Incorporating the works by artists: Francis Alys, Stan Denniston, Andy Holden, Ben Rivers, Ugo Rondinon, Maaike Schoorel and George Shaw, Nothing Like Something Happens Anywhere takes its title from a line in Philip Larkin’s I Remember I Remember, exploring the meaningfulness of events in our lives, as opposed to the unadorned fact of living.
Investigating the nearly imperceptible evolution in everyday existence or the ‘slow history’ that lies beneath the surface of culture, the works delve beneath the rapid succession of events on a human scale, to find the slower currents typical of the history of people, relating to their environment, relationships and the structures that shape societies. The history described by Fernand Braudel as an ‘anonymous history, working in the depths and most often in silence’.
Stan Denniston’s nine-channel video installation Los Soñadores (The Dreamers), 2010, reflects the artists continued interest in the boundaries between still and moving image, adopting an uncompromising realism in its almost motionless portraits of sleeping Havana street dogs.
George Shaw’s paintings comprise a sustained enquiry into the nature of time, place and memory and record the mundane and often overlooked. Based on photographs taken of and around his childhood home on the Tile Hill Estate, Coventry, Shaw’s landscapes are at once familiar and unsettling. There is a haunting quality to the work and one wonders if these non-descript, un-peopled places hold bigger secrets that may never be fully revealed; that they act as a rich repository for our own imagined narratives.
Francis Alÿs’ work stems from his interest in the factors that shape urban existence and the innovative schemes that ordinary individuals devise to subvert them. Employing a range of media his practice involves intense observation and recording of the social, cultural and economic conditions of particular places.
Ugo Rondinone’s still.life. (cardboard leaning on the wall), 2009, accentuates the sculptural properties of the everyday The textured surface of the bronze cast cardboard takes on a painterly dimension and in this respect reflects the long tradition of still life, of apparent naturalism underpinned by compositional artifice, and of time suspended.
Andy Holden’s The Cookham Erratics, 2011, a series of six knitted sculptures, are enlarged replicas of small stones and pebbles collected from the churchyard at Cookham, England, the setting for the celebrated painting The Resurrection, Cookham, 1923-7, by British artist, Stanley Spencer. The installation presents a personal archaeology from which a disembodied voice recounts a fragmented narrative. The work equates the movement of a glacier to a narrative act; an erratic being the name for a rock that is deposited incongruously in a landscape as the glacier that has been carrying it begins to melt.
Maaike Schoorel’s minimal paintings inhabit a position on the edge of legibility. Her brush strokes suggest outlines, marks, colour and shadow and invite a particular way of looking that allows the images to unravel over time. Using her own photographs as reference material, Schoorel paints portraits of friends and family, as well as depicting the familiar scenes and activities that reference collective memory
The films of Ben Rivers are rich, cinematic portraits that challenge notions of scale, perspective and stability. Shot on a wind-up Bolex camera, The Coming Race, (2006) features hundreds of people frantically scrambling across rocky mountain terrain; the footage is shrouded in an indistinct haze that drifts over the image to cloud our vision; the groups that populate the film exist outside of conventional time.
Nothing Like Something Happens Anywhere, running until 2nd September, Chapter, Market Road, Cardiff CF5 1QE. www.chapter.org
Credit: Ben Rivers, The Coming Race (film still), 2006. Courtesy the artist