I was happy to see the recent graduate show at Brunswick Arts, Launch 09, curated by Alister Karl, because it contained more work by Carmen Reid. Last year I wrote a review of her exhibition with Beau Emmett at RMIT’s First Site gallery (see my review: Interiors).It was one the outstanding exhibitions that I saw in 2009.
“It (First Site) was an ideal space to respond to with all the quirks of the space, the niches, stairway, vent and general subterranean location, and was an excellent opportunity at that point in time to get out of the studio and create a cohesive exhibition. Some of the works we’d made individually prior to conceiving of the show, while others were made specifically for the space -collaboratively and separately.”
Carmen Reid recycles old household fittings into wall-mounted sculptures. Bathroom fittings like taps, shower pipes, towel rings, and adjustable mirrors are reused in quirky possibilities. Reid is interested in “the potential of inanimate objects to evoke empathy and prompt narratives.”
Although in the Brunswick Arts exhibition Reid is working solo in this show her artistic vision, along with a few reworked pieces from the First Site show, continues to be refined or adapted. Cloth covered electrical cord flows around the gallery, providing connections between objects with the implied narrative of causality that connects the light-bulb to the switch.
There is a playful quality to Reid’s work; there are a few subtle visual puns. You don’t need to know any great critical theory to understand or enjoy it. There is a whole block of metal hooks in all sizes and shapes.
The old materials give Reid’s art an appealing retro style and a fascinating feeling of intrigue. They are from an era of houses retrofitted with modern electricity and indoor plumbing. “Analogue fixtures are all about the body and the impulse to touch.” Telephone receivers and lots of switches are combined in imaginative assemblages. The paper from the ‘memo roll’ along with vacuum hoses and telephone cords extend into the upper floor of Brunswick Arts.
Reid thinks about these domestic assemblages as portraits, “not literally/figuratively, but as a trajectory for the thought process of an inhabitant in the process of dwelling; of habitual responses to fittings etc in the home distractedly mingling with thought.”
Most of Reid’s sculptures are mounted, or installed, on square redgum blocks. These mounts, or plinths, are from old bits of fencing that Reid found in her backyard. Reid sources most of her materials second-hand, or find them lying around. But looking closely amongst these readymade recycled materials there are also casts of light switches, made of candle wax, and cast bronze light-globes. Reid’s main purpose for combining them “is to do with the idea of ‘dwelling’-of slipping in and out of awareness of reality and the quality of things that surround us.” These are surreal works; Magritte’s bowler-hat wearing man would feel at home in Carmen’s Reid’s world.
(Thank you Carmen Reid for your replies to my emails and the photos.)