‘A wall is there for anyone to make their mark’
Following in the footsteps of previous shows hosted by The Outsiders gallery, Walls sees a return of artist Miranda Donovan to Greek Street. In this presentation of over twenty new works she continues to explore her fascination with walls in her distinctly urban manner.
The first thing to strike is the sheer physicality of the work, which immediately spoke less in the anticipated language of Banksy, than of Richter. Colour was everywhere, scraped across the surface of canvasses that, at first glance, could have been fragments of actual wall.
The initially small works floated somewhere between sculpture and painting and, it was this ambiguity which induced a double take, and realisation that there was something far more subtle and intriguing afoot.
For actual walls these certainly were not, and it is in light of this that the curatorial choice to position the smaller and less ‘realistic’ works upstairs began to become clearer.
This was a show about construction, about paint and the act of painting, not merely an artist attempting to recreate a graffiti-strewn wall in a gallery. The invitation from the outset was therefore to recognise this act of construction, and to then revel in the grades of deconstruction which climax in the larger works.
could be pulled apart,
The peeling, dripping, oozing layers of paint were not just emulating the graffiti, they were manipulating it and melding it into a language that could be pulled apart, weathered and literally excavated. The surfaces were more about the colour and energy that graffiti lent rather than the graffiti itself and, likewise, the ‘deconstruction’ became increasingly to seem like disclosure.
Although, the resin ‘walls’ may have initially reeked of verisimilitude, deliberately revealing them as intensely crafted artefacts (emphasised by the Perspex boxes of smaller works upstairs) impressed a strong sense of the personal relationship between artist and artwork that lacks in the public, anonymous nature of graffiti.
One larger work in particular had such a visceral quality to the paint that it permeated a sense of disintegration ‘happening’ rather than ‘having happened’. It appeared almost to breathe – as if its soul was waiting somewhere beneath the torn surface, whispering its memories and anticipating its next formal shift.
The eternity symbols and circling arrows of the piece ‘Eternal’ were suddenly contextualised. These paintings were a process, materially and formally suspended in time, constantly recycling and remaking, creating as they decayed.
The artist was at the centre of this orchestra, channelling a history of human interaction with a generic wall, into walls that bore her distinctive mark. Through an intensely performative, laborious relationship with materials, colour and space (highlighted by a short video of her working methods downstairs) she was transforming cracks and disintegration into an act of creation.
The paintings themselves became symbols – even more so than the disintegrating signs and slogans of the graffiti – seducing the viewer with their tactility and vigour, even as you were impelled to react against them as remnants of decay.
As one of the titles of the paintings states: ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ and Donovan appeared to be celebrating this fact. The inability to categorize the work as painting or sculpture, replica or artistic impression, canvass or brick work, pointed to a revelry in ambiguity, and in the ephemeral.
Nothing does last forever and it is this, the work seemed to chant, that gives life beauty.
Speaking with Miranda, she affirmed that the pieces were memories of specific moments of encountering places. These moments were treasured due to the knowledge that they would pass – just as the walls would crumble – and were unique because of her individual perception of them.
of the psychology
By reclaiming the walls, she explained, she was announcing ownership to them and preserving them as small insights into ‘the heritage of the psychology of man’.
For her, simple acts – from encountering a wall, to making a mark with a paintbrush – become infused with a gravity that rekindles an aura for an all-but-lost experience.
The viewer comes away seduced – seduced by surface, seduced by tactility and seduced by craftsmanship – and all there was to be seen were walls.
Walls runs until 20th April at The Outsiders Gallery 8 Greek Street, Soho, London W1D 4DG