Review of Sean Edwards: Drawn in Cursive at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff

The Queens Gambit is one of the oldest known opening moves in a game of chess, a positional play where you force your opponent to either accept or decline. Entering Drawn in Cursive the viewer is confronted with a similar decision as half of the gallery entrance is covered with MDF. If the visitor moves forward, they are once again confronted with a wall of constructed MDF boxes down the centre of the room. This wall of boxes acts as a screen altering the architecture of the gallery space. Through this intervention, the visit plays a fundamental role in the transformation of objects into artworks as the viewer negotiates the space.

Sean Edwards takes everyday objects and left over materials and explores their sculptural potential. Through a process of transubstantiation, a discarded object can be imbued with the potential to become sculptural. Discarded off cuts of wood can be positioned to form a house, the manual for the Model 144 portastudio recording desk can become Bruce Springsteen’s 1982 album Nebraska. The work undergoes a transformation through the act of looking and thinking about the potential of these discarded objects.

Edwards positions his work in situ and plays with the history of the building. The space becomes both gallery and studio, whilst mirroring its former use as a school building. The false gallery walls are cut away to let in light through the covered windows. As light floods forming patterns on the parcade floor, the gallery construction is revealed and exposed. Many of the works have a sense of being in progress, not fully realised and open to change as the audience interacts with them. The gallery is usually a space for fully realised works, but Edwards plays with this notion, as the completion of the works only ever happens in the exhibition environment. Differing factors such as the audience participation and the relationship between the work and space determine the exhibitions outcome, constantly open to change.

A 16mm film shows a pair of hands gesturing to imply the act of thinking, sitting and contemplating in the studio. Throughout the length of the exhibition, the film is constantly pushed through the mechanism of the film projector, through this process it degrades until it becomes a shadow of its former image. The studio is constantly referenced throughout, rather than the traditional exhibition essay, Drawn in Cursive presents a visual map of images that link to the work on display. An image of Martin Amis in his studio with a bookcase made from wine crates, a starting point for the wall of crates Edwards has constructed. A newspaper clipping shows a snooker player navigating a table, looking at his next shot from every angle. A script of The Queens Gambit by Walter Tevin exposes the subtle reference. The starting point for many of Edwards works comes from a vast archive of objects, clippings and drawings. The visual map offers a history of the sculptures and opens up a new dialogue between images and the works.

Sean Edwards approach in Drawn in Cursive is purposefully open to interpretation and invites the audience to find ways to navigate both the space, and the work within it. The artist decisions challenge the viewer’s perceptions of the space, and the basic function of looking and thinking about objects. Once the process of looking is slowed down, these discarded objects reveal themselves.

Sean Edwards: Drawn in Cursive, 27 July until 22 September, Chapter Arts Centre, Market Road, Canton, Cardiff, CF5 1QE.

Rory Duckhouse

Image: Sean Edwards, Drawn in Cursive