Planting the Tele - Group Show (3 stars)

Mary Mary Gallery, Glasgow, until Sat 13 Jan 2007


How many artists does it take to make a good group show? One could opt for a witty retort or just say it right out: ten. Planting the Tele brings together a host of art workers in an exhibition curated by Glasgow-based artist Haley Tompkins, which comprises ten artists using film, sculpture, installation and print techniques.

This is a slick little number, pared down, organized and presented with great confidence. But does this strong presence and sure hand reduce the work to one reductive aesthetic? Different voices are flattened in the quest for cohesion, for unity, with the curator-artist’s taste overriding any subtle concepts and philosophies that the works themselves hope to declare. It is hard to make the observation that ‘this show looks great’ into a negative statement, but does it ‘read well’, does it ‘sit right’ in the head rather than just hang well in front of the eye? This is an artist’s vision, where each element is taken as an element in a larger artwork - the show itself. Karla Black’s wall piece acts as an over-large picture plane, with Helen Mirra’s painted palette working as a figure and Joachim Koester’s wall piece becoming a metaphor extolling the virtues and ‘reality’ of the space between the two (between figure and ground).

This could be the point of the show, of course - that work can be freed from artistic intention and the pristine aesthetic and social context - but is it enough to replace these positions with an Archimedean point that now resides in the curator’s hand, ego, subjectivity?

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