Ritual at Danielle Arnaud Gallery, London (1999)

Review of exhibition including work by Amy Eshoo, Marie France, Patricia Martin, Susan Morris and Jacqueline Pennell.

R.J. Preece
artdesigncafé - art | 15 September 2009
This review first appeared in World Sculpture News, 5(3), page 70 in 1999.

Ritual at Danielle Arnaud Gallery, London

Many endeavors can take on the form of rituals, yet rarely do they become the basis for voyeuristic neuroticisms and a “self-pleasuring” art show. Comprising ten sensitively distributed art works by New York’s Amy Eshoo, Marie France, and Patricia Martin, who are Swiss-born but resident in Belgium, and London-based Susan Morris and Jacqueline Pennell, Ritual addressed the theme while playing on the site, Danielle Arnaud’s two-story gallery-salon.

Several approaches addressed rituals. In the foyer, Amy Eshoo’s installations What Are You Waiting For… (1997, left, in another location) contrasted a photographed chair at seating level with origami birds dispersed on the floor pitting dark against light, stability against instability, permanence against impermanence, and two-dimensional against three-dimensional space. The subjects invite the viewer to contemplate their relationship to this chair and installation.

Upstairs, photographs by the identically twinned Martins consisted of a Degas-esque bathing detail, and a make-up-applying identity transformation. In Adam and Eve, the duo juxtaposed a gilded mirror which frames a “reflection” of a couple’s legs in a decaying, upper-class Continental interior. Floral wallpaper symbolically refers to the Garden of Eden, emphasized by the order of diagonally crossed lines. Set above a tattered sofa, the work pits past against the present and order against decadence, and shifts these things into ambiguity.

For video installation, Susan Morris continues her work of making the ordinary become tense, twisted, and extraordinary. In the wraparound stairwell, Morris takes the awkward space and installs an 18 by 12 inch projection near the top landing with Machine: IV (1999). Continuously looped, the video was shot in a glass-and-chrome elevator that is sheathed within a Georgian interior looking out at its architectural equivalent across the street. Further, in Danielle Arnaud’s bedroom-turned-sparse art installation, Susan Morris’ Vanitas: Hair (1997) consists of side-by-side monitors, with one playing the equivalent’s reflection of Morris having her hair “dressed, and repositioned, by a local stylist, and addresses getting “trapped in the ritual, and unable to get it right.” Curiously set to jazz music recalling a doctor’s waiting-room, the viewer is invited to sit on Danielle Arnaud’s lace-covered, four poster bed, and watch the neuroticism. In this installation, Morris continues with her non-moving frame, which create a strong tension with its rigid monotony and sterility. The work overpowers the space and twists ritual into an extreme state.

Spatially, Jacqueline Pennell’s mirrored reflections and their effects were dispersed. Approaching the entrance, one window-pane appears broken, but then peculiarly reflects back. Viewed form the interior, Window (1999) also reflects and this double-sided mirror complicates the interior/exterior distinction, and ritual is activated through the role, usage, and associations of mirrors. For the reinstalled Solo (1997), Pennell takes 16 mirror-cut outlines of her hands applauding set above mirrored rectangular forms. The implied noise unsettles the quiet space, and the reflections implicate the viewer as a performer in this calculated interaction. Upstairs, the discrete oval-shaped I Miss You (1999) looks like a small, traditional mirror. On reflection, we discover the title’s words whispering at us, visually playing on the pronouns and redirecting the feeling back at us.

Overall, the show haunts the domestic interior with various juxtapositions, reflections, and voyeurism. Ritualistically, Jacqueline Pennell’s “broken window” winks at us leaving the Gallery, offering an invitation to come back for a second visit.