Marvin Gaye Chetwynd at Sadie Coles HQ

Filed in Reviews by on March 21, 2014

Marvin Gaye Chetwynd

Sadie Coles HQ

11 March to 26 April 2014


Marvin Gaye Chetwynd’s latest offering at Sadie Coles HQ subverts the traditional role of the white cube. No pristine space, with works neatly framed at equal intervals on a crisp white wall. No. Instead, paper print outs, all of different scales, flood the gallery space. To such an extent that initially I wasn’t sure I was allowed in. After dithering outside for some time, wondering if my feigned interest in a nearby expensive carpet shop window was fooling anyone, I stumped up the courage to go inside.

There was paper everywhere. Collages made from black and white photocopies were festooned throughout the space, on A4 paper. Dozens of these were stuck on top of bigger print outs, enlarged sections of the small collages that rendered all the pictorial information down into fuzzy halftone dots. They bring together found imagery of all description. There are images of antiquity, ancient statues, medieval coins and ornate architectural details. There are images of the body, cut and collaged to reveal legs on windmills, or unassuming digital self-portraits of faces, looking straight at you or pulling silly faces. There are images of nature, flowers and butterflies, even the textures of grass, all cut and rearranged to create new narratives.

Serious faces cut out with a whirled abstract background. A naked backside the only view through an old arched stone window frame. The happiness of the face of a statue juxtaposed with another statue conveying angst. I don’t purport to know a great deal about the Canterbury Tales but the use of the faces gave a great sense of the presence of the narrators, telling the stories that the strange, low quality collages were trying to impress upon us. There were more examples than my memory could manage, some hilarious and some beautiful, all seemingly owing to Dadaist and Surrealist collage styles.

Downstairs, the walls and floor were still plastered with black and white imagery. But this time, it was all bats. Small coloured oil paintings offset the black and white images repeated along the walls and floor. Close ups of bats, bats flying in colonies that resemble black smoke against fiery coloured skies, a singular bat as a black dot, flying by buildings or cliff sides. There were Turner-esque skies, Manga style bat qualities and a more straight documentary style on show with Chetwynd’s brush. I felt claustrophobic, in a hot room with no natural light, with no respite from repeated images. It did feel like a cave, one from which I became desperate to escape. On leaving, I felt no clearer about what to make of the bats. It was as though I was missing something.

On reflection, the show presents itself as something that has been left behind, as though the viewer is left with the debris of a performance that has been missed. Renowned for her performance pieces, a show like this that focuses on collage and paintings seems far removed. And perhaps this is why the gestures of performance still exist in the method of display. We are being shown a working process, clearly indicated by the table set out in the middle of the top room, paints and painted papers out, and brushes merely abandoned nearby. For the Canterbury Tales collages, nothing is really stuck down properly. There is no sense of preciousness. For the Bat Opera, the paintings are perhaps not as polished as they could be. Both series of works are presented as finished works in separate publications. Whilst, in all fairness, I prefer the aesthetics of the book, there is a secret guilty pleasure in being able to see the somewhat frenzied way of how they came to be, and this stays totally true to Chetwynd’s nature as a performer

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Ann-Marie Rayney

About the Author ()

Ann-Marie Rayney is a printmaker based in London. Recently graduated from Goldsmiths with a Fine Art and Art History degree, she will most likely be found exploring London's cultural offerings or covered in ink at Sonsoles Print Studio in Peckham. To see some of her work, have a sneaky peak at her website here.

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