Historical Futures – Apricot Gallery – The Temporality Of Materials

Historical Futures brings together the work of Blair Cahill, Cheryl Papasian, Necole Schmitz and Alex J Wood at the Apricot Gallery, London. Located off the bustling street of Brick Lane you are greeted by a long, narrow room filled with strange artefacts. Apricot Gallery is housed in the refurbished Rag Factory where you get a real sense of history with its uneven floors and bricked up archways.

Upon entering the exhibition you can’t help but be drawn to the ambitious work of Blair Cahill. These strange mirrored spheres are reminiscent of a sci-fi film; as if they have just appeared from the film Interstellar. On further exploration of the objects you notice a strange pattern emerging, made up of shapes embroidered onto a gauze like fabric. These embroidered patterns look like they hold some hidden communication or data which is undecipherable to the audience. The objects are not only futuristic in appearance, but also in the making process. Cahill used cutting edge techniques to create her artworks such as computer programming to produce her embroidered patterns and digital printing to construct parts of her spheres.

Alex J Wood describes Cahill as the ‘driving force’ behind the Historical Futures exhibition reuniting the four artists after their 2013 graduation from Chelsea College’s Masters in Fine Art, where they worked closely together in the foundry. Moving further into the exhibition you are met by the NASA Discovery constructed out of paper and attached to a bronze parachute. The contrast between fragile and delicate materials, such as paper models, paired up with strong bronze casts can be seen throughout Wood’s work. These works seem to point to humanities own destruction through the artworks slow deterioration over time, paper not being a durable material and the fact that the actual NASA Discovery has now been retired.

On viewing the works of Cheryl Papasian you are met by four alien, organic objects; displayed on four white shelves. These specimens are made up of bronze casts mixed with found objects which were sourced by the artist in Poundland and at the bottom of the River Thames. The work Anemone, Papasian has introduced clay pipes collected from the banks of the Thames where the Palace Placentia once stood, now Greenwich University. It is presumed that these pipes were discarded into the Thames by the visitors to the palace or even by the royal residents of the palace. Her use of these discarded objects conjures the idea that these alien creatures have appropriated them for their own survival and evolution.

If the previous works resemble connotations of sci-fi films, then the work of Necole Schmitz is reminiscent of the Planet of the Apes film, where humans are no longer the dominant species and have become primitive without the use of our present technologies. Schmitz work occupies the back portion of the gallery; it is made up of tree trunks, spiked clubs and clay pots. These pieces are almost tribal and are accompanied by the drums and sounds of the alternative dance group seeping through the walls from next door, adding something extra to the work. The work has a real sense of the handmade, the viewer can picture the artist whittling the wood and sculpting the pots. The notion of handmade and the artist’s investment in the creation of the work unites all the works in this exhibition. On viewing the work you can really see the artist’s intervention and even though they have been apart, there are still similarities within the work of each artist.

Cheryl Papasian states that it was important and felt right to re-unite now after graduation. Reflecting on the exhibition and its themes I feel it is timely due to the upcoming election, when our futures are uncertain and change could be good or bad. I feel it is appropriate for artists to deal with these issues and hope to make some sense out of these unclear and unsettled times.

Words: Jennifer Hawkins Photos courtesy of the gallery © Artlyst 2015 all rights reserved

HISTORICAL FUTURES – APRICOT GALLERY Blair Cahill – Cheryl Papasian – Necole Schmitz – Alex J Wood – Until 9 May, 2015

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