The Royal British Society of Sculptors is delighted to announce Altered States, an exhibition exploring perception and sensory interpretation through immersive installation, sculptural and sonic form and the profoundly different sculptural approaches of Tabatha Andrews and Heywood & Condie MRBS.
Tabatha Andrews’ work unsettles the hierarchy of the senses, bypassing sight to give precedence to touch and hearing. Her work visualises energy, yet its minimal aesthetic allows the viewer to transfer focus to other underrated or underused senses. In stark contrast, Heywood & Condie bombard the eye with a carnival of colours and strange forms in their horticultural installations which provide a means of processing our dysfunctional relationship with nature.
Heywood and Condie’s The Greenhouse (2015) has travelled directly from Jerwood Gallery in Hastings and is constructed from salvaged 18th and 19th Century stained glass. The artists reconfigured the original Christian imagery to create part animal/part plant/part insect beings inhabiting a primitive world of chimeras, mythical creatures and folkloric hybrids. Once inside, the greenhouse’s function as a sanctuary and space for introspection is magnified, the world of stained glass chimeras reflected endlessly in its infinity floor. It is a place to contemplate the symbols and patterns that humans have used to celebrate the cycle of life, and to transcend the everyday.
Andrews’ work, in the Salon gallery, invites participation: her Listening Objects (2014-16) are wearable microinstallations which alter perceptions of sound, space and time both inside and outside the body, acting as both a place of escape and a place of intense reflection. Oracle (2000-16), meanwhile, utters the sound of an engine starting and stopping like a voice stuttering into speech. Its vibrations make the words cut out of newspapers jump ‘like the casting of oracle bones’, as devoid of punctuation, they writhe, settle and resettle into meaningful/meaningless arrangements. The words inhabit an endless present powered by sound itself. Across the gallery, Disturbance (2016) forms a sound and light absorbing, tactile wall of recycled felt that powerfully alters the way we perceive through our eyes and ears.
Oracle’s mechanical spluttering carries into the Studio gallery as if to power Heywood & Condie’s anti-hero, a hybrid of man/machine/mineral and plant as he drags an apocalyptic assemblage through their overwhelming anti-garden installation: The Postnatural Garden of Unearthly Delights. It is a darkly theatrical, melodramatic and all-encompassing vision that caricatures our increasingly ‘de-natured’ relationship with the natural world. Far from the safety and peace of the traditional Arcadian landscape, the artists draw on Baktin’s idea of the carnavalesque, manipulating humour and chaos to create a dystopic rendition of the airbrushed marketing of nature consumed digitally on a daily basis. The grossly hybridised living and the artificial is disturbingly indistinguishable: from a forest of distorted pines emerge psychedelic versions of Gong Shi, Chinese scholars’ rocks, while malevolent industrial anti-nymphs stumble through the vegetation. The artists successfully destabilise our visual perception forcing us to contemplate this total altered state.