About a decade ago, it seemed Mark Titchner was popping up in every high-profile group show in London, and this exposure naturally led to his Turner Prize nomination in 2006. He didn’t win, but his popularity remains high, bolstered by UK and international shows.
To mark the 30th anniversary of CGP London – an understated gem in London’s art world – Titchner has been invited to be the first artist to exhibit work across both CGP sites in Southwark Park. Having worked through lurid colour, what is on display is more restrained, definitely more solemn, and a bit monumental.
The main CGP gallery space has three walls taken up with one huge painted work each, which at first gave me the distinct feeling I would not be there for very long. But what appear to be simple, decorative statements soon reveal themselves as masterful explorations of the subtle nuances of language. Titchner had an epiphany by including text in an early painting and noting how just a few words inflected the entire image.
Since then, his work has developed a fascination with the power of text. One of the wall paintings simply declares THE WORLD ISN’T WORKING which managed to have me run a gamut of responses from mild disinterest to obsessive paranoia within a few minutes. A video in another room seems to echo auto-suggestive brainwashing techniques as words and slogans appear and fade, but the effect is, strangely, less than the painted works.
A few sculptures are included which not only play with words, but also materials – minimal wooden text panels are painted to simulate steel plates, a simple act of mimicry that had lots of people at the private view moving in very close to examine the surface. The cool modern conceptualism belies a preoccupation with the classic concerns of representation, perception, deception and manipulation.
Nothing in the central gallery quite prepares the viewer for the installation at Dilston Grove, the second CGP London site nearby. Titchner has collaborated with musicians Alex Tucker and Dan O’Sulllivan (aka Grumbling Fur) on a four channel video work entitled Rose. Commissioned specially for the empty church, this vivid piece is by turns soothing and unsettling, but always spectacular.
Inspired by CIA interrogation techniques, the screens burst into affirmative texts that could have leaked from self-improvement or corporate manuals, lulling the viewer into a soothing, therapeutic haze that hinges on the tension created by a hint of something more sinister. O’Sullivan, Titchner and Tucker, enabled by artist-run CGP, have together created the most enjoyable work I’ve seen this year. On display until 4 May and I can’t imagine it looking better anywhere else, so see it while you can.
Mark Titchner, until 4 May, CGP London, Southwark Park, London SE16 2UA. For more information visit www.cgplondon.org.
1. Photo credits: Mark Titchner, CGP London, 2014.