It’s better to travel light during hard times. Whether back-packing in exotic climes or taking a walk round the block, you never know what you might find. In the way of tangible totems crying out to be customised.
This is something two very different but opaquely complimentary shows opening at DCA next week understand implicitly. Where Sara MacKillop’s ‘Similar Variance reconstitutes the mundane acoutrements of the filing cabinet and the charity shop to render them even more strikingly meaningless, ‘The Floating World’ by Mary Redmond recreates the sights and sounds of Asia with a distinctly personal sculptural remoulding using textiles, corrugated iron and what she evocatively dubs ‘chunky wood.’ Colour too is crucial to Redmond’s constructions as well as a sense of place.
“There’s a green I call Asia Green,” she says, “because it’s as if someoner’s taken this big pot of green paint and covered the place. I also use lots of textiles that I’ve dyed indigo, which was really popular in anciernt Japan. It’s an ancient dye, and it interests me that it’s used so widely and is a cheap and available material.”
The result of this is a bashed together and bent out of shape series of constructions that capture the essence of ancient Asia without ever being specifically defined. While MacKillop’s approach similarly recontextualises the familiar, her source materials are far closer to home.
“I’m interested in the various differences in manufactutred objects,” she says of her various charity shop finds that include wallpaper offcuts that give off beige-tinged oh-so-slow op-art effects, unravelled receipt rolls, ten inch vinyl records stuffed into twelve inch sleeves and artists books of envelopes. “It’s like with music formats. Things moved from eight track cartridges and casettes to things that kept on getting bigger like laser discs. Now with downloads there no physical object at all for music, so records become something sculptural. Jigsaws as well, if you turn them upside down they have a different quality, because you can see how they were cut.”
While MacKillop originally trained as a painter, Redmond is a graduate of Glasgow School of Art’s wide-ranging Environmental Art course. Both have exhibited widely, and while their DCA shows are housed in separate spaces, both seem to capture a DIY, things-to-make-and-do aesthetic that chimes with the current air of austerity.
“I suppose on the whole what I’m interested in is purposeless activity,” says MacKillop. “So you might work in an office, then at lunchtime find yourself wandering into secondhand bookshops and record shops. Mine is a really distracted practice. There’s not a lot of pre-determination in what I do. I just become interested in things in daily life, and tend to notice things while I’m doing something else.”
For Redmond, the blurring of natural and more constructed elements she sees as “something ordinary made strange. It just solidifies my kind of language. A lot of it has an unrealness to it. I like finding objects, and making something with them that’s as if I’m working between the reality of things and the imagination."
Sara MacKillop - Similar Variance / Mary Redmond - The Floating World; Dundee Contemporary Arts, August 21st-October 10th
The List, August 2010