The WW Gallery’s fourth Patio Project is Australian artist, Kirsty Tinkler’s Face Off: ‘a mute dialogue between two buildings’ which explores society’s relationship, and reflection in, architecture. On the day that Kirsty finishes her install I head out in the cold after work to Hackney to interview her.
Kirsty’s work challenges directly the old argument that ‘art doesn’t have a function’. She’s interested in chimneys which we no longer use, fake fireplaces, coving and pilasters and porticoes, which are merely ‘façade and ornamentation’. As an Australian, confronted by unfamiliar architecture, she recognises London ‘deceiving’ and ‘excluding’ its residents and visitors. Appearing older and more opulent than its reality, London’s architecture represents ‘politics’ and ‘power’.
I am glad that she brings up the word ‘psychogeography’ first. It’s a bit of an obsession of mine, and like a religion, I don’t feel comfortable forcing it upon anyone. ‘Feminism’ for example, I immediately retract; she objects to her work being described as ‘masculine’, but she is not a feminist.
But Kirsty freely admits to the psychogeographic nature of her practice. She is a voracious stroller of city streets, scavenging with her eyes for architectural ornamentation and collecting these details for salvage. The ‘psychology of architecture’ is fundamental to her work, particularly as an Australian living in London. Impressions are molded, carved, chipped, and chiseled into her visual memory, stored away for later. The latex on the front of Face off is an impression, a direct molding of the window it faces, its visual traces on the memory reshaped in Kirsty’s studio.
In Face Off we see ‘facades melting’; the grand Victorian bay window of WW is presented with a reflection in which its face is slipping off. Its latex mask revealing wood, concrete and rope beneath. The ‘rawness’ of the leftover materials, the honesty of construction.
I ask Kirsty if she would ever work on a scale such as Anish Kapoor’s. She almost recoils, ‘grand gestures are out of favour’ she says. She can see Kapoor’s Olympic creation from her studio window and all she can think of is the waste of public money.
Kirtsy believes in recycling, her sculptures have always been temporary and she often re-uses material between projects. Face Off is already beckoning to be reclaimed, and reshaped into the next thing, just as any building welcomes renovation, new owners, and new purpose. Like a billboard advertising itself, like a folly built merely for its aesthetic decoration; the project is the realisation of her current preoccupations, and facing a window, confronts what might perhaps be her next obsession.
The sense of being within, but also distinctly without, is Face Off’s most affective impression. From the pavement it looks as though we are inside the window. But Face Off is a screen which fails to enclose us, and leaves us with the realisation that we are outside still, facing an interior we do not have access to. A gallery which is now closed, while it relocates, has only the patio left to offer its artists and visitors. WW keeps us out in the cold.
But there is something important about this small patio space where Tinkler’s Face Off is forced to strain its neck looking up at the windows. WW just looks like another house on a residential street, Kirsty’s Face Off is just another addition to the neighborhood; likely to attract as much attention from residents passing by, as it will from pilgrim psycogeographers. The Hackney pub where we meet for our interview, The Three Sisters, has been Kirsty’s respite from the biting cold while she installs and waits for late interviewers, and is also the location of the Private View. Kirsty’s sculpture has a real sense of locality, and of inclusivity, that has succeeded in demolishing the ‘politics’ of faceless architecture.
2nd-26th February, open 24 hours.
WW Patio Project, 30 Queensdown Road, Hackney, E5 8NN
psycogeography is a new concept for me, but it makes me think and question which is surely the purpose of the work. As a resident of a new town which is purely functional in its architecture, with added green features, but in a setting with it’s own natural beauty, which is marred or enhanced by it’s industrial heritage according to one’s views, I can re-evaluate my environment.
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