This exhibition is British artist Susan Collis’ most comprehensive to date. Her subtle interventions into exhibition spaces are beautiful simulations of things usually concealed. The idea of the double take (trompe l’oeil), whereby we are required to look again, is crucial in her work, as it is devised to confound expectations.
Collis’ practice involves the representation of everyday objects, made through a painstaking use of ‘craft’ processes and precious materials. An ambitious new commission This too shall pass (2010) is at the centre of her exhibition. Imitating a partly dismantled temporary wall, various remnants – holes, screws, Rawlplugs, adhesive tape, staples and paint splashes – are faithfully copied using black diamonds, silver and coral. Elsewhere, Work on it (2002) is a worn table apparently covered with marks and specks of paint; in fact its surface is littered with vinyl that mimics the wood-grain. Better Days (2007), a dust-sheet seemingly paint-stained and discarded, is revealed to be meticulously decorated with delicate embroidery, a very deliberate action rather than the result of an accident.
At first glance Collis’ exhibition appears almost empty, not yet ready for visitors. This misreading is further encouraged by the playful positioning of pieces such as Age old story and Forever Young (both 2009). Each work, resembling a mix of casually piled scraps or waste leaning against walls, is in fact made from expensive hardwoods and veneers held together by nails of gold and silver or ‘stained’ with amber, topaz and jasper.
The wit of Collis’ work lies in the time-consuming effort involved in her production of useful looking useless objects, redundant or surplus to requirements, that disclose their true nature on closer scrutiny.
To coincide with her exhibition Collis has produced a limited edition titled together we’re making history. Priced £500, edition of 10, each piece is a pair of winged Rawlplugs, made from carved Flower Garden Agate.
A catalogue accompanies the exhibition, priced £13.