Magazine article Artforum International

Christina Mackie: Talks about Painting the Weights, 2012 Introduction by Nicholas Cullinan

Magazine article Artforum International

Christina Mackie: Talks about Painting the Weights, 2012 Introduction by Nicholas Cullinan

Article excerpt

WHY DO ATOMIC CLOUDS AND JELLYFISH LOOK ALIKE? One can imagine the London-based artist Christina Mackie posing this strange query to her viewers, because the unseen vectors of force--pressure, currents, gravity--behind such astonishing resemblances are the very stuff of her work. Take suppression, repression, depression compression, 1995, one of Mackie's best-known pieces. In this group of squashed polystyrene cups, which were compacted under increasing levels of air pressure in a laboratory and can be configured in a variety of ways, force is the true yet invisible medium. And while this is one of Mackie's more straightforward pieces, the cups become vessels through which to explore the larger sociopolitical resonances of physical phenomena. For Mackie, artistic genre and formal convention are largely irrelevant. She traffics instead in shape-shifting states of matter and energy--the categories of solid, liquid, and gas seeming far more important to her work than those of sculpture, painting, and video.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The result is a kind of metamorphosis in which images are fugitive, utterly dependent on their material support. For example, the artist sees watercolor, that most antiquated of mediums, not as a means of painting but rather as "particulate sculpture": a mix of animal, vegetable, and mineral particles suspended in water. Which is exactly what it is, when you think about it. In the process, Mackie's watercolors manage to eke the marvelous out of the banal, as in her wall-mounted paper silhouettes Shadow, 2008. These derive in part from the use of componimento inculto, a painterly technique that embraces chance by detecting fully formed images in random shadows or stains on a wall.

Mackie also makes painted objects where the support is as important as the image to which it plays host. Sculpture of an idea of a painting of you, 2009, is a painting that can be unpacked from its "sculptural" box, forming a convertible spin on a Robert Rauschenberg Combine--albeit one in which Leo Steinberg's formulation of the "flatbed picture plane" is updated for the flat-pack era. My depression, 2003, is an amorphous painted mound resembling a polychrome gesso boulder, surmounted by droopy black leather petals and topped with a crystal ball, conjuring Mackie's frequent play between organic and inorganic, artificial and real. And Figure I, 2007, is a nearly life-size polystyrene hippopotamus covered in dark blue Jesmonite resin that appears to be dripping onto the floor, as if the sculpture were dissolving into liquid form before our eyes, literally leaking away from any stable verisimilitude. This commutability is precisely the point: Mackie's images all occupy three dimensions, pushing painting into full objecthood just as sculpture may evaporate into the pictorial. Even her videos are sometimes embellished by rotoscope drawing, merging the hand-drafted with the digitally manipulated, or else grafting the analog onto the digital, as in Breughel boots, 1999, a melancholic meditation on the number of people who die each year on the London tube, their anonymous feet shuffling off to uncertain fates.

Recently, Mackie has pursued an even denser admixture of videos, things, and images. Her new exhibition "Painting the Weights" at Chisenhale Gallery, London, which travels to the Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen, takes its title from a computer-animation technique that enhances realistic rendering of mass and movement. Fittingly, the show--which comprises one sprawling installation--promises a scientific and phenomenological probing of the disembodied digital world we live in, one that skewers the notion of the objective image. The project's architectural scaffolding adopts the form and function of an artist's studio, displaying works that explore how natural and man-made phenomena chime with one another. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.