Alexander and Susan Maris' The Pursuit of Fidelity (a Retrospective)
A journey back in time in search of truth, faithfulness and accuracy
‘I am in pursuit of fidelity and if I find it in no dearer time would I rather live,’ reads the passage written above two lovers on a 15th century tapestry in the Burrell Collection. The tapestry, reproduced on a wooden board on the gallery wall at Stills, opens Alexander and Susan Maris’ retrospective. The lovers’ pursuit aligns with the artists’, who claim to seek truth, faithfulness and accuracy through their artwork. However, as the inauthentic representation of the tapestry suggests, these goals are difficult to attain.
Alexander and Susan Maris seek fidelity through photography, sculpture, drawing and film. Assembled in the gallery like a scientific archive, it is the formal, museum-like presentation of work in cabinets and cases that suggests the potential to attain ‘truth’ exists, despite the inherently poetic nature of the work contesting otherwise. Collections of black and white photographs dominate the show. Early shots taken from the back of a moving motorbike create an imaginary landscape, while ‘Arbos’, a series of gelatine prints of sprawling bark, are so haunted by the legacy of Joseph Beuys’ trip to Rannoch Moor that they become a mythical, rather than objective, enquiry. The largest series, ‘The Pursuit of Fidelity’, is romanticised to the brink of cliché, documenting the artists’ engulfed by nature upon their travels, much like a work by the 19th century German romantic landscape painter Caspar David Friedrich.
Their investigations leave a lasting impression of ambiguity: myth collides with fact, fiction replaces accuracy and history is continually unfaithful. The only ‘truth’ that resonates is the subjective, illusory nature of art, and as such its failure to ever achieve fidelity.
Stills, 622 6200, until 24 Oct, free.