Warp And Woof @ CCA
Artists Anna Barham (London) and Bea Mahon (Dublin) show together for the first time at CCA’s exhibition Warp and Woof. Both originally studied mathematics at prestigious universities before taking up art and have a shared interest in that ever allusive subject: how we represent thought through systems, such as spoken, written and visual languages.
Bea McMahon’s video Cats, 2011, is a curious montage of converging images. Cats saunter through an overexposed hallway in someone’s house. A shelled walnut is held up on a pin and turned slightly. We see the back of an old lion sculpture whose feline proportions make us think of the cat, its mane the walnut.
With seemingly no narrative, the video’s subject lies outside of its own limited parameters. Prone to construct meaning despite the incongruity of the images presented, we and our thoughts are as much a part of the work as the projected images. But what of the context?
Cats conforms to the trends of gallery video art to such an extent that meaning’s free reign is almost entirely oppressed. Its cold, austere colour pallet gives little away. Its slow pace sets it in dialogue with the work of artist Rosalind Nashashibi who showed in the same space in 2004. Cats is an interesting look at how the art world and its tropes stifles meaning as much as it expands it.
Anna Barham’s video Iris is the most interesting piece on show. A small-scale projection quickly flicks through images of irises, including classical and Egyptian gods, as well as subgenera of the familiar plant. It makes for a fascinating taxonomy that implies a kind of code that might elucidate the etymology of the word 'iris'. But like all the work on show here, elucidation is nowhere evident, and where this is fine with the otherwise generous Iris, it merely signifies wilful opacity in the other works. [Andrew Cattanach]