Kate Dove & Victoria Morton (3 stars)

  • The List
  • 13 March 2007

Light and Dark

Alexander Kennedy walks from the darkness into the light and back again, as he searches for clarity in the work of Kate Dove and Victoria Morton

Kate Dove is a sculptor turned animator, who paints. Victoria Morton avoids representation but insists she does not paint abstract canvases. Luckily, this slightly confusing cross pollinated bouquet of disciplines cannot be felt in their work shown at the Tramway, where ‘straight’ paintings and animation fill the large gallery space.

‘This is a joint exhibition with some collaborative aspects,’ says Morton. ‘We share a visual sensibility at points and an interest in musicality. Although the media are different (film/painting) some of the processes involved in making a work are similar.’ Morton creates canvases that are covered in a dazzling array of hues and textures, with areas of intense Seurat-esque patches of contrasting colours, and Kandinsky-like aureoles. Dove uses a more refined pastel palette, creating sparse watercolours and oil on linen compositions that she then cuts up and animates.

The space is split down the middle by a black gauze screen, creating a larger light-filed space and an area of darkness where spot-lit paintings and large projected animated films pull and push the viewer around the hall, through a low doorway. There is a dark, box-like room with a short film by Dove in the first section of the gallery and a ‘Light Room’ in the dark side of the gallery containing small paintings by both women. Confused?

Taken separately, both women show pieces that bear few conceptual or formal developments from previous work. Newness is over-rated, but it would have been interesting to see a novel way of tackling such an enormous show without just making work, well, bigger.

In some of Morton’s larger canvases the scale overwhelms her abilities - the two large diptychs that stand away from the wall on sculptural supporting legs do not totally convince. There are areas of genius alongside the confusion of these gallery machines: the geometric skyline at the top of ‘Compartments for Isis’ and the darker, flatter area - containing what could be read as a prone Matisse-like figure - at the bottom left, for example. When they are brought together and ‘balanced’ with weaker bottom and top sections, our confidence in the work wanes. That said, Morton’s smaller canvases such as the richly toned work ‘The Happy Sex’, and the elegantly dishevelled ‘Physog’ and ‘Untitled’ (in the Light Room) are highlights.

Dove’s watcolours look grimy. Their usual translucency is knocked back by Morton’s unrestrained palette. As usual, Dove’s animations are seductive and witty, mini abstract narratives generated out of details from her automatic watercolour drawings. Some of the decimated source material for these films can be found around the walls (all untitled), detracting from the power of her animation. The two oil on linen paintings behind Morton’s ‘Compartments . . .’ is one of her best, yet it is hidden out of view.

This was always going to be a difficult show to pull together - formal similarities and an ‘intuitive’ approach may not be enough. Ewan Imrie, who designed the space, deserves a pat on the back and a hand shake. The viewer could have easily found themself spinning and bouncing off the walls.

Sun by Ear, Tramway, Glasgow, until Sun 1 Apr

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