The Ingleby Gallery is a beautiful space, with large windows making the exhibition rooms seem more expansive than they truly are. It’s a professional environment; alongside the artworks, the desks, books and shelving of the gallery’s staff are on display. Which perhaps means that they are taking a risk including Kevin Harman, a prize-winning ECA graduate, in the ABJAD exhibition, as he is most well known for smashing the Collective Gallery’s window in 2009. Critics were happy to declare Harman’s act an art event. Collective, however, differed on opinion and prosecuted Harman for breaching the peace.
Five years on and everything is a lot more peaceful. Despite the focus of the exhibition being on ‘abstraction’ (contemporary art’s favourite theme), and most of the pieces using found materials instead of traditional canvases, the works remain conventionally placed on the walls. While Harman’s use of double-glazing units in his works may raise a wry smile from anyone aware of his window-breaking past, no artistic boundaries are being shattered here.
Most of the works seem to be concerned with the artistic process, rather than the finished product. The glossy sheen to Jeff McMillan’s pieces is restricted to the corners of the canvases, which have been found and recycled by being steadily dipped in paint, leaving some of the bare linen exposed.
Paul Keir’s pieces also announce their creation, but generally are less arresting than McMillan’s works. On the ground floor a wall is filled with sheets of paper, covered in green or purple patterns. They are reminiscent of Louise Bourgeois’ Insomnia Drawings, recently displayed at Fruitmarket, but without Bourgeois’ scale or intensity, or the excuse of insomnia, to give them depth. His approach works better upstairs, where his drawing covers the wall itself – the closest the viewer gets to any artistic vandalism.
Jane Bustin’s works are not given the gallery range of the male artists on display, collected as they are in a single room. Yet this scale works, giving Bustin’s small, delicately balanced pieces space and not forcing them to compete with the more imposing works. The pale colours and tea stained edges give them a fragility and a depth that is somewhat lacking in the blocky coloured pieces found elsewhere.
However, Harman grabs the attention, even without any performance element. His glass paintings are visually stunning, with layers of colour creating rich textures. There can be no disputing that these are highly skilled works of art. While the show may be livened up by some provocative act, Harman’s windowpane antics have certainly matured.
Image courtesy of courtesy of David Gryn (WordPress)