“With words like smoke” is an exhibition at CHELSEA space that is meant to be seen and not talked about. Curated by ISOBEL HARBISON, this collection of eleven pieces represent the best of things that are just beyond articulation. The phrase “with words like smoke” comes from Samuel Beckett’s ‘Texts for Nothing’ and embodies the idea that a description of some art work is only meant to slip through our fingers as we see it, to take you just to the edge of comprehensibility and then stop short.
Pieces on display came from artists CARL ANDRE, ANNA BARHAM, AOIFE COLLINS, KIT CRAIG, MARCELLINE DELBECQ, FERGUS MARTIN, GYAN PANCHAL, AMALIA PICA, LOIS ROWE, CALLY SPOONER, and RAYMOND TAUDIN CHABOT. Notably, Carl Andre’s Desire taken from ‘Eleven Poems’ featured five sets of three words, all related to body parts (Toe, Breast, Neck), some written backwards and others forwards. Kit Craig’s O, OU, OUT takes the letters painted over one another on three canvases in a wood sculpture and carries on the theme of taking you so close to a literal thing or word but again, stopping short, and denying you any truly understandable meaning.
The giclee print of Fergus Martin, Table is a large print hung on the wall, simply taking the purpose out of the actual table. Clearly worn, the table suddenly becomes lost individually and becomes part of this abstract piece of art. Most notable in the image is the piercing contrast created between the worn-out table and the shiny smooth silver nails piercing through both sides it, which may (or may not) be interpreted as an interesting biblical reference.
And Amalia Pica’s Some of that Colour is the result of dyed triangles hung above a large sheet of paper, allowing the excess to run off of the flags and drip onto the ground, creating a magnificent blend of colour.
The exhibition seems to be well received and has been visited by Director and Producer DAVID GOTHARD, The British Art Show curator LISA LE FEUVRE, Art Monthly’s MATT HALE and Actor DUDLEY SUTTON.
Walking into the space, even the way things are arranged in the small exhibition room alludes to the idea that nothing is direct. Kit Craig’s structure piece seems purposely placed to obstruct your view of others. The works on the wall are not clearly seen until standing directly in front of them and the televisions playing Chabot’s video string of newspaper photos are facing away from eachother. Nothing in this show is as lucid or as concrete as many would like it, but then again it’s not supposed to be. It’s about the sensationalism of sight, sound, touch and the feelings that are projected from each piece, leaving you to wonder what the rest of the message is.
To leave you with a quote, also from the same chapter of Beckett’s book, “I don’t try to understand, I’ll never try to understand any more… I won’t be afraid of the big words any more, they are not big.” Perhaps you too will be satisfied with knowing just enough, but not everything.
With Words Like Smoke at CHELSEA space at the Chelsea College of Art and Design, January 20th to February 20th 2010.
Text ELIZABETH PASQUALE
Photography NATHAN PASK