The City Gallery Leicester 20 June to 24 October
Pattern Recognition' proposes art that is an expanded field of physics, and the 31 artists in this exhibition reflect, illustrate, interpret and resist this notion. Curated by Hugo Worthy, a mixture of mostly small-scale works--including painting, animation, pottery and digital artworks--are evenly displayed in this converted Victorian, shop-fronted building. The show is built around a DVD of Robert Smithson's film Spiral Jetty, 1970, together with his theories of entropy as a cultural metaphor. Some familiar names are included, with Eduardo Paolozzi, Alison Turnbull and Bridget Riley, for example, interspersed with emerging artists.
Many of the artists' concerns are echoed in the book Critical Mass, 2004, by Philip Ball, which tries to explain every feature of the world in terms of complexity theory and emergent patterns. Here is the story in a nutshell: when water vapour changes to snow myriad symmetrical paths of atoms are formed, depending on conditions of the freeze. Similar patterns can be observed in the collective behaviour of all living things. Ideas of evolution, history and free will are thereby radically challenged by geometry, physics and statistics. A 'physics of society' today analyses patterns in fields such as sociology to predict events. It is this approach towards patterns in nature and culture that is extended to art in this show.
Andy Harper's painting Path, 2009, displays a labyrinthine composition of symmetrical branches of plant forms. As with the snowflake structure, the pathways dissolve into entropy, or disorder, at the edges. Plant tissues are rendered with translucent layers of paint and detailed, combed veins into drapery-shaped folds. This image of an edenic cornucopia takes the work beyond structural illustration of pattern into a complex metaphor for our perceptions of the natural world.
The tradition of Mughal miniature painting informs Aisha Khalid's dynamic abstract series: Kiss, 2007, Truth, 2006, and Entangled, 2007. The theme of love is explored as a narrative sequence, and reference is made to traditional Pakistani textiles in these paintings of flower or cell forms. Blood-red nuclei composed of geometric lattices are surrounded by white-on-white petals. In Entangled two embryonic shapes merge as though in embrace and the two lattices ripple into three-dimensional illusion. From a western viewpoint one is reminded of Goethe's Elective Affinities, 1809, in which a comparison is drawn between the connecting of electrons in chemical reaction under certain conditions, and the interplay of love relationships. As with Khalid's paintings, a dynamic of human will and loss of self occurs as events appear shaped by chemistry and chance.
A group of collages by Abigail Reynolds continues the themes of her recent series 'The Universal Now', 2009. Initially they appear to be doll's house versions of Gordon Matta-Clark's incisions into architecture. The collages consist of superimposed guidebook photographs of historic interiors taken at different times, say 1960 and 1980, for example. Her interest in time is stated through patterned folds and windows that open like an advent calendar projecting one time frame through to another. The claim of a 'universal now' connecting space/time, quantum and relativity theory puts a weighty, positive spin on the work. …