Simon Ingram at Vavasour-Godkin
We're going back to December last year.
This gallery insulates itself as well as it can from the chipped
paint of the battered concrete staircase of this oldish High Street
building: far from a cube, but thoroughly white. Inside you can
usually get some of the tougher low-key colour abstraction in town.
In December it was sheets of almost black steel with rectilinear
designs lightly - 30 seconds - etched in with hydrochloric acid.
And a small wood thing at eye-level, which, it transpired, was a
stove for a doll's house. And in an angle of the wall, high up,
a video-loop of hands assembling - with a fumble or two - from a
kit-set sheet said wooden thing. So. Yes, a Ready-Made design (a
These steel sheets are only masquerading as paintings. Or, if they
are to be taken as "works", literally taken, that is, taken home,
they can hardly be explained away over cocktails as if they were
Mondrian's or Gordon Walters'. But seductive they are in a dark,
broody kind of way, unpretty and barely legible, images of desperation
or angst - (oh, yeah?)
The show as a whole is really the work, undermining art as
aesthetic preferences by using an appropriated, ready-made design.
The design proves to be for a surprisingly elaborate production
process, for a consumer-item, whiteware, durable, part of the training
equipment for a very young consumer of the future. Think of the
expenditure of social energy for this admirable end.
Representation is also ironised under Simon Ingram's steely gaze.
The miniature stove, mounted in a cabinet with non-functional drawers,
is represented not in metal but in wood, while the elaborate architectural-looking
plans for it are enlarged grandly and etched into metal.
As with his previous work which incorporated spirit-levels, the
discourse he sets up is elaborated, punning, and deeply indebted
to the Duchampian opposition. As with the 1960's succession to Duchamp,
the setting has to be an art-gallery, usually a dealer-gallery,
which is necessary to it for the production of its irony in respect
of high art. It is, in the end, directed at modernist attitudes
in the gallery-goers, who are the gallery's clients. There is a
problem here for the artist.
His work comes into focus locally as part of a tradition that extends
back to the 1960's and which is still virtually excluded from consideration
by the "histories", i.e. from that sort of canon-making that favours
modernist painting, self-expressive, whether representational or
abstract. There stands official taste and granting bodies with it.