FINE THINGS TO BE SEEN
6 Aug – 5 Sep 2010
Curated by Tom Juneau and Ben Street
Edwina Ashton, Karl England, Gabriel Hartley, Eleanor Morgan, Brian Sayers and Rose Wylie
The title has been taken from the GK Chesterton poem 'The Rolling English Road' which concludes:
'My friends, we will not go again or ape an ancient rage,
Or stretch the folly of our youth to be the shame of age,
But walk with clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth,
And see undrugged in evening light the decent inn of death;
For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen,
Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.'
The poem bends pragmatic spirituality to the ancient lyric of the balladeer, staggering pie-eyed towards ‘the decent inn of death’. The mythic drunkard sees harbingers of the next life in the merry, mazy pastoralia of this: there are fine things to be seen, gods in dregs of ale-mugs and monsters in the ditches. The crooked road’s the path to Paradise. Inspired by this vision of rambunctious energy, bowling through time to knit together our sense of ourselves, Fine Things to be Seen presents a bathetic pantheon built from the stuff of intoxication and obsession.
Eleanor Morgan finds cosmic order in the intricacies of arachnid sex organs, and channels Egyptian deity Set, god of trickery and impotence, in her tortoise-headed god. Brian Sayers and Karl England focus on the ordinary objects that mark our passage through life, and in that focus infuse the everyday with the clenched power of relics. Edwina Ashton’s gallery of wonky avatars look on mutely, trying to hold themselves together, while Rose Wylie’s protoplasmic sprites try to look casual in the face of their own dissolution. And Gabriel Hartley’s warped, encrusted loops and fractals look like talismans from a future faith constructed of ancient modernism and the guts of circuit boards.
The thing about gods and monsters is they’re so often interchangeable. We make our gods from the stuff around us, stuff whose ubiquity and more or less constant historical sameness – reptiles and receptacles, twigs and tables – generates a strange spiritual intensity. Things that don’t change now might never. And whether they’re benevolent or not depends on how, and who, you ask.