Rain, Steam, and Speed
14 Dec 2013 - 15 Feb 2014
Matt Calderwood, Nina Canell, Aleana Egan, Mark Garry, Eva Grubinger with Werner Feiersinger, Ian Kiaer, KAIRO (Holly Herndon & Mat Dryhurst), Thomas Kiesewetter, Hadley+Maxwell, Charlotte Posenenske
14 December 2013 – 15 February 2014
Rain, Steam, and Speed is the title of a celebrated painting by J.M.W. Turner. The painting depicts a train crossing a bridge through an English landscape at the peak of the Industrial Revolution. Turner had travelled on one of the earliest trains and was enthralled by industrial transport and how nature was seen at velocity. These concerns became paramount with the onset of modernity as technology and industry began to shape both the material and intellectual world.
The painting ambiguously depicts two contrasting aspects of the changing world that Turner was responding to. The most apparent motif is the steam engine at the centre of the painting that is speeding across the newly constructed Maidenhead Railway Bridge toward the viewer. In front of this, barely discernable, is a hare fleeing across the tracks. To the left of the painting is an older bridge, adjacent to which passes a small paddle boat. On the far shore, a group of people participate in a traditional dance. Seen through the haze of Turner’s brushstrokes, the dancers appear spectral; it is unclear what Turner’s focus is – the nascent modern world or the receding pre-modern era. The painting itself also reflects on this duality as Turner’s innovative modern style deconstructs the traditional pastoral landscape painting tradition.
The exhibition Rain, Steam, and Speed brings together ten artists, whose works are presented as a reflection upon themes and aspects of Turner’s painting, using the medium of sculpture. Each artist employs industrial materials in the construction of their work, manipulating man-made materials to create a poetic gesture out of elements that appear seemingly resistant and unmalleable. The contrast of the classical painting with contemporary sculpture further underscores the changes rendered to how we live and how we see the world since the painting was produced.
The image in Turner’s painting is pronouncedly ephemeral and resistant to lucid recall. As such no image of the painting is reproduced in the exhibition. Rather, the painting is used as a starting point for an exhibition of emphatic sculptural gestures. The spirit of Turner’s painting resides in the lightness of touch in these works, which mine poetic gesture from standardised industrial materials.
Matt Calderwood’s video Six Sculptures, 2011, depicts the artist endlessly reformulating a sculptural composition using a series of identical blocks designed by Calderwood, each time producing a new sculpture.
Nina Canell’s piece Dead Air, 2013 is a wooden frame with two panes of glass, between which is a white mass which the artist refers to as ‘coagulated air’ – an industrially produced material which is the lightest solid material in existence.
Aleana Egan’s work, She is Always Herself, is an imperfect loop of stainless steel hanging from a single copper nail. The rigid material of the work elegantly contrasts with the flowing form of this wall-based sculpture.
Mark Garry exhibits two works, Susie Barry, 2005, a painted cast of an alert hare, and Afterturn, 2013, a thread sculpture that is suggestive of a hazy optical phenomenon in the gallery space.
Two Friends, 2010 by Eva Grubinger with Werner Feiersinger consists of two Swiss army inflatable rafts over which a polished steel I-beam is supported.
Ian Kiaer’s Kaymakli, 2000-01, combines a miniature card model of a modernist housing unit resting upon a clear plastic bag that has been arranged to resemble a mountain.
Thomas Kiesewetter’s Untitled (large standing), 2012, is a painted steel sculpture. Both monolithic and fluid, the large-scale structure conflates a perception of internal and external surfaces.
Hadley+Maxwell’s new work Of Course, Of Course, 2013 is a wall-based sculpture amassed from foil casts of sections of a civic monument; the work uses repeated motives to build a large, black nebulous mass.
Holly Herndon and Mat Dryhurst work collaboratively as K?IRO. Their piece is an ambisonic audio installation in which a series of intermittent sounds travel through the space, from one side to the other.
Charlotte Posenenske’s (Square Tube), Series D, 1967-2013, consists of a set of modular elements made of galvanised stainless steel, which can be reconfigured to create a multitude of sculptural variations. The work included in Rain, Steam, and Speed has been arranged by Matt Calderwood.