Magazine article Art Monthly

Nathan Coley

Magazine article Art Monthly

Nathan Coley

Article excerpt

Nathan Coley

46 Brooklands Gardens Jaywick

November 11 to February 1

'I want the moment of looking to place you in the centre of the world.' To realise this intention, which Nathan Coley described in a 2004 conversation with Claire Doherty of the Situations programme in Bristol, it is required that 'you forget that you are an artist'. Instead of making work about the specifics of a location, which can often replace the viewer's experience with the artwork's documentation, Coley's approach is to allow ideas for a work to develop over time concurrent with the relationship with a place. In this way, the located artwork resonates with its surroundings most poignantly when the viewer is actually in place with, and implicated in, the work. These concerns are made tangible in Coley's 46 Brooklands Gardens, a painted plywood and steel box-section construction which, from viewing documentation, appears simply to reflect in its form the style of neighbouring chalets in the Essex seaside town of Jaywick. However, Coley's concerns are made critically urgent when visiting the place as the work effects an uncanny total reflection of its surroundings, not only in the material terms of architectural style but also the 'genius loci', the spirit of the place.

Temporarily occupying a vacant building plot in the Brooklands estate, the sculpture mirrors different aspects of the area. On the one hand it quotes the holiday chalets, cosily squeezed together like tents at a festival, which have become a realisation of the dream of an idyllic simple life of the retired Londoner, a place to tend succulents and go for evening walks on the beach. On the other hand, the temporary nature and simple materials speak of the area suffering from neglect and a fluvial population which has created an atmosphere of anxiety and uncertainty that grasps at your stomach as you negotiate its litter-strewn alleys and lanes. In microcosm it is a vision of the dystopia of underprivileged communities, which is the cause for such concern in contemporary Britain.

In the work, Coley translates his appropriated Second World War 'dazzle' camouflage--previously applied to hardboard models of places of worship that in 2006 were shown on a very different estate, Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute in Scotland--onto a more permeable structure. Externally, the white-striped pattern of 46 Brooklands Gardens acts as a form of defensive camouflage for the structure in mimicking the fencing and lap-boarding of the self-build ethos of the surrounding chalets. …

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