Sunday, 3 February 2008

The Other Side Of The Island: Exhibition Archive

This series of images documents the Horse Hospital Gallery show 18.06.07 to 07.07.07

“We find no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end" James Hutton, Theory of the Earth, 1795

Deep underground, life moves slowly. Once teeming with insect and amphibian life, the great swamps of the Carboniferous era were buried under the weight of 300 million years, eventually returning to the surface as coal. In this new form they would be consumed in fires and furnaces for three thousand years before blackening the lungs of Empire and driving the Industrial Revolution. It was then that James Hutton, the first geologist, began to consider the depths beneath our feet and the unimaginable abyss of time that they represent.

This is the world that David Smith’s imposing, unsettling, yet somehow sympathetic sculptures inhabit. Entering their domain, we are submerged in a fully-formed environment that is very much alive – not life frozen in time, but life moving so slowly, so imperceptibly, that, were we to watch and wait for years, even centuries, we might never see it in motion. This is the forge of the Earth. This is deep time. Whether we read his creations as extrusions from the id, some entirely alien life form, Northern European kobolds or perhaps, given Smith’s native lands, Welsh coblynau, these beings embody lives devoted to and consumed by eternal, elemental labour.

Such notions reflect the two years of work sunk into bringing his visions to life; life that emerged slowly, painstakingly, out of wax, coal, copper and lead. On considering Smith’s visual style, as well as his own stated influences – Edward Kienholz, Malcolm Poynter, Jan Švankmajer – we might also pick up echoes of HR Giger, René Laloux’s La Planete Sauvage, Jean Giroud (aka Moebius), Philippe Druillet and other contributors to the pages of Métal Hurlant magazine; fitting enough given Smith’s parallel existence as a rock musician.

The current work is Smith’s first to combine both visual and musical disciplines: for the piece he has composed an original soundtrack in collaboration with longstanding musical cohort Daniel O'Sullivan and audio engineer Antti Uusumaki. Welcome, then to The Other Side of The Island. It may feel like an alien land, but really, it’s not so very far from home.

Mark Pilkington. London, June 2007