Magazine article Art Monthly

Melanie Counsell: Lutecia

Magazine article Art Monthly

Melanie Counsell: Lutecia

Article excerpt

Melanie Counsell: Lutecia

Works/Projects Bristol 19 February to 2 April

Intersecting the main exhibition space at Works/Projects is a large beam of jet-black wood. Positioned at eye level and stretching from one end of the room to the other, the beam acts as a physical barrier that must be carefully negotiated in order to fully comprehend the extent of the intervention. Underneath, protruding from this crosspiece, are two pairs of supporting legs while, above, four more black beams reach up into the corners of the modestly sized gallery. Titled Lutecia, 2011, this large, imposing structure is the main component of Melanie Counsell's first solo exhibition in the UK for six years.

Myriad visual associations are triggered by Lutecia. De Stijl and Russian Suprematism spring to mind, but so too do thoughts of a deformed gymnasium apparatus or even medieval scaffolding; indeed, it is easy to imagine that Counsell's structure is in some way actually supporting the gallery walls, which, without its ostensible agency, may be at risk of toppling to the floor. We are reminded here of Counsell's 2005 exhibition at Program in which actual scaffolding poles were arranged to form a triangular structure that cut through the space. Commenting on this work (AM286), Maria Walsh noted that: 'At first glance, Untitled seems to meld with the gallery's architecture as if it performs a function. However, the fact that most of the scaffolding poles stop before they hit the ceiling or disappear behind a beam makes the piece into an object within the space.' In Bristol, however, the wooden joists of Lutecia seem to be physically joined to the space with the central beam apparently having been sunk into its walls. In this way the work is not simply an object within the space but, fused with the structure of the gallery, it has become a temporary part of the building itself. But Lutecia's form does not derive from scaffolding. A glance at the exhibition's preview card gives us a more accurate indication as to the source of Counsell's inspiration. The image depicts a detail of a London sex shop window near to the artist's home in which we see a headless female mannequin dressed in bondage gear. The formal link is clear. The black straps of the skimpy outfit appear to describe perfectly the shape of Counsell's wooden structure turned through 90'. Now, imbued with an erotic edge, the work begins to speak of domination and constraint. …

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