Under Construction

9 March 2001 - 0 January 0000

Under Construction presents the work of three artists whose work sits in the gulf between nature and culture, between untamed wilderness and leisure activity. The ideal of nature is steeped in the Romantic tradition, an image that has remained constant through subsequent urban development; the ideal therefore has grown as a fiction.

Psychologically the country has become a part of the city in that it is a place to escape to, a vessel for the stress of being in the city. It is in the city that the country becomes a haven for tranquillity, the abyss yawns and the oblivion of relief takes us away from the nine to five. It is a place to spend leisure time, to visit on a day off and marvel at ‘things’ ranging from open woodlands to country houses. Silence, broken only by a soft breeze and the song of birds.

Nick EvansPoultry Club takes on another view of nature. He does this through making models, a practice that somehow lets us take a step away from reality, but which also asks us to imagine in the same way that an architect's model visualises what will be. The Airfix-like hobby models of a cockfight taken from a neo-classical painting have an undercurrent of something far less wholesome than leisure pastimes. His interest is with the breeders of animals, the pigeon fanciers of the world; the way people interact with animals, whether domestic or otherwise. There is a care for the welfare of the animals, breeding out weaker strains in order to achieve the best, whether its to get the sleekest dog at Crufts or to hone down the supreme killing machine for betting. Dealing with animals / progress and leisure, his work takes a look at the darker side of human nature, raising questions about how we view the rural, and of human control over the environment.

Stuart Lee's work is essentially a study into the nature of looking. Focusing on the leisure pursuit of bird watching, Lee puts the viewer in the position of the watched. Attention is turned on the bird-hide setting up a relationship between the hunter and the hunted, photographer and subject. However, the viewer is situated between hunted and subject. Lee examines the power of the gaze and the desire to experience nature without interaction. Insulated from the outdoors, in a purpose-built hut, the watcher watches from a position of safety.

The gallery, like the hide is a place of unreality that gives the viewer a licence to observe. The viewer enters a gallery space specifically to view art and nothing else, therefore once in the space they are removed from the outside world and steeped in a sort of non-place. Simon Blackmore’s work takes this protective white cube and makes it transportable, literally putting it on wheels. Blackmore has converted a 70’s caravan so that the viewer sits inside and views the landscape through the front window. Like the hide in Lee’s work it allows a certain detachment from the natural world. The window effectively mimics the format of painting, photography, or a projection screen. While maintaining the idea of an ‘out there’ it also embraces it via the tradition of the framed painting. The front of the caravan becomes a simple viewing frame through which the untamable outdoors is tamed.

During the show Blackmore toured the Sprite Musketeer along a route around North Wales taken by numerous landscape painters seeking to capture the landscape. The work in the gallery is a documentation of this tour, streamed across the web and displayed within g39. Blackmore repeats an action that occurred in a different time, framing the landscape but falling short of the sublime or indeed nature at all.

If the city is a place of looking without seeing, the gaze as indiscriminate; like watching TV, the experience becomes limited to what is perceived to be rather than what is. If the landscape is singular in its image then the city is multiple; it is ever changing both as a microcosm for society and as a physical space. If the city is change then the country is conservation, held perpetually in our psyche as an idyll of tranquility.