A Poetic Exploration of Space in Lines
At Window Gallery, Phoenix Art Space, Brighton
2 – 24 July 2022 (Wednesday – Sunday, 11.00 – 17.00)
Outer space is right here, right now. It’s in front of us and in us, one and all – for there’s an inner space too. In terms of individual consciousness the two may as well be the same. When we think, we travel too, even if we remain physically still. When there is nowhere left to go, when we are trapped, marooned or sheltering from the storm we can rely on mental space. Still, but adrift in time, when memory kicks in to take us out of ourselves there is a palpable sense of space as an extension of self. Such are the conditions of splendid isolation, afforded most recently during the early months of the global pandemic.
Kiki Stickl clearly made the most of her own experiences of her family’s six months spent in countryside near Munich during the first lockdown in 2020 when she produced her ‘Breath in Breath out’ series of drawings, several of which appear in Drift. Here she encountered ideal conditions for creativity: time and space, duration and environment – and possibly sound as well – especially when the world is hushed. In fact, as I awoke on the morning after seeing Drift being installed at the Phoenix Art Space a couple of days before the opening I was semiconsciously thinking of Stickl’s drawings as visual soundworks. Not necessarily apropos Cage’s 4’ 33”, but literally, and deafeningly, silent. Stickl’s drawings suggest small arenas of silent sound consisting of visual counterpoints, full of emptiness inviting a form of meaningful mark making as an abstract response to recalling time and space. These are drawings made as an end result as they are not subservient to, or necessarily leading to painting as might traditionally be the case. Stickl conjures drawings from a meditation in the everyday physical realm of being that amount to sensory, environment-based studies. From a landscape environment to the literal sheet of paper that she works on, the drawings map out themselves. Sometimes she cuts the paper to reference, literally, a sense of layering as well as amalgamating marks on the paper surface as a form of recording what has been seen and remains to be seen: Cartesian, with Buddhist overtones.
Drift presents 19 works. One is a temporary wall drawing (employing paint); another is a painting (titled, ‘Lines of Disruption’); plus seventeen square format drawings on paper, simply but immaculately framed. The painting is placed in the adjoining coffee shop, but cannot be missed on the main show wall as a little taster of her painting practice. The wall-based work, ‘Drift’, at about two metres square, is the centrepiece in the long Window Gallery space. Composed as an essentially linear structure from two tones of grey paint on the white wall, with the addition of ground up glass beads applied to the lightest grey paint when it was still wet, the darker grey mass suggests a resting figure, perhaps in meditation pose. An ephemeral, time-based work such as this will disappear at the end of the exhibition later this month. This work, therefore, demands that we hold it in our memories, just as we may do from our personal experiences of places beyond the gallery.
The bulk of the show consists of the drawings that have been selected from a much larger body of works, the aforementioned ‘Breath in Breath out’ series. From drawing to drawing, as they are arranged in blocks and rows, there is great variety of imagery and mark making. Subtle use of colour is occasionally employed, although they still read as essentially monochrome iterations. In many, linear rhythms consisting of scribbles, dots and short or flowing lines are accumulated suggesting light and weather conditions. Forms are deconstructed to some extent, invoking that sense of recall that does not rest, preferring flux and instability as performative, shorthand approximations. Imagery that might be solid is no longer fixed as a conventional photograph might replicate for the viewer. The paper cut-out sections present voids and absences, shadow and light, useful contrasts and visual paradoxes. Implied shapes and lively line is reductive though essential as imaginative remnants of remembrance celebrated. These are motion pictures, mapping the psyche as much as the terrain.
Stickl is not so much taking a line for a walk (re: Paul Klee) as inventing and playing with accumulations, sometimes in counterpoint mode, un-egotistically presenting a notion of drift through time and space.
Phoenix Art Space – https://www.phoenixbrighton.org/Events/kiki-stickl-drift/
Kiki Stickl – https://www.kikistickl.com