Kate Davis @ Stills Gallery, Edinburgh

In Kate Davis' solo show at Stills, she brings together multiple strands of her practice from the previous few years, including film, photographic and drawn works

Review by Adam Benmakhlouf | 03 Oct 2017

Entering Stills, it would be easy to look past one of the largest parts of Kate Davis’ Nudes Never Wear Glasses. Three new walls have been placed at points throughout the long exhibition space, looking deceivingly like the exposed brick of old features of the building – matching the usual polished concrete floors. Passing around them without question, potentially unperceived labours form or become unseen barriers.

These heavy interventions in the usual circulation of the space are a surprisingly large scale and spatial take on the kinds of invisible labour Davis questions throughout the different video, drawing and photographic works.

For example, a combined subversive wit and careful new presentation or reworking of existing materials takes place in the film works presented. In Weight, one of the two films presented, Davis offers a detailed revision of a 1961 BBC documentary script. The name of the original subject is not mentioned except in the credits (Barbara Hepworth) and all instances of “this artist” are replaced with “this woman”. References to artistic tools and practice are variously substituted with cleaning, cooking and household utensils and shopping bags. Inserting such revisions into the older text rebounds between a dignifying of domestic labour, but also a side-eyeing of bombastic mystification of the artistic genius.

This practice of revising and editing is continued from the literal scratching away in two of the experimental photographic works included. The first of these black-and-white images is of a tall sculpture of a nude woman and has had glasses scratched into it. This and its partner are on each side of the new brick wall, and the second sees a wartime monument to a male soldier defaced to have him holding a baby in blankets. Across the video and tampered-with photographs, these ostensibly small edits’ jangling humour combine to underscore the rigorous and pernicious habits and formalities that permeate the accepted canonical imagery and narrative conventions of art history. 

Kate Davis, Nudes Never Wear Glasses, at Stills Gallery until 8 Oct