Modern Art Oxford is currently presenting works by Cork-born artist Dorothy Cross, as part of KALEIDOSCOPE: Mystics and Rationalists, the Gallery’s year-long programme of unfolding exhibitions to celebrate their 50th anniversary. The show Features Karla Black, Daniel Buren, Ibrahim El-Salahi, Dan Graham, Sol LeWitt, Yoko Ono, Amy Sillman, and Dorothy Cross. Cross works in sculpture, film and photography, the artist studies relationships between the physical and the temporal often with quite poetic results.
The shark has been a recurring theme in Cross’s practice for a decade, and here the viewer is met with the shark’s empty skin balanced on a painter’s easel, the underside of the skin has been gilded in precious white gold, below which a thin slab of translucent alabaster that sits in the position of an expectant artist’s canvas, awaiting an act of creativity, awaiting life. The material echoes the once living skin, as it sits above a gallery filled with an assembly of ancient cast iron bathtubs.
Image: Dorothy Cross, Buoy, 2014, Blue Shark skin, KALEIDOSCOPE: Mystics And Rationalists, Modern Art Oxford. Photo P A Black © 2016.
Each of these empty baths form the signifier of a missing body, the invisible weight of which has left behind a gold scum-line where bodily dirt would normally accumulate. The work signifies a poetic temporal passage and the alchemical transformation from dirt into gold, delineating a divide between physicality and time: objects become reliquaries from a past history. The work hovers and vibrates between sculpture and installation. Objects exist in their own universal spheres, as at the same time the viewer is projected into the individual elements, the invisible bodies of those bath tubs become our own.
Image: Dorothy Cross, Eye of Shark, 2014, detail. KALEIDOSCOPE: Mystics And Rationalists, Modern Art Oxford. Photo P A Black © 2016.
Housed within the wall of the gallery itself – creating a relationship with the tubs akin to alter and congregation – is the ultimate in reliquaries: as a disembodied shark’s eye peruses its flock of empty baths. This is ‘an organ of vision belonging to an animal that remains mostly hidden to humans and upon which we often project our fears’. The perception of an ancient, mysterious and feared creature is juxtaposed with the fleeting existence of our own physical presence in the world, displacing water with an equal Archimedian buoyancy. But here fluid mechanics give way to temporal and existential ponderings, as geological time turns the dirt of our Baconian fragility into gold.
About the artist:
Dorothy Cross was born in Cork in 1956. Recent solo exhibition include: St Carthage Hall, Lismore Castle Arts, Lismore, Ireland (2014), Turner Contemporary, Margate and Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin (2013). Selected group exhibitions include What We Call Love: From Surrealism to Now, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Cristallisations – la naissance d’un ordre caché, Musée du cristal Saint-Louis, France (both 2015), Crescendo, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne (2014), and Aquatopia, Nottingham Contemporary (2013). Cross curated the exhibition Trove at The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin in 2014.
Words: Paul Black. Photos: P A Black © 2016
Lead image: Dorothy Cross, Eye of Shark, 2014. KALEIDOSCOPE: Mystics And Rationalists, Modern Art Oxford. Photo P A Black © 2016
KALEIDOSCOPE: Mystics And Rationalists – Modern Art Oxford – until 19 August 2016