Magazine article Art Monthly

Gayle Chong Kwan: Double Vision

Magazine article Art Monthly

Gayle Chong Kwan: Double Vision

Article excerpt

Peckham Space London 25 May to 29 July

Situated at the front of Peckham Space, visible from the street outside, is a mysterious landscape. A mystical isle in miniature, it features mountains and valleys as well as tiny historical ruins. At first glance, Gayle Chong Kwan's island is reminiscent of the crumbling dioramas found in schools or libraries, a 3D evocation of a myth or legend - the lonely isle, left undiscovered for centuries. Step closer though and it becomes apparent that there is something unusual here. The artwork smells. Not of anything unpleasant but of herbs and spices, the rich aromas of cooking. The ruins, so classically epic from a distance, are formed from waste: pieces of dried-out, shrunken orange peel.

Double Vision marks a new direction for Kwan. While she has constructed such landscapes before, the actual sculptures are usually hidden and instead form sets for photographs that become the finished artworks. In these previous works, the sculptures are carefully lit to give the photographs a sense of vast scale. Cast in dramatic shadows, the unassuming orange peel or other food detritus takes on an atmosphere of grandeur, which gives the reveal - the moment when the audience discovers what they are truly looking at - a sharper impact. By showing the sculpture itself, and allowing the audience to see immediately the humble nature of its construction, the emphasis of the work shifts. It becomes less about a trick of perception - there is no way we would mistake this island for a genuine landscape - and instead offers Kwan an opportunity to discuss our relationship with food in deeper terms.

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A number of artists have used food or other organic materials in their work, usually with the aim of introducing an ephemeral quality. In Anya Gallaccio's installations, for example, the artist displays dramatic blooms of flowers or fruit in the gallery space, which audiences see slowly decay. The constant presence of death in our everyday lives is brought sharply into focus in these works. While such issues have formed part of Kwan's photographs, in Double Vision the presence of food is not about its temporal quality; all the organic matter used in this work is pre-dried, so while it brings a scent to the space, this will not in time become unpleasant, nor will the piece dramatically alter in appearance. …

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