Hot Wax Play
For its second exhibition, Century Pictures continues a series centering on an exploration of language. With this open-ended series, the gallery intends to present artists whose work challenges the presupposition of communication as a linear progression. At the center of our preoccupation are works that address language in all its forms, as well as the nagging uncertainties regarding our imperfect, or evolving understanding of it.
Cerith Wyn Evans has formed an artistic practice that focuses on how ideas can be communicated through form. With his chandelier sculptures, manufactured by Galliano Ferro, a Venetian Murano classical lighting specialist, the artist upends the ubiquitous ornaments of wealth and domestic “elegance.” The crystal and glass fixtures are vessels that transmit texts ranging from poems to instruction booklets in Morse code. While the code is dictated by an adjacent computer, the interaction of flashing lights and shadow fills a room with the suggestion of an otherworldly transmission.
In use for over 160 years, Morse code is the oldest electric coding system. Utilizing a binary system, it is also considered to be the earliest form of digital communication. But this means of coded correspondence, once pivotal to naval and military activity during WWII, is strictly confined to an ever-shrinking population that is currently trained to use it. In Cerith Wyn Evans’ chandelier sculptures the texts that are presented vary greatly from poetic masterpieces, to the work displayed in the gallery, an instructional text on BDSM play. The series of blinking lights that the chandelier emits equivocates all the texts that the artist has used for this series because most of the viewers simply do not understand or recognize the transmission. This work merges the grandiose with the utilitarian, the erotically charged with the technologically austere, calling the viewer to unpack the ways in which language and art function. Presaging an era of “dog-whistling” and “triggering,” Wyn Evans’ sculptures captivate the viewer with much more than the text being transmitted behind the pulsing, which speaks only to a select few. The intricate reflections of light through opulent glass ushers perception from interpretation to meditation.
While discreetly confusing the issue of time as a progression forward, this contortion of language into pleasing sequences of light easily manipulates ideas of free communication into emotive nuance. A new, holistic interpretation is necessary to ease the apprehension of narratives out of sequence. In order to be able to translate, there must be a baseline of signifiers that are agreed upon. As Cerith Wyn Evans argues in this work, arriving at that baseline is the hard part.
Cerith Wyn Evans (born 1956 Llanelli, Wales, UK) first came to attention as an experimental filmmaker and producer, collaborating with noted filmmaker Derek Jarman and dance choreographer Michael Clark, among others. His work has subsequently expanded to include sculpture, photography, sound, and text to communicate his interest in language and perception in grand, yet often quotidian presentations. He has had numerous gallery and museum exhibitions at venues including Tate Britain, London (2017), Haus Konstruktiv, Zürich (2017), Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London (2014), Bergen Kunsthall, Norway (2011), Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2006), ICA, London (2006), Kunsthaus Graz (2005), and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2004) to name a few. In addition, Cerith Wyn Evans was a participant in this year’s Skulptur Projekte Münster and La Biennale di Venezia – 57th International Art Exhibition, Venice.