MARK WALLINGER / ID Exhibition

I had admired this British artist’s varied work, which engages questions about personal identity and the power structures that control who and what we are – or think we are. Framed around Freud’s terms of ‘ego’, ‘id’ and ‘superego’, this exhibition of predominantly new works of painting, video and sculpture was one of the most thoughtful and inspiring I have seen this year. I returned for an event in which participants toured both galleries along with Wallinger and Writer Lavinia Greenlaw, as she interviewed the artist about specific works and solicited questions from the audience.

 

 

The ‘id’ is represented by a dramatic series of seventeen huge monochrome acrylic paintings, each exactly twice the artist’s height and half as wide. They resembled Rorschach inkblots, but were neither random images, nor painted with a traditional brush; Wallinger made these with his bare hands, arms, and fingers, sweeping black paint across the canvas, using symmetrical freeform gestures on the two halves so that they mirror one another. For me they evoked, all at once, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, cave paintings, human brain hemispheres, and mythological scenes from some mysterious lost civilization. Asked about the Rorschach allusion, Wallinger said “I quite like the fact that meaning might exist somewhere between seeing oneself in them and trying to unearth the artist’s intentions.”

The second gallery held camera-based works that dealt inventively with cycles of time, and ‘Superego’, an imposing, mirrored sculpture inspired by the iconic revolving Scotland Yard sign. A potent symbol of the dominant state in endless vigilance, it could stand as well - in a country with more (often inoperative) CCTV cameras than anywhere else - for the unseen powers that be that would have us monitor, censor, and condemn ourselves.

 

In my recent practice, I have been striving to create work that is rich in reference and association, yet avoids being weighed down or limited by these narratives. I am exploring ways to integrate digital technology without abandoning retaining the elements of craft and physical process that feel essential to me. In the sense that Wallinger’s strengths so strongly corresponded to areas I am seeking to develop, this exhibition was very helpful in reinforcing a sense of my territory and goals.