Knut Henrik Henriksen, Lubaina Himid, Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, Ellen Lesperance, Nancy Lupo, Manfred Pernice, Stuart Sherman, Hayley Tompkins, Amelie von Wulffen, B. Wurtz
Hollybush Gardens presents Happy Mechanics, a group exhibition featuring work by Knut Henrik Henriksen, Lubaina Himid, Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, Ellen Lesperance, Nancy Lupo, Manfred Pernice, Stuart Sherman, Hayley Tompkins, Amelie von Wulffen and B. Wurtz.
Happy Mechanics concerns the vitalistic qualities and affective power of the object as it fuses symbolism, substance and systems of construction. These are objects which bear their materialities, excitations and executions on their sleeve, retaining the integrity of respective source material while coalescing subjective expression, intimacy and exuberance. Specifically, Happy Mechanics shares in the object’s affective potential as it integrates the substance and materiality of the everyday: sweet wrappers, magic marker and glitter; wooden carts, lasagna pans and store-bought wallpaper; plastic bins, shirt sleeves, foodstuffs and trinkets.
Though Happy Mechanics is peppered with the instinct for miniaturisation and the carnivalesque, several works on view offer a darkened interiority to the object. The paintings of Amelie von Wulffen, which stretch across numerous surfaces, represent the meeting of memory and fantasy, deep dreams and base desires. The economic and social conditions of the medium are met with pathos, folklore and Romanticism, blending reflections on production as much as the subconscious. Knut Henrik Henriksen’s doubtful paper monuments conjure decidedly subjective projections: insecure and unstable, their imagined architectures are domestically scaled in precarious pillars of wallpaper. Lubaina Himid’s painted wooden carts and makeshift wagons carry species of insects, arachnids, and aquatic life — organisms which tell tales of ecosystems, migrations and commodifying extractions. The rickety, movable object and its painted elements become both conveyor and code.
The sensuous ornaments of Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt are studded with debris and dollar store items. Creating homespun objects which blend the sacred and profane, Lanigan-Schmidt’s glittery treasures saturate the formalism of the decorative with gay sexuality, transgression and the spiritually- transformative. Ellen Lesperance’s ceramic conjures relations across time in crafted effigies informed by ancient Tanagra figurines — votive objects or funerary offerings for female deities. While Lesperance’s work encourages transference through the object, Hayley Tompkins uses paint as its own event. Tompkins’ application of paint encourages the medium to assume space — across shirts, chairs and cutlery — as well as its own logic between the pictorial and physical. The video performances of Stuart Sherman choreograph engagements with everyday objects. These miniature ‘spectacles’ become ‘animated drawings’, as Sherman says, dislocating the object through playful inversions of purpose.
The works in Happy Mechanics also frequently return to the body, namely its porosity and mutability. Nancy Lupo’s involvement of industrial material, digestible substances and expendable commodities establish unstable relations between the body and objects. Debased and durable materialities conjure pre-lingual states. Here, banal, industrial bins are conjoined as one vertebrae, decorated with toilet paper, cherries, cheese, chocolate and quails eggs. Expressing efficiencies, industries and sexualities, Lupo’s work entangles the repressed absurdity and metaphoric potential of our surrounding matter. Using standardised materials, Manfred Pernice dismantles the impulse to organise and contain. Creating columnar structures that teeter between absurd prop or backdrop, Pernice’s work insists on the architectural ambivalence of spatial boundaries. Using grocery bags, plastic cups, buttons and drinking straws among numerous other items, B. Wurtz’s assemblages celebrate the quotidian. With humour, care and formal enquiry, B. Wurtz’s sculptures advocate for an elegant, modest art-making. Collectively, the works of Happy Mechanics propose that the elusive identities of objects, and people, can be considered through life’s excess.
Courtesy of Hollybush Gardens, London. Photo: Eva Herzog