Tschabalala Self @ Tramway, Glasgow

Tschabalala Self's exhibition at Tramway is sensorially luxurious and provocative, as she works semi figuratively and experimentally with fabric and paper collage and monoprinting.

Review by Adam Benmakhlouf | 12 Jul 2017

Tschabalala Self’s collages and paintings collage/collide pattern from fabric, as well as cloth dabbed with paint. Across the 21 works on show in the front space of Tramway, textures, colour and dramatically inwardly and outwardly curved shapes are overlaid and stitched. In their intersections and different textures, body parts softly convulse in and out from the picture plane.

A foreshortened leg and thigh from behind seamlessly becomes the small of the back and up to a shoulder, all in a sunflower fabric. The dark circles of their centres in their irregularity and contrast draw attention to the right side, as different from the central navy section and left-hand light blue. Combined with the denser accumulation of smaller patches of the face, the moments of harsh juxtaposition and swooping shapes becomes a means of describing a rush or viscerally felt sensation.

Using evocative combinations of colour and material, Self makes an image of an interior sense of anatomy. Rather than allowing for the easy projecting a sense or narrative onto a more literally drawn or painted figure, the works set up palpable interplays of form and surface. Optically, strong reactions are drawn out by combinations like the assymetrical leopard print pectorals set in the middle of impossibly curved muscled arms with an oblong bright orange behind. With much bare canvas as well, there’s a singularity to the figure that demands attention.

Setting the works close, their scale within the dimensions of the reconfigured gallery space removes again the space for standing back. Observation is skipped by sensorial jarring or deep satisfaction. There’s a sharing or shifting of onus in Self’s specifically set pace of response and observation. Intensely felt, the formal drama of each work comes with luxurious urgency. 

Tschabalala Self, Tramway, Glasgow, until 20 Aug (closed Mondays)