Amy Gadney, Ghost Load at Cecilia Brunson Projects, London

A light box with an almost silent motor creates a movement reminiscent of sunlight dappling through a tree; a door recreated with frosted acrylic, a black ring where the handle used to be, is both wonderfully familiar yet strangely uncanny; a pinboard rescued from a skip, with lights like the soft glow of the horizon, illuminates the path of forgotten ideas and memories. These are just some examples of Amy Gadney’s work in Ghost Load, her first solo show at Cecilia Brunson Projects.

Ghost Load is a new body of work that combines Gadney’s abstract painting with Kinetic art infused with electro-luminescent technology. Her practice is based on the dynamic relationship we have with the materials that surround us. She is focused not so on much the physicality of the objects – although they have a quality that is physical and substantial – but the space the object occupies and the changing nature of our relationship with it.

Amy Gadney - Painting Palettes (1-4)

Installation view close up, courtesy of Celia Brunson Projects

Amy Gadney - CBP

Installation view of light boxes, courtesy of Cecilia Brunson Projects

Gadney works with discarded found objects – post-it notes, cables, painting palettes, pinboards – items with virtually no aesthetic intent. These are objects that sit on the periphery, that have known no use other than to serve and facilitate in the making and doing of other things. Notwithstanding their banal functionality, Gadney has chosen them ‘as they perform in some way’. Through the use of light, movement and optical illusion, the performativity of these objects further enhanced. Some of the materials are visible; some are obfuscated, some are alluded to. Through amplifying their obscurity, Gadney draws out new and unexpected perceptions of life and meaning.

Gadney’s work deliberately refutes easy definition. Encountering her objects is akin to experiencing a moment in another realm – a world that exists between sleep and wakefulness, the conscious and unconscious, dream and reality. In much the same way that we experience vestiges from the unconscious when we stir awake – memories, associations, intuitions and ideas – Gadney’s work prompts such sensations. Ghosts from another world, they are formless yet full of feeling, we grasp at them in before they elude us and slip away.

The notion of ghosts manifests in various ways in Gadney’s work. Take, for example, the name of the exhibition, Ghost Load, a superstition from the theatre, in which a low voltage light of that name is left on at all times to prevent the theatre’s ghosts from injury. Ghost Load also doubles as reference to her own paintings through the term’s two words: ghost referring to the materiality of the work; load to the immaterial, for Gadney reversions her found objects into ghostly replicas of themselves. Using frosted acrylic ‘husks’ or boxes her found objects are remade to the exact dimensions of the original. The essence of the original object is maintained, but the reality of the original materiality is altered; its physicality becomes a mere trace, a memory, or a ghost of the original form. As Gadney notes, ‘these new objects now appear as a reduction of their original form, a ghost loaded with the same air space but also loaded with a new and strange life.’ This subtraction of an object’s physicality is essentially an inverse of the ready-made tradition. In the work the only explicit reference to the original object is through the titles – Stack of Painting Palettes, end of Cable Reel, Shelf Cut Out, Old Pinboard – names which are as prosaic as their components.

The idea of subtraction corresponds to what Alain Badiou, the philosopher, has described as an event. Badiou wrote of an event as ‘That which subtracts itself from the known, from what is.’ Badiou, as did Yve Lomax, the writer, both regarded an event as an experience outside language. For Lomax, the sensing of ghosts or the immaterial is an event, as she wrote: ‘What is already known cannot be experienced as an event; it is the ungraspable presence of the unknown.’

These and other ideas are teeming in Gadney’s objects. They manifest less in an overt or defined way, but in subtle allusions and suggestions fecund with meaning. In Large Door a door is recreated in a frosted acrylic form, appearing as a non-physical manifestation of itself. A black ring indicates the position of the handle. On the inside, the hazy apparition of a cream coloured object is pressed against the acrylic. It is a (barely discernible) latex glove, situated where many hands had once touched and handled the knocker. A string of lights on the reverse creates a warm, welcome glow that is at once eerie. Vague patches of colour, red and mustard peer from the inside, and what appears as a sheaf of papers creates a sense of depth. On the top right sits a curious black mark, seemingly accidently placed, like an unseeing eye. The door is a ghostly presence of itself, no longer functional it is unphysical and ungraspable; it is a beautiful portal to a strange world.

Amy Gadney, Large Door

Amy Gadney, Large Door, 2014, courtesy of Ceclia Brunson Projects

Amy Gadney, Painting Palettes (1-12), 2014, courtesy of Cecilia Brunson Projects

Amy Gadney, Painting Palettes (1-12), 2014, courtesy of Cecilia Brunson Projects

The use of the frosted acrylic as the material of the door acts to suspend our understanding and our judgement. We know it is a door, but it is a door pertaining to the unknown. Like the backstage operator in the theatre, we are both observers and participators in a transient world between conscious and unconscious; a pre-language space in the Lacanian sense. For Lacan, this stage exists prior to the critical mirror stage (the first time a baby recognises itself in the mirror and moves from perceiving itself in a fragmented way to a unitary being). Given that newborns already start displaying thinking and thus assembling the ‘signified ‘in the Saussurean sense of language (the signal that carries an idea to form a word e.g. the idea of mother, even if he unaware of the word itself) – it is the stage before birth that is truly pre-language. In essence it is the Real, an order or realm of the psyche that is pre-language – the Real is ineffable and unimaginable – a state only experienced pre-birth. It is ‘that which resists symbolisation absolutely,’ it is ‘the domain of whatever subsists outside symbolisation.’ [Bailly, L., Lacan, One World, 2009].

Another aspect of Gadney’s work is the aesthetic harmony created by the balance between her objects and materials, and her palette of soft pastel colours in concert with her mark making, which adds to the allure of the work. Of particular significance is her mark making. Some, like the door handle in Large Door, are deliberate, but the majority are executed in such a way they appear like fortuitous accidents. These pithy marks create a sense of illusion; they tease our vision, refuting explanations, and keep us guessing, and as Gadney explains, ‘the work remains in an active state because we don’t have the answers.’ In the exhibition, a beautifully curated set of drawings and materials – a post-it note with a scribble, a found official letter in bold yellow, and a barely veiled photograph loaded with socio-political memory – end context to her thinking around mark-making, materials and her notion of objectiles (objects in their pre- status sense).

Gadney compares her method of working to the intuitive process described by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s Rhizome theory, which advocates a non-hierarchical, heterogeneous, multiplicitous, and acentered order of things. Using the example of the wasp and the orchid to illustrate the inherent interconnectedness of things, the theory espouses a more fluid boundary exists between things, which appear as separate objects. Describing her approach to her work, Gadney explains: “I see something and I respond to it, and it becomes my territory and it becomes part of me, and I become part of it. It’s a moment in time.”

Her newest ‘paintings’, light boxes using techniques appropriated from Kinetic art employ light and movement and optical illusion, and feel like much more than an evolution of her idea. The apparent simplicity of these works, belie their complex construction. Requiring over two years in the making, Gadney worked with a light artist in order to obtain the optimum speed of the motors and the balancing of different voltages of electricity on a single cable. The overall effect – one of subtle light movements and hues of colour – feel entirely natural and there is something reminiscent of a gesture of an insect’s leg, or the soft mottling motion of light on water or on the leaves of a tree. Throughout the passage of the day, with the shifting of natural light, the movements, colours and sense of illusion vary, and the effect is such that you feel you are looking at something that is forever changing with the natural gradual order of things. Gadney is working further to develop this concept and the results, as they do now, will surely beguile and intrigue the mind.

Amy Gadney, Ghost Load at Cecilia Brunson Projects, London through November 15, 2014

Amy Gadney, Cable Reel

Amy Gadney, Cable Reel 1 and II, 2014, courtesy of Cecilia Brunson Projects

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by Gowri Balasegaram
in Focus on Europe

Wed Development by Digital Art Factory