Visual art: Mick Peter – Pyramid Selling (5 stars)

Visual art: Mick Peter – Pyramid Selling

Deceptive and enigmatic exhibition at Tramway challenges the assumptions of its audience

Mick Peter’s solo exhibition in the cavernous Tramway 2 is at first a little off-putting. There is a feeling of entering a space in the process of construction – perhaps this show isn’t ready for visitors yet. There is only one artwork listed in the accompanying exhibition text: 'Pyramid Selling' is a large-scale immersive installation, all hard edges and industrial materials.

A cast of two-dimensional cartoon people inhabits the space, some of which appear to be working on the exhibition itself. Improbably, two of these insubstantial ‘folded’ figures can be seen lifting an enormous concrete slab. With their apparent silliness, it is these characters that activate the space and lend the show its greater appeal. On close inspection, the figures reveal a less than polished finish, which begs further enquiry as to the artist’s intention for how this exhibition should be read.

This is an exhibition of conflict. While the exhibition shows a scrupulous attention to detail – Pyramid Selling is underpinned by a weighty intellectual foundation, and precision is evident in the sharp lines and careful arrangement of objects – it can also be perceived as deceptive.

The cartoon figures look borrowed or re-appropriated from a different era: they are in fact illustrations designed by the artist himself. The exhibition looks unfinished, provisional even, and yet a huge amount of labour has gone into its realisation.

All of this gives good cause for us to think twice before taking this show at face value – something the artist fully intends. Peter wants to disrupt the way in which we might seek to understand art, and succeeds in shaking us from or complacent assumption that a definitive narrative should underpin an exhibition.

Open: Tue 28 Apr–Sun 14 Jun, noon–5pm (6pm Sat & Sun).

Mick Peter: Pyramid Selling

New sculpture drawing on the 'witty' graphic design of the 60s and 70s.

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