Friday, 2 March 2012

Samantha Donnelly: Contour States – Cornerhouse, Manchester

Starting at the top, the first piece I come across is what appears to be a curtain of masks, hanging, shedding off the wall. The acclamation of dead skin cells and therefore linked to thoughts of aging and deterioration. Thanks to a misreading I pay proper attention to the piece's title, which is: As You Shed Your Beauty We Will Continue To Project. So far, so reasonable.

Moving to another piece, where I'm greeted by an arced partition of corrugated Perspex, only it isn't that simple. Though there's a strong sense of physicality, I'm lost in the adornments. A large nugget floats in the air; a reproduction of the Venus de Milo sits on a plinth strung with a line of knotted elastic bands, two straps stretch from the floor to the ceiling. Two Polaroid's of the sculpture sit on a mirror, reflections on reflections. Oddly after finding out this pieces title Illusions of Supersaturation I begin to understanding what's happening. Maybe the individual objects have no individual meaning but they are reprehensive of information overload, but it hard for me to separate the use of materials with meaning. Or who you read a piece.

Like with the sculpture which shares the space with Illusions of Supersaturation , Contortionist which features tights stretched over wooden poles, along with fleshly lumps of latex growing at the end of tubes. Rightly or wrongly I read it as a piece which references the human body as machine as sexuality, especially female, commodifed.

At some point between seeing these pieces and the other pieces I come to terms with what's happening with these assemblages, and the way I do that is through J.G Ballard. I can feel you rolling your eyes from here. It's while looking at the juxtaposition of what looks like chicken skin and spilt nail varnish, or to give it is proper name: Circular Fictions and Absolute Truths. I realise that these sculptures are not unlike assemblages or collages created by many character in Ballard's fiction. In Ballard's fiction you often find a character who attempts to deal with the influx of contemporary life, or succumb to the apparent psychosis of contemporary life, by selecting random images or to create a new meaning one that is solely their own. The prime example of this would be Ballard's The Atrocity Exhibition.

Away from Ballard I do wonder the paradoxes within Donnelly's work. In presenting work with reflects the fractured and multi layered world is she attempting to point to something outside of that world or is she simply adding to it. I am unsure; on the whole the work has a feeling of things in flux of the possibility of change. To attempt to understand such a shifting a change landscape in which we live in, will always prove problematic and interesting. In having abstracted an already quite abstract world it feels like Donnelly has created a world which is just out of sync, or from a future 5 seconds ahead of us. Where meaning can mean anything.

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