Beers Contemporary proudly presents Monochrome, a group exhibition with work by ATOI, Simon Belleau and Alain Urrutia.
Shown together, the works create a narrative resonating with themes of concealment, the natural sublime, and memory. Aside from the obvious intonations of black as a predominating colour (or absence of colour), the works aspire beyond trite ideas (black as macabre, black as death) to forge ahead with complex notions of simulacra, art as paradoxical and referential, the image and idea as both macrocosmic and micro.
ATOI, the dynamic up-and-coming pairing of Amy Thomas and Oliver Irvine, have a diverse and indefinite practice that incorporates sculpture, found-object, photography, as well as performance-based installation. For ATOI, this means a mode of collaboration with sculptural foundations, and a relationship to cause and effect, whereby the repercussions of one event are understood as a physical consequence of the previous. Recent developments in their work have lead to an interest in forensic architecture as elastic, constantly responding and acting as witness to its surroundings. Other sculptural and photo-based artefacts characteristic of ATOI's practice operate within a manifesto of 'cyclical reconditioning' - sculpture within live, charged contexts, or agricultural scenarios that have been displaced, dislocated, and deconstructed (both literally and figuratively). The work is typically severe - stark and even brutal - and founded upon ideas of irreversible collision and force. These are ideas based in the real world: the reconditioning of the natural environment, and our own instinctual wonderment when confronted with the physical and archaeological sublime.
Belleau's practice, primarily photographic in nature, looks at ideas of the grotesque within architecture and nature, often staged as the minute versus the monolithic. With Belleau, one finds a delicate approach to nature as both sublime and horrific, where ideas of mortality are contrasted by the progression (or suggestion) of time in the natural world. Belleau's concerns are both microcosmic (the cyclical patterns of the day; a human breath, an fleeting thought), and the macrocosmic (the rotational aspects of the sun; the creation of stalagmites over years, profound ideas when faced with death) but return to notions of growth and decay, life and death. A simple darkened photograph of a granite sarcophagus atop a concrete plinth suggests the artist's affinity for those subtly imposing - even sublime - moments that lay just out of reach of our comprehension: the infinitesimal concept of death, perhaps; or a photo of black stalagmites to suggest the incalculability of the earth and - as humans - our own insignificant minutiae.
For Urrutia, a painter working exclusively with black (as a colour, something applied, exposed?) is a process of concealment and fragmentation, where appropriated imagery provides the basis for the formation of new interpretations from referential (often religious) imagery. Through application, the artist both conceals and removes aspects inherent to the past 'lives' of his imagery, and is thus a process of shadows, an addition of black or white layers. In fact, precisely the procedural question - 'black or white' - suggests polarized processes: that of either subtraction or addition, and what the artist feels we deserve to be privy to as viewers forms the basis for his practice. Not unlike a photographer or filmmaker, Urrutia is concerned with context and composition, and through this destabilization of vision he plays with ideas of collective memory. While this imagery remains vaguely recognisable, they are fleeting, as though performing acts like subtle memory triggers or entirely suggestive, calling into question our process of image recognition and personal experience, truth and fiction, reality and fantasy. As a result, the work feels evanescent - like some historical trigger that remains just slightly out of grasp, lurking beneath some shadowy cloak left there by the artist to obscure our vision.