Corrosive Visions’ aims to reflect on and illustrate the past in the present, but always in conjunction with inevitable decay and change. It will open on Thursday 7th of June 2018 at the Crypt Gallery, Euston Road, London.
The Crypt is one of London’s most atmospheric exhibition places. Built in the early 19th century and almost untouched since that time it is constructed of the rough, harsh brickwork characteristic of that period. It is planned as a sequence of dark tunnels and hidden secret recesses, and this combination of features makes it the perfect setting for ‘Corrosive Visions’.
The show combines the works of two artists: the ‘Corrosive’ mordançage prints by Arepo and ‘Visions’ of sculptures by Julian Wootton.
A collection of prints depict the ancient Tuscan city of Lucca, whose incredible state of preservation throughout history is almost surreal. The walls encircling the ancient town have remained intact since their foundation, even as the city has expanded and modernised. Its monuments still present a series of enigmatic sculptures and inlays whose masterful craftsmanship seems to challenge the passing of the ages. The images featured in the exhibition have unexpectedly evolved from an experimental 16mm short film, La Città del Silenzio. The ‘silent city’ of Lucca is the chosen subject with which to explore the continuous thread of time that links what we have with what will be. This is why the chosen media is film; it will arguably survive the modern digital technologies and therefore challenge the corrosion of time itself.
The analogue feel is reinforced through the use of mordançage: this is an alternative photochemical process that alters silver gelatine to give to selected frames a degraded effect. Eventually, the most altered frames of the short film are blown-up to 35mm and hand printed in limited edition on fibre paper, to effectively create a collection of etchings. Here, figurative and abstract pictures merge to explore the contrast between preservation and decay. Everything becomes quite overturned. Each initial frame is converted into a disruptive chaotic moment; anything can happen now it seems. Quite a startling and violent series of images suddenly appear. That is how change can happen: this a potent iconography for our present times.
Clay is the basic material with which Wootton works but many of the pieces are also comprised of a mixture of media: wood, plastic, metal, cloth. Social and cultural production, literature and even film are also referenced in some of his sculptures: Sphinx and Eloi, from H.G Wells’ science fiction novel, The Time Machine, Nosferatu’s Galleon, inspired by Werrner Herzog’s film Nosferatu, and Klaus Kinski’s performance in it.
Art Brut with its characteristic freedom from any artistic convention, and notions of good taste, has also been a very important influence - as indeed has its frequent implication of profound instability, confusion, menace and violence. Such themes inspire the piece entitled Dionysus; an illustration of an ancient legend, it is a take on a story of transgression, followed by break down, chaos and death. Many of the pieces are manipulations of line and space, which are intended to strike the viewer as labyrinthine; other pieces represent the processes of disintegration and an expression of the ominous. Particular attention is paid to surface complexity, whether that is expressed in textures achieved by combinations of materials, firing processes or by detailed modelling or mixtures of all these elements.
These works display surfaces influenced by the rich textures of corroding iron and other elements. They express a deep interest in the opposition between the negativity implied by the disintegration of structures, with all that that may represent literally and metaphorically, and the fascination exerted by the richness which emerges through the processes of their decay.
Arepo is an Italian filmmaker based in London since 2002. He started his career as an illustrator in Treviso (Italy) and evolved into a video artist creating animated scenes for live theatre and opera productions like Hymnus at Maribor National Theatre (Slovenia), La Fanciulla del West at Opéra de Limoges (France), Rigoletto at Teatro Auditorio in Almeria (Spain), La Traviata at Effetto Venezia and Tremamondo at Teatro Goldoni, Livorno (Italy). In the UK he produced, filmed and edited several short films in 16mm and 35mm including Contemplazione, The Bucolic Land of Peccioli, Sugar and L’Immobilità Trafigge. Festival selection includes Euroshorts, Analogica and Short Film Corner at the Festival de Cannes. His 16mm works have been screened at the Estorick Collection, no.w.here lab and the Cinema Museum in London. Arepo is currently working on his debut feature film The Isle of Life.
Julian Wootton is British sculptor. He began with a degree in Archaeology and Ancient History followed by post graduate work part of which was carried out in Iraq in what was then a relatively peaceful time. Eventually, he became a teacher and a developing interest in ceramics led to evening classes at the Camden Arts Centre and the eventual establishment of a workshop. Teaching followed in an East London school. The enthusiasm and actual giftedness of some of the students was itself an inspiration for the direction which some of his work eventually took. An interest in clay as a materiel to create with and in the history of its use has remained a potent motivation, and influence on his art. However the direction of his work has now moved away from an exclusive focus on clay and is now directed towards the imaginative and limitless possibilities offered by clay in combination with other materials.