Henry Coombes and Carles Congost: Man of the Year
A successful collaboration is disrupted in order to explore competitive, masculine notions
‘Man of the Year’ takes its title from Time magazine’s popular series (now re-named ‘Person of the Year’), which selects influential and illustrious figures for the iconic magazine’s annual award. The CCA’s exhibition seeks to tackle the notions of rivalry, self-promotion and male domination that are inherent in such awards, focusing instead on their place within the art world.
In the show’s accompanying text, curator Emma Brasó urges us to ask whether the artists, Henry Coombes and Carles Congost, are collaborating in the exhibition or entering into a game of competition.
There are two entrances – one opens on Coombes’ whimsical Rorschach ink works, the other on to Congost’s ‘Bad Painting’ series, which contains both films and acrylic paintings. A tension already exists in the different aesthetics of the artists, which this separation accentuates.
In the third room, two large video projections, one by each artist, are placed opposite each other as if in a stand-off. Congost’s film Paradigm is a slow-motion recording of mute male characters – a policeman and a father and son engaged in an ambiguous exchange that flits from suspense to humour. Coombes is a worthy opponent, though, and his most recent work Two Discs and a Zed plays when Paradigm finishes. It documents a hungry wolf roaming around the National Galleries of Scotland, its silky black fur blurring into the rich Baroque paintings in the background. The scene then switches to the mountainous landscape of the Highlands, where an Iron Age artist (played by Coombes) self-consciously labours over his work.
Whether colliding head-on or exhibiting separately, there is a lack of cohesion between the two artists. Individually, their work is engaging, but a successful collaboration is disrupted in order to explore the competitive, hostile and masculine nature of the art world.
CCA, Glasgow, until Sun 26 Jan 2014.