Goldsmiths Curatorial Critique

Sinta Werner’s Grey Areas at Nettie Horn

Posted in Reviews by caryncoleman on October 8, 2008

Walking into Berlin-based Sinta Werner’s Grey Areas, her debut UK solo exhibition at Vyner Street’s Nettie Horn, visitors are greeted with a visual conundrum – where am I and what is it exactly that I’m looking at? The 2007 MA Goldsmiths graduate has subtly disrupted the gallery space with the “in-situ” installation, also titled Grey Areas. This built stage acts as an architectural mirror of the room so that when standing in a certain position you feel a sense of grounded place; it simply looks like an extension of an empty gallery. However, it doesn’t take to long for the wave of optical disorientation to hit after realizing that you are not actually visible in this “mirror.” Paying attention to the man behind the curtain reveals the truth: exposed framework, evidence of the normal gallery walls. You realize you’re experiencing a constructed environment. And then everything changes.

Yet Grey Areas is not mere trickery. It’s a transforming of space, reconstructing through destruction. The installation involves the viewer in its visual play by pulling us, through exploration, into ideas of space, time, and placement. Werner’s continued interest in the flattening of the architectural space and the theatrical is evident with this new work; she’s created a stage in which we are both the audience and participants. Of course, discussions of the white cube and breaking beyond it are central to the course of art history. Artists such as Richard Serra and Gordon Matt-Clarke’s “building cuts” uniquely utilize space through division to question our notions of what constitutes architecture and place. Perhaps not as radically invasive, Werner continues with this tradition through her illogical environments.

On a smaller scale, the gallery annex features a new series of collages and sculptures by Werner that further re-enforce fragmentation of place and utilize our ability to identify what it is that we’re seeing. While the installation uses the viewer’s reliance on what constitutes normality, these works cull from our relationship to memory. She continues to dissect images we’re familiar with through photography and everyday elements such as a soap dish, mirror, and a bathroom sink. By literally breaking down these elements and putting them back together in unconventional ways they are simultaneously recognizable and something new; becoming re-constructed relics of memory. For instance, the sculptural work Drill Core IV depicts a partial photograph of a young girl within a broken picture frame integrated with a semi-circle made of bricks and plaster. We have some relationship to the visuals and, yet, it’s unfamiliar as well. It’s this collision of the architectural and the personal that provide the undercurrent to Werner’s work.

Traditionally, galleries and museums function as the facilitators of framing how viewers read and navigate exhibitions. So when the perception of space is called into question, when the familiar and comforting standard notion of the white cube becomes distorted, destroyed, and altered, it quite literally changes the ways of seeing. The art world needs this breaking down of what has become “the norm” into something less easily identifiable. Whether via overt aggressive destructive means or more subtle interventions, the adaptation of how we process art and the institutions that house them is necessary to further challenge what constitutes space and our place within it.

Sinta Werner’s Grey Areas
September 5 – October 5, 2008
Nettie Horn :: 25b Vyner Street, London

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