At Doggerfisher’s 2001 inaugural show Edinburgh College of Art graduate Jonathan Owen exhibited a series of irreverent yet deeply ornate cut-outs from lads’ mags, manuals and books. Menacingly splicing together nuclear armour with penises and car parts, Owen’s prickly teenage craft shocked and delighted in equal measure. The blood of the artist’s imagined persona has since cooled, and while the found images and suburban concerns re-occur here, the sculptural works currently on show suggest that Owen’s punk has been domesticated. Sex, terror and Saturday nights have been muffled by a sense of longing, and an unerring awareness of death pervades these astonishing new pieces.
A series of intelligently installed untitled works – a hat stand, a wine rack, and a lamp – immediately conjure thoughts of the interior’s missing inhabitant. Gradually it dawns that each furnishing sadly belies its bourgeois purpose. The rack is obscured by chains, the stand similarly flattened, and the central piece – a steely ornate cage-like structure – remains door-less and wooden. These altering tropes of restraint are not suggestive of a glossy, dark seduction, but more likely, some red-faced curtain twitching or a bland bout of semi-detached S&M.
Owen’s Prufrockian lament is granted depth and critical perspective by the inclusion of his consummately crafted book pages. Evocative of the increasingly strained relationship between contemporary art practices and the needs of public art commissions, a series of civic-minded memorials have been partially erased, ensuring that the rearing horses only ever ethereally emerge from the page. This is an astute series of works which lays testament to the assured development of Owen’s practice.
Doggerfisher, Edinburgh, until Sat 28 Mar