a battle between the man-made and the organic environment, the piece also enforces a notion of time. Seeming to have undergone an accelerated process of ageing, the commission suggests a transportation into the future to better understand the fragility of the present. Moreover, the forced construction building evokes  a haunting and surreal reminder that much of our lives are led by a prevalent style or moment in time – which is more than capable of sudden decay.

Hartley’s most prominent project, Nowhere Island (2012), saw a vision come to life after an arctic expedition in which a newly formed island  had been created by a retreating glacier and was tugged to the British coast. There, 1,000s of people joined to form a “new nation.” The artist’s  interest in alternate ways to live together in society has been compounded by his wall-based work. As such, the new show displays  photographic, painterly and sculptural elements, which continue to document the battle between nature and artificial developments, , questioning the way modernist architecture attempts to situate itself within the landscape. This is evident in The chance to be someone else (2011), where modern architecture repeatedly attempts to break down the barriers between the outside world and its interiors.

Comprising multi-dimensions, the merged supports of plinth and frame, for example, further large-scale works present decomposed designs  in front of dense jungle scenery. Narratives of entropy and decay are ever present. Yet, for Hartley, it is also a territory that allows the imagination to roam freely, combining strains of past, future and present to create something new.

Alex Hartley: After you Left, runs until 16 December at Victoria Miro, London.  Find out more:

1. Alex Hartley A Gentle Collapsing II, (2016). Courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro.