Simon Mullan Tapped into the Power of Grids at His Berlin Solo Show
The core of Simon Mullan’s practice revolves around a simple artistic tools: the grid. Often used as a guide in architectural plans or to correctly render perspective in a drawing, grids are normally hidden from view in the final product. Instead, Mullan embraces the grid as subject matter, using it to form abstract compositions that straddle order and chaos.
“DIE FUGE,” Mullan’s recent exhibition at Dittrich & Schlechtriem in Berlin, showcased the artist incorporating grids for a variety of striking visual effects. Opening the show was an immersive installation created in the gallery’s front space, which Mullan covered with white ceramic tiles and gray grout. While the tile placement didn’t follow any clear pattern, it wasn’t totally random, either. Instead, various patches seemed to represent their own ordered grids, all of them butting up to adjoining, dissimilar grids. Adding to the fray was the occasional slash of a diagonally cut tile. The result was a dizzying, vibrating composition that captured the rhythms of a sprawling grid.
Walls in the back gallery were painted the same gray as the grout used for tiles in the front room, lending a sense of cohesion to the show. Here, Mullan displayed artworks from his “Polaris” series—gridded panels with black instead of white tiles. If the front room’s white patterns created a dazzling sense of openness and possibility, the substitution for black resulted in a more somber, closed-off atmosphere.
Additionally, Mullan displayed several works from his “Alpha” series, which replaced the ceramic tiles with swatches of fabric cut from pilot bomber jackets. The use of fabric led to grids that bend and wrinkle, forming imperfect, curving rectangles. The jacket, meanwhile, offers connotations of war and combat, which might seem out of place in an otherwise formalist show. Yet grids are often used by the military to map, plan, and even thwart attacks, thus hinting at the real-world, politically charged uses of the supposedly simple artistic tool.
“DIE FUGUE” was on view at Dittrich & Schlechtriem, Berlin, Feb. 13–Apr. 2, 2016.