Exhibition Review: Dust on the MirrorDust on the Mirror, Gallery North, 07 October until 26 October 2011
Taken from issue 1 of Peel magazine
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Dust and mirrors - it might seem that such everyday things would be fairly unremarkable. Yet as soon as the two words come together as dust on the mirror, we begin to understand the evocative and metaphorical potential of both. We understand dust on the mirror as the subtle distortion of reality, as the obstruction of clear understanding, as an almost imperceptible veil between ourselves and the supposed truth of the mirror. The mirror carries connotations of clarity and dust is the residue that makes the reflection murky and dimmed. Yet we all know that most dust is dead human skin - we are ashes to ashes and dust to dust. It would seem that often the thin film that distorts reality comes from ourselves and our own preconceptions. This unsettling thought is offset by the potential of meditation to wipe away the dust of ourselves to reveal a new clarity of vision. Many of the artists in Dust on the Mirror describe their process as in some way meditative. Their actions are inspired by both the need to clear the dust that dulls their motivation but also by the allegorical properties of dust itself and its contradictions, its smallness and its collective mass; its ephemerality and its pervasiveness; its insubstantiality and its impact. The process of clearing the dust must be repeated, or else in time it will return and thicken.
Mirrors claim to be truthful and reflective but can also inspire vanity and obsession and can be distorted or cracked. The physical infirmness of dust is matched by the infirmness of its connotations. Dust can be a dull by-product of life, unsightly and unhygienic, or it can be gold dust or fairy dust and many things in between. The flatness of the work on show suggests not only the smooth, hard surface of the mirror and the lightness of dust, but also the thinness of the separation between ourselves and the apparently clear world within the mirror. As much as dust conceals it also reveals. Dust caught on a surface, like marks made in a painting or drawing, can prompt contemplation of the meeting points between physical fact and allegorical meaning.
This exhibition features art made from something normally undesirable. The labour of converting dust into art is a truly transformative exercise. It makes a thing of beauty and curiosity from a material usually considered to have no monetary or visual value. The work in Dust on the Mirror speaks of slow, considered thoughts and of layers of meaning - dust exists in shades of grey.
The Gallery North show is part three of Dust on the Mirror, parts one and two were held in the Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham, and the ICA, Singapore. The show features work by seven artists, Sian Bowen, James Brooks, Christopher Cook, Susie David, Susan Derges, Chris Dorsett and Sean Maltby.
Image, Launch, graphite on aluminium, Chris Cook, 2009