Christie Contemporary is pleased to present its inaugural exhibition with works by Therese Bolliger, Marla Hlady, Samuel de Lange and David Merritt. Each artist in the exhibition stakes out conceptual territory around memory, time, perception and language, with a particular sensitivity to the ways in which material, process and subject become inter-referential.
For Therese Bolliger, whose works often incorporate quotation as a means of investigating the framework of critical reception, and functionally involve memory at the level of resonance, language becomes recontextualized as image, and indexical to specific figures. In the large-scale Walser: I’m not here to write, I’m here to be mad, Bolliger recasts a passage of microwriting by the early twentieth-century Swiss novelist Robert Walser written during his years in a sanitorium, meticulously cut out from the pliable metal screening material that forms the work, accompanied by Walser’s assertion, “I’m not here to write, I’m here to be mad” appearing as text across the bottom of the three panels. Both textual incisions are rendered largely illegible as a result of the moiré effect of the layered screening material, and allude to the fading and reappearance of Walser’s importance as a literary figure across a span of decades, with scholarly attention only recently focused on the deciphering of the collected microwriting. With Untitled (Tacita), Bolliger situates the title of a work by Tacita Dean as a central image, with the typeform figures “4, 5, 6 and 7 leaf clover” cut out across a grid of paper sheets with pale inkwash clovers populating their outer border. Dean’s work references her lifelong collecting of rare clovers, a concrete representation of experience in duration, layered with Bolliger’s memory of Dean’s memory of collecting, presented as a fragile network of paper and excised text and drawing, echoes the links, gaps and imprints that coalesce to give shape to recollection.
Imprint and memory have primacy in the work of Samuel de Lange, in unexpected ways. De Lange’s sustained interest in photography’s mechanical and social histories combine in his PVTREFACTIO series, in which long-expired Polaroid film stock is used to generate aleatory images captured in the negative of the once popular peel-apart film. Whereas the positive and negative components of the film would once have recorded duplicate images, unused for such a protracted period of time (forty years), the aged chemistry of the negative continued to develop to the point of exhausting itself, imprinting an abstract image of growth and decay, sometimes coupled with a faint image of light de Lange shot latterly. Enlarged to reveal the minutiae of the chemical impact on the surface of the negative, the photographs appear almost painterly, with gestural instances and chance forms. The instant image is ubiquitous in contemporary culture, and generally gathers its history in a forward movement, or perhaps more typically, solely has agency in the moment of its capture and dissemination. De Lange proposes a reversal, an instant image that chronicles a durative transformation. By nature, photographs declare a subject—point and shoot—but de Lange subverts subject as decisive view by surrendering its guarantee, instead privileging the photographic process itself, from chemistry to mechanics to representation, returning a picture of time, compressed in the moment of its recapture, expanding into its decades-long process of becoming.
David Merritt’s practice has consistently focused on systems of proliferation, natural and manufactured, making apparent and central that which often exists at the margins of attention. With a material sensibility that conflates the fleeting and the concrete, Merritt’s work proposes a liminal space, where perception and meaning forge a tentative bond, suspended at the point of apprehension. His work is often connected to language for its almost boundless elasticity in context, and the sler drawings are exemplary of its adapted, and often abused, use in the public yet covert propagation of graffiti tags. In practice, these self–given names emblazon opportune walls with a fixed graphic identity and phonetic or contrived spellings. Merritt represents them in a delicate cursive script, flooded with waterborne pigments, effectively refuting the graphic constraint of their origins, while maintaining their attachment to the borrowed and manipulated system of language. The two lead pieces are similarly evocative of phenomena attached to and liberated from systemic infrastructure, drawn from memory. oxide drawing (1) developed out of a protracted study of dissipating nitrogen oxide clouds viewed over the Bosphorus strait. Through the repeated incision of sheet lead, Merritt forms a hovering mass at the centre of the panel, the laboured markmaking resembling a cloud formation, barely there but insistent in appearance. tarashaquq (field) explores the relationship of content to container, with each rendering being sited on a blemish in the lead’s surface, and by process, approaching the seeming randomness inherent in the spread of the plant that it represents, the titular “tarashaquq” being the Persian precursor of the western genus taraxacum, species of which are commonplace on every continent, known here as the dandelion.
Marla Hlady has made sound and its relational, experiential dimensions the central subject of her multidisciplinary practice. With her drawings, Hlady variously diagrams sound structures, pictures sound in energetic, active patterns or gives form to sound’s calculated trajectory through space. While elusive as a visible quantity, Hlady pursues the ways in which sound informs our physical surroundings, and whether kinetic, performative or drawn, consistently articulates its influence and connection to the tangible. With her new series, Untitled (from “The Conversation”), Hlady remarks on how Francis Ford Coppola’s film about surveillance, and specifically listening devices, resonated and gave way to its interpolation in her work. Using film stills as small, inset images, Hlady pronounces from within them sites of listening, circling characters’ ears in the images and drawing radiating pathways and noiseless, dense orbs from their articulation or exteriorized perspectives projecting from the limits of the image’s borders. Collectively, they speak to a furtive readiness to hear, over the mapping of utterance, drawing the line from sound to receptor, delineating Hlady’s ongoing perceptual investigation of sound as a structural system, an invisible architecture that permeates and shapes our experience of any given environment.