Last Chance To See, Compulsive, Obsessive, Repetitive, Towner, Eastbourne

Seven artists – Susie MacMurray, Brendan Jamison, Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva, Jill Townsley, Claire Morgan and the duo Henry Seaton have been asked to produce work that challenges the commonly considered belief that repetition is purely a means to an end or a device. Here repetition opens up debates about authorship, failure through repetition and the role of labour.

Compulsive, Obsessive, Repetitive is a group show of five new commissions (and one earlier work) by a group of sculptors who use small scale repetitive processes to create large scale sculptural installations. The common characteristic is the need to compulsively repeat an action – by hand, in a labour intensive and painstaking way – to create a large scale work composed of multiple elements.Presented on an expansive scale, individual elements are transformed through repetition into something more than the sum of the parts. Whether through accident or design the slippages and leakage between each repetition reveal something surprising and unexpected.

In her work, Susie MacMurray questions at what point drawing becomes sculpture, or vice versa, and whether such delineations are meaningful. A new ‘sculptural drawing’ across one large wall of the gallery comprises corrugated hose extruding from the wall, in a piece that is both formal and industrial whilst also unavoidably unruly and visceral.

A new large-scale installation by Brendan Jamison (known for his sugar cube scale models of Tate Modern and NEO Bankside for the London Festival of Architecture 2010) combines elements from the architecture of local landmarks Beachy Head Lighthouse, Redoubt Fortress and the Martello Towers. Tower (2011) is 5m high and constructed from over a quarter of a million sugar cubes, weighing over 500kg. The built structure is surrounded by a sea of loose sugar crystals, rippling in waves across the gallery floor.

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva often endures months of repetitive and nauseating labour in her process. Reoccurring Undulation is made out of 1,100 salmon and trout skin tiles which have been previously cleaned and preserved. The skin tiles are arranged to form an intriguing and dynamic pattern, taking over the full length of the wall, filing the space from floor to ceiling like a tapestry. The light reflecting on the material and its patterns makes further references to its richness and beauty.

In Claire Morgan’s Machine Says No (2007), a wild rat, preserved using traditional taxidermy techniques, is suspended and appears to be falling through geometric forms created from stretched pieces of plastic bag. Morgan is concerned with the process of life and death and the interaction between man and nature, in all its perfection and ugliness. The passage of viewers through the space creates constant and subtle movement.

Jill Townsley’s work is repetitive to the point of obsession. Using common and everyday objects, she strives for a geometric perfection in her process yet knows it is impossible to achieve. Till Rolls (2011) is a large floor-based installation consisting of 9,375 paper rolls, each extruded from its centre to form vertical cones of varying height (up to 12ft). The rolls recall the countless transactions of trade and industry and interactions between individuals. The result is an undulating structure reminiscent of a three-dimensional graph – but no clue is given as to whether the peaks and troughs of this structure represent good or bad results; the paper is blank.

Finally, a new commission by Henry Seaton (Rex Henry and Graham Seaton), known for their interest in the city, its narrative and its built forms, integrates elements of the gallery’s architecture into a field of objects.

Compulsive, Obsessive, Repetitive continues at Towner, Eastbourne until 18 September.

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Jill Townsley, Till Rolls (2011) (detail).