LondonClare Woods: The Great Unknown
Exhibition tour. Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 June, 12pm & 3pm. Spaces are limited and allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to book your slot.
London Gallery Weekend opening hours:
Friday 4 June: 10am – 8pm
Saturday 5 June: 10am – 6pm
Sunday 6 June: 11am – 5pm
An exhibition of new collages and prints by British artist Clare Woods (b. 1972) is on view at Cristea Roberts Gallery.
The Great Unknown explores the themes of fragility, transience and otherness, the delicate borders that exist between sickness and health, cruelty and humanity, and the cycle of life. Having initially trained as a sculptor, Woods’ understanding of sculptural forms underpin her pictorial work. New collages and prints depicting interiors, still life and portraiture encourage an understanding of what it means to live in a time of mass image consumption and in a world that treats banality and disaster in the same way.
Drawing inspiration from photographs found from diverse sources such as books, magazines, the internet and her own lexicon of images, Woods is preoccupied with the human body and its environment. She reinterprets the found imagery, cropping or repositioning the subjects so that they hover on the edge of legibility and figuration. Though her work cannot exist without photography, it is not the origin of the image that is important to Woods. She is concerned with the emotional response the imagery triggers within her and its potential for reinterpretation or translation by the viewer.
By creating new content and context through the physical act of making, Woods challenges the viewer’s experiences of fear, anxiety and the destructive impulses of humankind. This is seen in the fragility of rotting fruit in Dead Already, 2019, or the vulnerability of the human figure in Collage for Jargon, 2020, which depicts a close up cropped detail of an open mouth, in Collage for the Cook, 2020, an image of a bandaged hand, and in Rest Cure, 2019, which shows a resting head, seemingly detached from its body.
Flowers are a recent addition to Woods’ repertoire of subjects and are seen in several works including Collage for It’s the End of the World as We Know It, 2020, and a series of four large-scale screenprints with woodblock collectively entitled The Difference Between Now and Then, 2020. Woods comments; “For me, the idea of a vase of flowers represents a life span, in a tiny little environment. You’ve got the youth of the buds and the flowers are in full bloom, before they droop and discolour, and then the petals fall off and they die. It’s the whole life cycle that I am interested in.”
The disjunction between figuration and abstraction lies at the heart of Woods’ works and during the translation into collage or print a space is created. There is no direct ‘touch’ between the artist and the collage and print in the same way as there is in her painting. When Woods has finished with a colour, she applies the leftover paint to sheets of paper. She then uses these coloured sheets to make collages. Although these collaged papers are a by-product of the painting process they themselves go through a tracing, drawing, cutting and sticking production line where a gap is formed by process. Happy accidents and a loss of control arising from the various mechanical printing processes contribute to the physical breakdown of the image and allow for a deceleration and fragmentation of the subject.
The Great Unknown is the first showing of a major body of prints and collages by the artist. Woods comments, “This exploration of the screenprinting, monoprinting and collage processes has afforded me the opportunity to deconstruct, reimagine and reassemble imagery in a completely new way. While adhering to the composition and colour palette of recent paintings I have relished being able to occupy a compelling space between paint and print. There is a magic that happens in that space that you do not get in painting. And that, for me, is what felt fundamentally different about print. I wanted to capture that with the title. Because it is ‘the great unknown’ – the idea of lifting the paper and not knowing what you are going to get. I had no idea when I named the show, back in February 2020, how significant the title could be seen in terms of the world we are now experiencing.”
Clare Woods - The Great Unknown, installation shot. Photo: Maxwell Anderson