Cathy Wilkes @ The Modern Institute

Cathy Wilkes assembles found objects and new works, but all with a certain layer of grime

Review by Adam Benmakhlouf | 05 Aug 2016

In the tall, former factory space of The Modern Institute's Aird’s Lane gallery, Cathy Wilkes has left old-looking found objects along the walls and floor, and a set of paintings hung in the middle. In one grouping on the left wall, there’s a yellowed obituary of Princess Diana and a papier mache cast of a balloon; a box of two small, scuffed and strangely unidentifiable toys; and a shell.

Plenty of space has been left around the small number of works on show, drawing attention to each part, while at the same time their arrangement suggests the splayed detritus of long-abandoned houses. As such, the little found objects punctuate the huge room and order its space into a significant emptiness.

For their part, the paintings seem formed of carefully arranged stains, mostly seeping directly into the canvas. With the short exhibition text referencing 'last days' and the Hiroshima book on the table at the back, the blobs begin to cohere into figures surrounding the orange of a high fire or apparition. They could each be the bottom of a conventional oil painting somehow stripped of its layers.

The paintings present a call-and-response with a child’s skirt, brittle and flattened onto the concrete floor. Between them, there’s a look of dank leftovers, but underneath the dress, we can see straight lines drawn on other fabric underneath. It’s just the same on the newspaper obituary, drawn to interact with the oily residue on the paper.

Wilkes’ objects are lyrically manky, and their muted tones murky. Made at once anonymous, important and forgotten, they both are and represent the persistent debris and grime that Wilkes extends from Barras market bric-a-brac into an otherwise indistinct post-apocalyptic future.

Run ended.