Consciousness alters the connection to our bodies. Whilst we all must surely inhabit
our physical forms we have to make efforts to inhabit our physicality. We are too
consumed by our thoughts and internalisations of everything around and forget what
it means to be a body in space. However, there are moments when we reconnect to
this ever present but often overlooked part of our being. Some seek this reconnection
in exercise, others in meditation and mindfulness. In all aspects it brings us back to
our physical senses and it is often here, residing in our physical being that we go to
heal. We are able to reconnect to ourselves, departing the shores of consciousness
for movement and presence.
Navigating Blush at ASC Gallery we are taken inside a world based on flesh and bodily
functions: living, breathing, holding, moving and nurturing. We step into a symbiotic
relationship of works that grant the skeletal structure of the gallery organs and the
potential that all life possesses. Blush lends very little of itself to sculptural convention.
It is not comprised of individual works we can circumnavigate and placidly witness.
Rather it is made up of pieces which, while idiosyncratic in themselves, respond and
function together in such a way as to form a greater whole.
Upon entry to the gallery space visitors pass through an archway of pink and
undulating material and immediately encounter a plethora of forms influenced by
bodily function. Sandra Lane’s archway operates as the threshold through which one
enters the body. Like the scientists of the 1966 film Fantastic Voyage one feels as
though they have been shrunk and inserted into a living and breathing organism.
Whilst ASC Gallery provides the skeletal structure the tissue, organs and functions are
embodied within the works of the five exhibiting artists: Johana Bolton, Natasha
MacVoy, Sandra Lane, Giota Papakyriakou and Gloria Sulli.
Reaching around the wall to the right of the entrance Natasha MacVoy showcases an
array of ceramic pieces, all of which have been hung by pegs against a dog legged
and muralled wall. Seemingly worked by hand demonstrating the gestures and
characteristics of the sculptor’s physical engagement in time. MacVoy’s forms are
loosely shaped and could be compared to bubbles of air rising in water or microbes
suspended in a kind of plasma. While they vary in size, form, colour and texture there
is one slightly more literal piece: a rendition of a spinal column with each vertebrate
borne from the artists moulding hand. Regardless, all these ceramic pieces exist
simultaneously between grounded solidity and levitation as well as between image
and object. We are not granted full visual access to their dimensionality but we are
instead incorporated into its sculptural entirety via the angled installation wall that
reaches around our field of vision. Notes From The Margin wraps its presence around
us in such a way that we feel comforted, reminiscent of how it feels to be a child in the
safe presence of a parent, a feeling which endures. MacVoy seamlessly nestles us
further into the exhibition space.
Central to the gallery are the mixed media pieces of Sandra Lane. With her moulded
works atop thin wired supports, ceramic shoes with protruding tongues and pills
scattered across the floor, this is a visceral observation of consuming. Tongues, pills
and an abundance of udder-like shapes (embodying microbial gut life) as well as
edible pastries skewered to her works might summon something of a Freudian
confrontation. Mastication, ingestion and the maternal feeding associated with both
the breast and later solid food might cause one to salivate and then question
themselves for such a reaction. Lane herself embodied her work and these
associations at the exhibition's closing event, offering visitors pastries whilst sporting
an outfit adorned with mammary anatomy more akin to a sow than of a human. This
communion-esque offering charging Lane’s work with motion, something else that
permeates her sculptural pieces. Tongued heels, tetrapods and even the inanimate
pills all seemingly tramping through deep time, or in the case of Gut Flora gradually
melting through it.
Continuing on from Lane’s feast Johanna Bolton observes digestion. Materialised as
one intestine-like piece winding across the floor, a tall helix-like cage and a striped
piece of mattress bound in perpetual expulsion atop a plinth. Reaching out towards
the viewer each segment of Bolton’s ‘intestine’, Pipe Dreaming of Sad Tubes,
responds to the next as it passes whatever invisible matter is within (perhaps even
passing us as we become engrossed in her work). Many of her sculptures allude to
the potential within us to expand and contract with what our body accumulates. Air
Pillar I and its exoskeleton cage shifts between various waistlines, ever gaining mass
and losing it - surprising for a piece which contains void space. As for Soft Edge, her
mattress wrapped and bound together by wire, this body's girth is contained yet forever
harnessing a potential to burst. Here she grants agency to a material whose function
is typically measured by the reception and indentation of another. No longer defined
by the depressions of an external force but rather a presence in its own right. This
becomes symbolic of the power of this all-female exhibition in a time when the majority
of exposure is still granted to male artists.
Gazing upon Gloria Sulli’s Pneuma one finds comfort and consolation. This is much
the same feeling as when one meditates and finds peace in ‘the only system in the
body that can be voluntarily regulated’, as Sulli herself observes. We find mooring in
breath in an otherwise omnipotent ocean of bodily functions, void of any real control
by us. Like Bolton’s wire cage there is a visual blind spot since the inflatable work of
Sulli does not solidify the air but rather brings awareness to its comings and goings
within the parameters of a clear skin of plastic. An otherwise metaphysical force she
contains and releases air without the need to entrap it completely.
Paying homage to the domestic environments we all inhabit as a species,
Papakyriakou uses brightly coloured to mould her pieces which then reside in wall
mounted ceramics reminiscent of porcelain sinks. The energy of a creator's hand
released from the mythologised states of artists such as Twombly, Guston and
Pollock, instead humanised in the motions we all undertake in the most prosaic of
moments. Papakyriakou enlivens the spaces around her work with this realisation. A
handrail leading to a pop-up bar and a key with a luminous tag left inserted in a
doorway; these functional items become transformed by our touch. And what of the
cracks that run through her brilliant white ceramics that seemingly become entwined
with the hairline cracks of the gallery walls; perhaps the veins and arteries of this
As I come to the end of this text the impact of Blush still remains. Each breath is
another word typed. Every subtle movement of the stomach does not go unnoticed.
The veins and sun yellowed skin that wrap my hand make it something foreign,
something new with every passing moment, a heavy and nerve ridden sensation. A
bloodshot eye caught in a momentary reflection exploding with the intricacy and
complexity of the entangled lines of Bolton’s Molecule Rule or Lane’s Lilac Wiggler.
These are works that have visually passed through the same organ it now seemingly
inhabits, suspended and slowly navigating the white space around it.
Witnessing Blush is to witness works forever living and ever consuming of us. We are
in time assimilated into an experiential place of mediation. This is not sculpture that
viewers navigate but rather are navigated by. It is us who become observed and
remain so even after leaving the exhibition space. Visiting this five-artist show one is
granted a heightened awareness of their own embodied form. This is an exhibition that
goes beyond the cerebral and instead invites us to feel.
All images courtesy of exhibiting artists