Mixing together sonic and visual systems of perception, artist Cerith Wyn Evans has opened an exhibition of new works at Marian Goodman’s Paris exhibition space, marking an expansion of the artist’s long-running interest in the gray area between speech and written text, sound and image. Spread out across multiple floors in the gallery, the artist’s pieces delve into the functions behind cognition and spatial awareness, using familiar imagery and the written word to shape and disrupt the acts of reading, seeing and hearing.
This act of translation between forms is a core element of Evans’s work. Raised in the UK as a native Welsh speaker, his own experience of the world was bound up with the act of translation from an early age, and found its way into much of his work. Words, sounds and images bleed into each other, deliberately mixed or mulled together by the artist’s hand, yet often in subtle ways that work against his precise spatial arrangements and ornate structures. This is perhaps best seen in the first room of the exhibition, where a pair of massive chandelier sculptures hang from the ceiling, gently changing their lighting tone and color to the rhythm of a piano score that wafts throughout the room, played and recorded by the artist. The pieces, made from deftly-blown Murano glass, twist the space itself into a shifting landscape of color and sound, each element integrated into a close correlation by the artist.
In the gallery’s lower level, Evans has installed a second environmental piece, consisting of massive glass panels and a neon frieze suspended along the walls of the gallery. The resulting reflections and alterations caused by the filtering and shifting of light through each panel creates a space where the written word is fragmented almost in infinite variations and iterations, each time bent and warped based on the viewer’s vantage point, and each time subtly altering the meaning of the text on the wall, a line by Michel Foucault that attributes a sense of “formless anxiety” to luminous gas, a reference that could be extended to the light itself, or to the spatial interpolations caused by the glass around it. Like the installation upstairs, this piece also draws on a soundtrack, emanating from small speakers on each panel of glass, which gives the room a sensation of potent, vibrating energy.
Throughout, this sense of environmental and cognitive interplay sits at the center of the artist’s work. Each element finds itself suspended in a network of operations, each modifying and modulating against the rest in a manner that presents language in its position as part of a broader system. Underscoring the act of understanding, or of making oneself understood, Evans’s work here mines both language, and broader forms of expression, to create a space where broad ranges of sensation wins out over immediate modes of speech.
The artist’s work is on view through July 28th.
— D. Creahan