For Tropisms, Natasha Pike presents a close-knit family of new abstract painting, made objects and a hybridity of both. Opening by Holly Cairns TD for Cork South-West on Friday 3rd September at 7.30pm it runs until the 24th September, Tues-Sun 11am – 5pm at Clonakilty Community Arts Centre, Astna Square, Clonakilty, Co Cork.
The exhibition borrows its title from modernist writer Nathalie Sarraute’s 1939 novel. These experimental short stories are populated by anonymous characters, objects and daily events. They are the tools she uses to make us aware of the instinctive and subconscious nature of response that develops in us and rapidly passes through us. In focusing on these instinctual movements and sensations that hide behind our normal gestures, words and daily routines she reveals ‘the dynamics at play between our thoughts and actions beneath the veneer of social convention.’
Tropisms are the biological responses or movements of plants and organisms prompted by external stimuli; a fitting frame for Sarraute’s work, and perhaps a lens through which to approach the pieces in this exhibition. Formal paintings are hung together with more experimental forms; chipboard and canvas, silicone, trolley wheels, concrete and steel bar combine to become hybridised painting objects, unsure of their identity or narrative capacity but characters acting as props for containment or poised ready for animation. The painting, the object and the hybrid fold into one another again and again making a feedback loop between what is abstract [or of spirit] and what is physical [or of matter].
The presentation here will mark the beginning of a new project to produce an artist’s book. Taking the idea of tropisms it will invite contributions from cross disciplinary thinkers and individuals in fields such as physics, architecture and anthropology. Within the format of a book these disciplines can be placed side by side in order to examine how their modes of working and material explorations coincide with art practice. The goal here is to give a space to collectively imagine how these relationships can be useful in thinking about new and diverse sense making models for the future.
Lucretius states in his prose Of the Nature of Things that all matter is perpetually raining down. I believe this force of substance is requiring a moment of our attention. The work is driven by an exploration of matter, played out here in the dynamic between the painted surface and made object.
A set of abstract encounters between humble materials are established using painted or raw, stretched or un-stretched canvas, simple fabrics, cement, and steel bar. This staged encounter is a function of formal decisions I make around the qualities of the raw material, colour, surface, texture, weight, scale and line. I do not overly transform these materials but rather give an allowance for balancing the interacting physical matter of them. There is a vital materiality to each object and painted surface, and in organising them into assemblage they take on a new agency together, capturing the energy of their form in new containment.
In Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things, she discusses the participation of human and non-human forces, the interconnected moving along together of all matter, a mutual absorption in living and an ecology of difference. These ideas influence the installation of the work I make, becoming a set of conditions for holding a spatiality open, a space for attention, and claiming an aesthetic language through a poetic framework.
Natasha Pike is now based in West Cork after several influential years living and working in Berlin. She has an MA in Art and Process from the Crawford College of Art and Design and a BA in Fine Art from Falmouth University. In 2020 she was shortlisted for the RDS Visual Art Awards and was the recipient of the Lismore Castle Arts Graduate Award resulting in a solo exhibition at St Carthage Hall. She has had solo exhibitions at Origin Gallery Dublin and was recently selected for a Munster Technological University purchase prize.