|Tacita Dean, Suite of Nine, 2018|
Well, I never made it to the Still Life and Landscape installations of Tacita Dean’s work at the National Gallery and the Royal Academy respectively. But I was fortunate enough to catch the Tacita Dean – Julie Mehretu exhibition at Marian Goodman this week. It’s another interesting concept exhibition in which the work of the two long-time friends is put into conversation in the upstairs gallery and two simultaneously (as opposed to collaboratively) created installations fill the downstairs gallery.
|Exhibition View, Tacita Dean - Julie Mehretu|
Marian Goodman Galerie
I was not entirely convinced by the juxtaposition as I found it difficult to see the connections in the work. They may be great friends, but their concerns seem quite distinct. What I loved in the exhibition was Tacita Dean’s Suite of Nine, 2018 in which she captures a solar eclipse in nine images. Dean’s familiar use of chalk on nine small slate squares is rendered differently in each piece. The chalk melts into the gouache and charcoal to produce an eerie, unexpectedly intimate view of the eclipse. Each image of the eclipse is different, and because they are displayed in a line, we are, of course, tempted to find the narrative running across the nine pieces. Standing back from the line of slate squares at eye level, I was however frustrated by the absence of logical development in the relationship between the sun and the moon.
There is something very cinematic about this set of images –one, lined up next to the other, in a search for a linear narrative on account of their placement, giving a suggestion, but not delivering on their promise of unfolding in time. Also, the gradations of colour made possible through Dean’s use of chalk, gouache and charcoal on slate are perhaps the greatest asset of the 16mm film in which Dean insists on using. The tactility of the images that form the piece as a whole reminded me of the presence of Dean’s films, their ability to capture a moment in time, watching it pass at the pace that it needs to.
|Tacita Dean, Antigone, 2018|
Dean did film solar eclipses in a section of her film, Antigone (2018) which is currently on view at the Royal Academy. The film includes volcanic vents puffing smoke in Yellowstone National Park, floodplains in Wyoming, and other extraordinary moments of nature transitioning between one state and another. In the film, we see gradations of light as the eclipse begins, the sun and moon in perfect confluence, and ending with moon and sun becoming two separate entities. Again, the nuances of light that she captures in the film are reflected on the slate tiles in full spectrum. The sense of movement and a simultaneous newness and always in another time and place are captured as well by chalk, gouache and slate as they are by light sensitive film. This ability to capture things, time, places, the sun and other natural phenomena in transition that make Dean’s choice of material and medium central to the works
While the replication of Dean’s fascination with the cinema is not the point of this exhibition, and the relationship to Mehretu’s work is vibrant, creating a dance-like performance on the downstairs walls, for me, the drawcard is Dean’s love of the tactility of an image that is nothing but the reflection and creation of light on a flat surface.