Heads Will Roll: Group Exhibition
Ian Hamilton Finlay, Robin Lowe, Dawn Mellor, Lars Nilson, Chris Ofili, Keir Smith
Ian Hamilton Finlay continues his exploration of the French Revolution acknowledging its importance as a corner-stone of modernism and democracy in the West. As concrete poet and sculptor he contributes works which discuss the above through man's relationship with nature and the often violent imposition of order on chaos.
Lars Nilsson has also often acknowledged this bloody period of European History in his work and has made an uncanny fibreglass shell of himself, elegantly clad by London tailor Timothy Everest.The figure appears to be bending to examine something at ground level but has no head with which to see. Placing himself in the role of the victim through this self-mutilation, Nilsson echoes art historical antecedents such as David with the Head of Goliath in which the severed head in the painting is that of Caravaggio's own.
Dawn Mellor's new large scale painting repeats the stooped stance of Nilsson's sculpture except that the figure is a woman and is duplicated. Both stocking clad figures are alluringly naked and bent in a pose which implies sexual invitation. However, as usual the raw physical energy of Mellor's painting is tinged with a fetishistic violence: one head is severed and the second obscured alluding to a struggle for identity which is reinforced by the duality of the figures.
Keir Smith's work takes as its subject matter a classical religious theme in its portrayal of the head of John the Baptist. While the other elements of the sculpture retain their classical values, the head is strangely other-worldly. Fashioned out of a large pebble moulded in clay with a peculiarly elongated neck, the extra-terrestial nature of the head adds a new element to this traditional subject which imbues it with a strange quirky and intriguing presence.
Chris Ofili's miniature canvases also acknowledge a religious reference in their title - the Chosen One, refering specifically to the last book of the Bible, Revelations, in which one hundred and forty four thousand people are chosen to go up to Paradise after Armageddon. These tiny canvases of heads are part of an ongoing series of works by the same title.
Robin Lowe's work is the only full realisation of a head in the exhibition. Although depicting a child, it's expression is both adult and deathly and this is reinforced by the plasticity of the face and the quality of the painting with its eery light and strong shadows which give it an aspect of the non-real.