Staff Show: Borders, Crossings and Settlements
The fourth annual exhibition of staff talent at GSA presents an extremely patchy round-up of photographs, prints, and electronic media by a collection of some of the school’s technicians. The show includes work by eight artists: Stephen Jackson, Ian MacFadyen, Aoife McGarrigle, Helge Mruck, Sandy Smith, Harald Turek, Hugh Watt and Kevin Pollock, with most of the work dealing with the theme of home, as indicated in the show’s sprawling title.
There is a strong yet subtle curatorial backbone that holds the show together, and manages to create fairly interesting, if slight, formal relationships between the objects. That said, it was a very bad idea to hang the work of Stephen Jackson in the same place as Shauna McMullan’s who dealt with almost exactly the same issues in her formally similar photographs last year. Sandy Smith’s surreal tree in full blossom, constructed out of different coloured pieces of flimsy paper, feels like it has been planted right inside your brain and seems to spin and float next to Helge Mruck’s ‘Every Picture’, which sparkles with little squares of saturated colour.
Mruck’s juddering digital flick book, which accompanies her print, is one of the most unexpectedly successful works on display. Unexpected because the format – a screen quickly jumping between thousands of sometimes silly images (15 images a second) – usually repels. The work comments on the viewer’s attention span, which rises and falls between a myriad of micro emotions, the banal and sublime moments of the artist’s life reduced to a few brilliant milliseconds.
The rest of the work on show is technically proficient, well finished and concerned with making simple statements. It is difficult to indulge or develop an aesthetic program in a group show, so the work is reduced to propositions and conclusions. Only a few artists manage to get beyond this hurdle and significantly sustain the viewer’s attention. Aoife McGarrigle’s inky landscapes demonstrate a talent for recording and manipulating chiaroscuro, for example, and there are moments of sheer visual pleasure in Hugh Watt’s films, but technical brilliance is not always enough.