August 10, 2020

Virginia Overton’s recent exhibition at White Cube

Overton’s site-specific work at the White Cube consists of three installations all using recycled, locally sourced wood. In each installation, wooden planks are assembled in a way where they remain whole and relatively unprocessed, making the structures feel temporary. Against the bright whiteness of the White Cube, the rough, mid-construction feel of the triplet stands out as non-exhaustive – so what exactly are these three exhibiting?

The first room is darkened by wooden planks lined up side-by-side and flexed between the room’s diagonally opposite top and bottom corners, forming a new concave ceiling reaching down to the floor. Light slips through the stripy gaps in the structure left by the misaligning variation of each plank’s natural curvature. The shelter is maintained only by the tension and length of the planks, and one wonders: how can planks be so extraordinarily long and does wood really bend like that?

In the second room, the form of the wooden plank is isolated, as three square-tubes hang in slings from the ceiling and float at different heights, allowing one to penetrate the space of the sculpture. Each tube is formed by four long planks, fastened seamlessly together in mitre joints. The length of the tube is best appreciated in the depth of vision one finds by looking through the narrow and dark corridor of their hollow. We wonder: can the weight of four such long planks be held by this intricate fastening?

The third room is tiny in comparison and is dominated by planks stacked beside two adjacent walls, forming an L-shape. The piles overlap where they meet in the corner and begin to tilt inwards as they gain height. This tilt feels expected, and yet one can mull over the mathematics behind it. The stack is tall and the width spills out into the corridor, creating a domineering kind of hug – at what height would this corner topple?

The three works unite in the continuity and purity of one material. Each wooden experiment is distinct in its use of the wooden plank and its intervention on the gallery space. The qualities Overton draws out of the wood are both unusual and varied, though are understated in the simplicity evoked by the discreet, intricate fastenings and the casual construction site scene. If there is a theme to the exhibition, perhaps it is about pleasing, un-dressed-up transformability: her knack for material exploration is subtly exposed by the gentle kind of inquisitiveness that her experiments cause in the spectator.

Overton’s exhibition was on from 16th January to 14th March 2015

By Lily Glasser

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