Tramway, Glasgow, until Sun 18 May
INSTALLATION, SCULPTURE, PAINTING
‘Something No Less Important Than Nothing’ and ‘Nothing No Less Important Than Something’ are the first Scottish shows by Jonathan Monk in a decade, though actually it’s the same exhibition but with two titles. It is also a chance to reappraise the work of an unsung Glasgow School of Art graduate, a conceptualist contemporary of David Shrigley and Douglas Gordon who now lives and works in Berlin.
The old tramlines which carve up the floor of the Tramway’s main gallery space have been lined with gold leaf by the artist. This piece, entitled ‘Golden Lights Displaying Your Name’, seems mainly inspired by a wish to tamper with the building’s interior, although Monk’s desire to make a virtue of obsolescence is reflected in this work. ‘Another Fine Mess Repeated’ is a case in point - one plinth bears a projector showing the titular Laurel and Hardy film, another a record player whose soundtrack the viewer can alter. There’s Abba and Neil Sedaka, dated artists played on an outmoded format, to soundtrack a film made with obsolete technology. Yet still something new has been created.
A centrepiece of the show is the full drum-kit in the middle of the room, another interactive piece with a film of a big band musical playing behind the stool, out of view of the drummer. This is another familiar theme of Monk’s work, throwing definable reality and the abstraction of remembered experience together. Not all of his pieces work quite so well, but there’s an endearing sense of playfulness and a willingness to involve the viewer.