Street Level, Glasgow, until Sat 22 Dec
The exhibition of photos by Sunderland-based Marjolaine Ryley at Street Level does exactly what we now expect photography to do in the eternally expansive post-modern moment – register and present absence.
Ryley’s photos are taken in the Brussels home of her grandmother; they focus on the flotsam and jetsam that is common to the home of almost every elderly person, stuff that gathers in corners and moves silently over the furniture: pills, tissues and dish towels. The boredom and the kitsch highlights of a suburban household are familiar subjects, but this topic is not usually handled this successfully.
The series of photographs have been taken from the artist’s personal collection, an archive that spans 12 years and records the many times she has visited and stayed with her grandmother. This means that the resulting images are both highly personal and occasionally cold – separating out the old woman’s belongings like evidence from an uncommitted crime. This feeling of ambivalence is continued in the text printed on the gallery wall, where a Kristevian sense of comfort and claustrophobia is expressed to describe the maternal relationship between daughter and grandmother.
This is a well thought-out and formally intriguing exhibition, with abstract images of the edges of curtains, the blank space where a picture once hung and the gold fringing round the base of a sofa hanging beside and rubbing against the body of a very mortal woman.