On view this month at Josh Lilley’s London exhibition space, artist Kathleen Ryan presents a new body of works, presenting a series of intriguing topographies and structures that mix together engaging mechanical and organic symbolisms to create peculiar, surreal objects. Walking a line between cityscapes, cells and circuit boards, Ryan’s work mines an engaging and resonant set of commentaries on modern life, suspending her images and objects in a space between technology and bodies.
What seemed at first organic – fruit, for the most part, swamped by mould – turns, to a patient eye, industrial, turning her works into a site for a meditation on the modern construction and understanding of the world. Motors and engines sit at the heart of works, creating new notions of the body that mix together the organic and mechanical, nestled within the skin of a ripe peach, or elsewhere, where car hoods are used as frames for gossamer strands of a spider web. Ryan’s work is as much about modernity as it is about the suspended nature of 20th century industry, rot and ruin mixed in with notions of speed and precision. Yet equally so, these works reject easy readings. There’s a sense of luxury and excess equally in play.
Ryan’s peculiar iconography of excess always plays against reductive readings. Her crystalline spider-webs, stretching across the gaping shells of the car hoods, glimmer and shine, while the rotting fruits on view earn their peculiar materiality from a range of glistening jewels. Excess is always at the tip of the tongue, but rather than used as a way to dive into notions of modernity and culture, instead provide an alternate set of assumptions and readings against the broader imagistic quality of the artist’s work. What the viewer must contend with here is less a sense of culture in decline, but rather one in which life is suspended in a sense of transformation and repositioning, both decadent and hybridized.
The show closes August 13th.
– D. Creahan
Josh Lilley [Exhibition Site]