Ernst Logar @ Peacock Visual Arts

The transparency of the Scottish oil industry is tested by Austrian artist Ernst Logar

Article by Jaco Justice | 22 Oct 2008

The metaphors come thick and slick in Austrian Ernst Logar’s Invisible Oil exhibition, understandable to a city whose life is traditionally dictated by the non-polar substance. A transparent oil barrel takes centre stage, and by its side Logar has listed all the requests, motions and enquiries he has engaged in with multinational companies to gain access to and information on the somewhat guarded oil industry and its sites. At the opposite end of the gallery a dark room presents sticky, oiled frames containing prints Wellhead and Laboratory, the latter continuing Logar's intriguing and longstanding Non-Public Space theme. In this branch of his practice, Logar endeavours to gain access to and document spaces that are not usually open to the public, spaces that at first may seem irrelevant or uninteresting, but on closer inspection reveal their significance in the apparatus of power and their consequent relevance to everyday life. Here, Logar has documented crucial locations in the oil production process, creating images of apparently rather dull spaces made fascinating by their exclusivity, and by the lengthy negotiations necessary to gain access.

Illustrating the point that the oil industry is inextricably linked with the life of Aberdeen, we see the North Sea oil and gas pipelines mapped out and pulsing artery-like through Scotland to the refineries. Elsewhere, the artist has utilised oil as a material. Prints, produced in conjunction with Peacock Visual Arts, reunite crude oil with modern plastic debris, their fossil like imagery eerily skewing the timeline of where and when this work has been created. In Reflecting Oil the artist cheekily employs continuously pumping crude oil as the substance of a mirror, secure in a perspex-bound box, the viewer's reflection unnervingly, accusingly becoming part of the piece.

Logar’s masterstroke on regional comment lies in the ‘rig’ sculptures he has constructed from plastics and other petrochemical-fabricated objects washed up on nearby shores. Photographed upon Aberdeen beach strutting proudly before the vast ocean that offered up its contents, each oil rig has been given the illustrious name of one of the most deprived areas in the city, in stark contrast to the conventional naming of North Sea rigs after free-flying Scottish birds. These sobering yet fun pieces work wonderfully, and it would be nice to think they are still out there on the beach being battered and aged by the elements. Logar's subject matter is supremely timely, under the current economic and environmental climates, and his injection of black humour illustrates, perhaps, the final line of comic-attack that some folk in Aberdeen have in understanding their role in energising Britain.