Alison Wilding and Tess Jaray remain two of the most distinctive, talented and compelling figures in contemporary European art, inspiring more than one generation of artists and entrancing audiences for several decades with their respective playful geometries and material insights. Thanks to Karsten Schubert’s thoughtful curatorial eye, this show is economic in its choices and presentation – an extremely elegant show in a rather beautiful new contemporary gallery space East GalleryNUA.
As can be seen from this show at the East GalleryNUA, individually, their works are evocative and often provocative, but in contrast they complement, parry and riposte in ways that aren’t entirely predictable. If one should wish to mark out the common ground it probably is not to be found in the formal precepts and conventions of painting or sculpture, but in a shared sense of mischief in against the same; and to paraphrase the Greek proverb, they are both accustomed to ‘…kicking against the pricks’, if you will. Whilst some works within the show may be familiar from outings at Tate Britain (Wilding’s ‘Largo’ et al.), or R.A. or Serpentine in Jaray’s case, Norwich University of the Arts and Karsten Schubert are especially pleased to be introducing significant new works from both artists within the context of this exhibition.
Further to this, and by way of some explanation, the artists have shown together in more limited ways previously and indeed have published intelligent and insightful commentaries on each other’s oeuvre; Alison Wilding’s ‘Thoughts on an undated page from a sketchbook’, are included in the in the substantial monograph, ‘The Art of Tess Jaray’, (Ridinghouse, 2014), and in her narrative on Jaray we gain an invaluable insight into the practice of both artists and their varying relationships with art history, architecture and perspective. In interpreting Jaray’s work, Wilding speaks about ‘unfixed’ viewpoints, and in a brief - but deeply perceptive moment - offers clues to the perceptual preoccupations of both artists with space and landscape and the conventions defining the visible and emotional limits of these.
Jaray’s indelible depiction of Wilding’s work in ‘The Blue Cupboard: Inspirations and Recollections’ (Royal Academy of Arts, 2014), is a super-articulate foray into the contrasts, tensions and contradictions embodied by Wilding’s sculptures. In fathoming the work Jaray appositely cites Nietzsche’s ‘Beyond Good and Evil’, quoting: “And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you”).
And so to the title of this exhibition, ‘Extra Terrestrial’: This patently is not an homage to popular film culture, but speaks in relation to both artists work, of their uniquely conceptual preoccupations with landscape, perspective and ontological objecthood. The works of Jaray and Wilding occupy physical and reflective space and offer the viewer an intervening layer of realised ‘otherness’, above and beyond either the picture plane or the physiognomy of sculpture –Wilding’s ‘Terrestrial’ being the specific reference in point.
This exhibition is part of the ‘Created and Contested Territories’ research events which are scheduled to take place in the East of England over the next three years, and if the quality of this show is replicated by the remainder of the series, then we are in for a treat.
To paraphrase, this show, visually and conceptually, is something of a ‘jagged little pill’, but it fits so well with this space, I’m afraid it’s impossible to resist: E.T feels like it has come home.