Brazilian artist Tonico Auad has subtly transformed the gallery space at Project (rendering it wholly more welcoming in the process) by carpeting the floor. Changing the space to something much more domestic in character, the pale blue-grey softness covers the floor entirely and was used by Auad as the starting point for his installation. The carpet’s surface has actually been scored into and scraped at as the artist picked at the lint to tease out and create a series of luxuriantly ephemeral sculptures: headless rabbits and cats and the tips of ears and tails that grow up from the surface, apparently submerged beneath. The scrapes appear like the traces of a possible struggle and their elfin scale emphasises the contrast between the clumsy bigness of the adult viewers and a miniature world of fairytale – quickly the viewer is drawn into an imaginary space, like a Lewis Carroll creation. The sculptures evoke ideas of the architectural uncanny, of the subconscious fears and desires embedded in domestic spaces: they are the shadowy, almost intangible embodiment of childhood imaginary friends and the muffled threat of the bogeyman. As sculptures, they are utterly enchanting.
Another intervention on the surface of the everyday is displayed on a table in the window of the gallery. The work features three bunches of bananas drawn into with pins (the scored marks on the fruit oxidise to create black line drawings): on one bunch is a face, another a collection of bones and bodyparts, and the last pierced and stabbed with pins. All of this work has been exhibited before and garnered Auad a nomination for the prestigious Beck’s Futures awards in London – the director of the ICA, Philip Dodd, even likened the banana faces to Picasso’s work(!) 1 Auad’s fascination with the qualities of surface would seem to place him as operating closer to the painting tradition, rather than sculpture- however it seems unlikely that divisions such as these are important to the work’s concerns.
Auad has commented on the accidental discoveries of his intervention techniques, absentmindedly drawing on a banana while on the phone, for example, and noticing its effects. This ‘method’ of allowing the imagination to wander, to allow accidents and surprises to happen, permeates the feel of the show: elements of fantasy, the surreal, childish wonder and imagination abound. The process of ‘spatial doodling’ ensures the work doesn’t seem stale, as Auad teases out fluff; materials; ideas. As process-based work, it’s almost like a stream of consciousness or automatic writing slowed down and articulated through the use of everyday materials, that can potentially render the same banal objects and situations unfamiliar, enacting a rupture of expectation and meaning.
There are two other pieces on show in the main gallery, a representation of a shell (drawn onto the wall in pencil and with shells attached) and an animal head made out of a bunch of picked grapes, also attached to the wall. For every grape picked, a gold spot has been glued on, as if there was gold inside. These pieces didn’t seem to ‘fit’ with the others on show, and don’t have the same sensitivity towards their installation. There was an uncomfortably contrived ‘add-on’ feel about them and the other work was strong enough not to warrant their inclusion. In comparison they lacked the same originality/novelty; enacting no transformation of their everyday material, and remaining no more than the sum of their parts. These works perhaps point to the necessity for a greater criticality in approach, revealing how arbitrary the process, and its results, can be. But then, that’s the thing about doodling: it can be pretty hit and miss.
1 Philip Dodd, quoted in The Times online, www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,7951-934235,00.html, December 18th 2003.
Sarah Browne is an artist and writer currently based in Dublin.
Tonico Auad at Project Arts Centre, Dublin, December 16 2003 to January 4 2004.