“Thus we cover the universe in stories we have lived.” - Gaston Bachelard.
Alex Hartley, After You Left, Victoria Miro
This exhibition of new work by British artist Alex Hartley, included a major architectural intervention in the gallery’s waterside garden.
These new works conjured thoughts of modernism and its legacy, as well as Romantic ideas of the ruin and the picturesque. While modernist architecture has been a
constant touchstone for Hartley, amplified in these works is a sense of narrative, an arrival at a situation of ambiguous cause and uncertain outcome.
Resembling an International Style domestic building apparently abandoned to the elements, the structure and what it appears to portray – a home vacated without explanation, open to the elements, its white rendered walls peppered with black mould rising from the waterline – stands in stark contrast to images of domestic architecture. With its tree ferns suggests an ancient subtropical or temperate landscape, A Gentle Collapsing II looks to have undergone an accelerated process of ageing. It is as if we have been teleported into the future in order to look back at the present or very recent past.
Caught up in these works are ideas of privacy and voyeurism, and the contradiction of
modernist aspiration as epitomised by the glass-walled pavilion giving rise to the desire for boundaries of other kinds.
The work offers poignant reflection on themes of entropy and decay. It is, in some ways, emblematic of a wider collapsing – of ideals or even spirit. This to me is the epitome of a non place ordinary, yet compelling.
A further collapsing occurs between genres. Hartley’s work always encourages us to
consider how we experience and think about our constructed surroundings – through
surface and line, scale and materials, locations and contexts. A Gentle Collapsing II breaks down rigid categories of production, referring as much to painting as to architecture, landscape design, sculpture or even theatre.
Similarly, in a new series of wall-based works in which photographic, painterly and sculptural elements are brought together, the idea of the boundary – between interior and exterior, private and public space, manmade and natural environments, two and three dimensions, object and image – is subject to constant re-evaluation.