A subtle light at The Substation Gallery
The pleasant little exhibition seemed tucked away in the midst of the busy city, like a precious piece of jewellery Mothers keep in their jewellery box. The theme explored in this small body of work can perhaps be distilled to ‘human life and psyche’ – expressed with imaginative and miniature domestic spaces and household objects. There are connections with the works by Ilya Kabakov in a romantic and secretive way, and with Joseph Cornell’s ‘art in a box’.
The exhibition will look ordinary, with floor-standing Ikea lamps pointing at country-styled drawers in a rather empty art galley. The secret is opening the drawers to discover a miniature world, viewed through a door viewer, glass or hinged cover; or peer carefully over the side of the drawer to spot a paragraph of text.
There is obvious reference to De Chirico’s paintings in this miniature, imagined spaces, bearing the same metaphysical weight. The miniatures mean a lot to many people. Miniatures are often created to replace the actual object and desire. Miniature model sports cars can satisfy some desire to own the real thing. These miniature re-creations are like dioramas to De Chirico’s paintings, adding another dimension to it, aiding and gratifying our escapes into these mini-worlds.
There is quite a bit of space for imagining. The reference to ‘weight’ from the exhibition title is perhaps an alliteration to the anxiety and the complex relationships we have to our own domestic spaces. Even if you live alone, you will agree with me that the kind of domestic space we have will affect our mood and psyche at work or school. The artist is perhaps offering us a parallel universe through our imagination when we next open the drawer, just like how Doraemon can travel through time in his desk drawer.
For the work nearest the gallery window, the play of light and shade is rather clever. By cranking a pulley-system on the wall, one can shift the position of the lamp that shines on a long table, thereby changing the length of the shadows of the plate. It seems to represent a quick passing of time, just like how the light shifts through our window as the day goes by. It almost feels like an out-of-body experience to be able to see time compressed, or even to dictate time by controlling the light.
I think the feel of the exhibition is just right; even the gallery sitter (the artist herself when I was there) blends visually well with the exhibition, a petite lady typing away on her Apple Powerbook on a ’70s metal computer table in one corner of the gallery. There is a certain lightness to the arrangement of groupings of installation works that seems to provide the viewer with space to ponder, peer curiously into private drawers and imagined spaces.
This is one exhibition worth visiting. Catch it before it goes out.
4 stars of 5
Weighs Like Mine was held in The Substation Gallery from 5–11 January 2006.