Saturday, 17 June 2017

Alien sculptures

There's an otherworldliness to the Ron Nagle sculptures currently being exhibited in the Amended Testimony show at the Modern Art gallery near Old Street in London.

Each of the twenty or so small works on display comprises at least one pocked, sedimentary, blocky chunk suggesting a segment of rock or slab of construction, and most also have an amorphous, smooth, shiny blob dribbling or oozing somewhere on or near the crusty part.

Eight-Track Mind, the piece that most captured my attention, also has a shaft a bit like a tree trunk, of a similar or the same texture as the block - blocks, actually, since there are two in this work:

All of the pieces are otherworldly, but Eight-Track Mind is the apotheosis of otherworldliness, like something seen through a tear in the fabric of the universe.

The ceramic blob, which swells pregnantly and precipitously on the edge of the uppermost epoxy resin block, seems somehow sentient, as though malevolently purposeful.

Meanwhile the shaft, which has a hint of having been amputated, damaged but not destroyed, seems - perhaps because of its grey-black colour and the way it's lit in the exhibition from above and behind - strangely incorporeal, like a projection or digital image. It's an other-dimensional presence in this otherworldly tableau, which is monumental despite its small size.

These two parts of the piece seem to be interacting, or about to interact: the blob radiating a kind of cold menace; the shaft like the embodiment of some mystical force with no say over its own use or abuse.

I've never felt so transported by a sculpture, or been so transfixed - although not actually fixed, since the piece encourages you to move around and view it from every possible angle, to better appreciate the suggestive bulging tension of the blob, the weird, eye-fooling texture of the shaft, and the changing relation between the two as your vantage alters.

I didn't want to leave the exhibition, and after I'd left I wanted to return. It's like Eight-Track Mind really is an alien artifact, able to lodge itself in your consciousness. It's invaded mine.

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