Originally published at This is Tomorrow, August 2017, Installation view, You hardboiled I softboiled, Rhubaba Gallery and Studios, 2017. Image courtesy of Rhubaba Gallery and Studios. Photo: Tom Nolan
In this intriguingly titled and intimately composed exhibition, ideas of how love and its stories might be practiced, sought and appropriated move between the published page and spoken word, and are heard through sound and audio. Love is also framed within filmed moments and presented in painted gestures; it is seen in close proximity and recognised across vast distances. The love stories described here are sensed in places, portraits, correspondences and spectres. The late American writer David Foster Wallace once suggested ‘love stories are ghost stories’. Love is an elusive material. Meanwhile a choral or ‘polyvocal’ intent to exhibition-making is at play here too, its works arranged in close alignments. And what is sought by the exhibition’s intertwined images, publishing, unfolding texts, looping film and readings are senses of harmony and belonging, senses of inclusion.There is an invitation, for instance, to become a reader of e-mail correspondences between writers Jessica Yu, based in Melbourne, and Sam Riviere, based in Edinburgh. And to become witness to their growing friendship, their developing familiarity and closeness. Much like American dramatist Helene Hanff and British bookseller Frank Doel’s to-and-fro letter writing described in the 1970 book ‘84, Charing Cross Road’. Its presentation of fellowship, intimations of love and its ghosts was adapted for the screen in 1987.Capturing the essences, qualities or presences of energy emitted by objects, people, and locations reside at the heart of Rosalind Nasashibi’s practice, which is dominated by 16mm and 35mm film but is also presented through paintings and photography. Her moving image works meld behaviours found in documentary, in observational or anthropological cinema and tropes of experimental or non-narrative film, with pointers to Pier Paolo Pasoloni, Stan Brakhage, Margaret Tait and Jean Rouch. Her 2010 film ‘This Quality’ screens here on a loop and depicts, across two visual stanzas, a portrait of a young Egyptian woman and shots of parked cars in the streets of Cairo covered in protective shroud-like fabrics, dusty and bleached by an intense light and heat. Nashashibi’s film depicts seeing and unseeing, veiling and unveiling, modesty, empathy and innocence. This quality she seeks through this work is an image of care.Close by are three paintings by Dundee-based artist and writer Valerie Norris. Starting from a process of over-painting existing images, a kitsch Paris café scene is the foundation for a painting that uses a woodcut by Harunobu Suzuki, ‘Osen’ (1770) as a trigger for its abstract surface.The results are composed of abstract forms, splatters, stains and blurry mark-making in pastel shades of greens, yellows, and pinks interrupted by darker lines or rhythmic curves. In her images, which are augmented by sculptural frames, suspensions or props, Norris make reference to a kinship with contemporary artists Karla Black, Lauren Gault and Lauren Printy Currie: evidencing a shared interest in the hand-made, an exploration of the essences of materials, their temporariness or the bringing about of alchemic transformations.This idea is then picked up by the artist Victoria Hall through her use of an ancient Japanese ‘floating ink’ method in making marbled endpapers created for the exhibition’s pamphlet series produced by artist-as-editor, artist-as-publisher Claire Walsh. And then again through the broadcast of ‘Love Sounds’, a 24-hour audio history and essay on “performing and speaking” love in cinema by American cultural critic Masha Tupitsyn.
There is a great deal of pleasure to be gained from experiencing this kind of exhibition making with its living, fluid and changing outputs. It shows a desire to engage the spaces between artists, often observing on methods employed in their studios, their works and audiences. The exhibition also forms a passage within the wider paragraphs of Rhubaba’s established manner of assembling eloquent, scholarly and generous projects, that draw the written word with the visual image together on a horizontal plane.