MIRIAM AUSTIN - 2011
‘I seek a resolution between the transient and transcendent, between the personal and the collective.’ Helen Chadwick
Studio 106 Art Gallery is delighted to announce the first solo exhibition of artist Miriam Austin.
There are times when physical sensation carries with it an acutely and incontrovertibly personal intimacy. In these moments one might begin to doubt whether experience, in its most basic form, can ever really be shared. Miriam Austin’s sculpture seeks to persuade us that such doubts should be set aside; that those feelings which seem beyond the understanding of others are in fact the lifeblood of humanity’s ability to commune.
In her work, Austin consistently sacrifices resolution and finality to the demands of sensitivity. She moves with delicate ambivalence between sculpture, performance, and installation. Drawing on materials (physical and phenomenal) so fragile that the slightest clumsiness on her part will cause them to disperse, shatter or decompose, Austin spins a loose and tender web. In it she traps the elements of the corporeal which are foundational in their emotional significance, but which, precisely because of the depth of their significance, evade easy expression.
Austin’s sculptures, like that which drives their inception, are transitory in the extreme. They require, even after installation, the artist’s constant ministration. Fine clay cracks; oil and egg yolk run; mingle and spoil; fruit rots – and all of this for the briefest moment of balance and harmony. She does all this not simply to present us with our scrutiny or delectation. Rather, with an urgency driven by the fleeting beauty of what she has found, she builds for us a distinct and protective realm of the emotional, the sensual and the visceral. The waxy materiality of the work, with its fatty deposits, its uncanny nods towards filmic heartache, its emotivetheatricality, is as much a ladder for the viewer to climb as it is a thing for him to view. It allows passage to a wilderness of the unconscious whose nature Austin sketches as half-living forms caught between barrenness and fecundity; as the secretions of ripe bodies all the riper for their closeness to death; as the impotent movements of desire and hope common to everything which has the capacity to breed.
Austin’s sculpture might be thought of as a kind of shadow play. Its material, formal and symbolic properties are devices – narrative, performative, psycho-suggestive – used to give rise to a suspension of disbelief; even to something akin to hypnotic trance. One or the other is necessary if the viewer is to be sufficiently disinhibited and rendered vulnerable enough to give, in viewing, that which Austin has given in making.
At the centre of Austin’s work lies a vantage point. From it, we are invited to look out over a brightly illuminated landscape with an unearthly compassion for life in all its virulence. This is a compassion grounded in the fragment of doctrine which pervades everything that Austin makes: if it were not for the existence of the world in its entirety – if it were not for the endlessly repeating cycles of tension and release, suffering and pleasure, death and rebirth – compassion would simply not be possible.
*Studio 106 Art Gallery would like to thank Matthew Drage for writing the press release.
Miriam Austin lives and works in London. Austin is currently studying toward an MA in Sculpture at the Royal College of Art, London. Recent exhibitions include, The Devil’s Necktie, The Woodmill, London, 2010; Blood and Time, Project Space at the Woodmill, London, 2010; In which the woman was dead from the cold, XVIII Jesus Lane, Cambridge; 2009; On Air, Christ’s College Visual Arts Centre, The University of Cambridge, 2009, The Dying Animal, The Shop, Cambridge, 2009, The Space Between, Bharat Nivas, Auroville, India, 2008.
Matthew Drage is an artist and writer living in East London. After completing a BA in Philosophy and an MPhil in the History & Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge, Drage moved to London to focus on his fine art practice. He is the co-founder and current co-director of Copenhagen Place, an independent, non-commercial gallery and studio project in Limehouse.