Eve Fowler @ DCA
Eve Fowler's DCA show engages with the work of Gertrude Stein as a reminder of the radical malleability of language and its capacity as a mode of political resistance
Repetition invites us to contemplate the direct presence of words, their meaning, intentions and intensity. In the case of Miss Furr and Miss Skeene written by renowned Modernist poet Gertrude Stein in 1922, the word ‘gay’ is used 136 times, insistently claiming it to simultaneously connote happiness, joy and – radically – same-sex desire.
Eve Fowler’s DCA show comes from the artist’s long engagement with Stein’s writings and it opens with a black-and-white 16mm film – with it which it as it if it is to be – showing a collective portrait of Fowler’s friends at work in their studios with voiceover by eight writers and artists reading from Stein’s 1910 text Many Many Women. Creative activity is repeatedly examined and reimagined through these words.
The darkened space opens up to the main gallery of text works by Fowler, celebrating this power of language in painting, print, neon, vinyl and collage. The works are visually arresting, laid in bold typefaces and playful colours across the space, brightened by natural daylight.
Patriarchal poetry emblazoned in bright yellow and red text demands a re-negotiated relationship to the structure of poetry and language. Nearby, this provocative and silent exchange with text continues: 'i want to tell about fire' reads over a soft pastel pink backdrop. Language here is a site of imagery and meaning, remaining open to new interpretations in new contexts. The typography is reminiscent of the deadpan brightness of the Colby poster design agency that served some of the best-known American artists of the 60s and 70s.
Gertrude Stein’s words multiply in meaning through Fowler’s works. Words can empower and unsettle, and this call to reclaim language’s subversive agency and capacity to question status is especially urgent amongst increasingly disturbing political contexts – Brexit negotiations, Trump in the US, and last month's presidential re-election in Turkey.
Eve Fowler, until 26 August, at Dundee Contemporary Arts.