Ply Gallery Show
Ply Exhibition ( Group Show)
_Exhibition reflective statement
“Discover something about ourselves and the situation in which we are living.”John Berger
Within Lucy Steeds' instructive 2014 work Exhibition: Documents of Contemporary Art is an article by contributor Martin Beck, himself an artist, The Exhibition and the Display. It is within the pages of this article and the definition of the historical phenomena of the exhibition that I find viewers and artists both can find abound foundation with which to put some of my most recent practice into context. My installation Interpenetration, recently on display at the March-April Traces exhibition in Crouch End, is a worthwhile subject of many of the ideas and counter-ideas expressed and quoted in his article by designers, artists and art critics.
Space and lighting are key to the perception of my abstract practice and relate to the exhibition environment. Additionally, the relationship between my mirror abstract sculptures and bronze installation, alongside other works serve as a coefficient to the space given to establishing the final exhibition impact to an audience, an exhibition terroir to the installation; In his article, Martin Beck quotes Swiss artist and commercial graphic designer Richard Paul Lohse, writing in 1953 that “In their essence, exhibitions are an expression and a play of forces” (Steeds, Exhibition: Documents of Contemporary Art, 2014, p. 29).
The bronze double sided mirror sheet has a “next generation” character, with an implicit implication that the material has been started by human civilization and traversed through lives, during which it has been processed and exercised to extract better use for our domestic needs. Like the iconic Dadaist Marcel Duchamp, in my abstract practice I reject what he identified as the “retinal pleasure”(Stiles and Selz, Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art, 2012, p. 955) as facile and lacking meaningful narrative; I seek to communicate a future with a past. Martin Beck's invocations of the observations of Richard Paul Lohse are again relevant here: “The realization of a cultural and social idea constitutes the most important objective of the art of exhibiting” (Steeds, Exhibition: Documents of Contemporary Art, 2014, p. 29).
The abstract bronze installation and polystyrene mirror sculptures are produced variously at home, workshop or studio. They were initially presented in a closed space under seemingly uncontrollable and stolid white strip lights in the studio. Initially, they were responding to isolation in the studio space rather than being able to manifest emotionality, engage, interact or offer participatory temptation to the audience. Whereas the exhibition-bound artwork in the studio must contend and conflict with the distractions of hanging cables, ventilation pipes on the ceiling or even compete with audience focus with other works, the gallery space has its own character and does help manifest the full weight and narrative of the art.
Ironically the bronze abstract installation was the piece that had to be delivered and installed in the gallery space for the first time. The work was challenging in that it was unpredictable and the finished form was not fully planned. It was hard to predict what would happen during the process of making it 'live' in the exhibition space. That being established, the outcome was phenomenally performative with sounds and physical engagement, so I could say it wasn't only an installation piece, it perhaps straddled both visual and performing arts; indeed, even during set-up, the materials presented sounds like a rainstorm.
Interpenetration maintains its own bold engagement and interaction with the audience, whilst communicating its own feelings including tenderness and fragility while expressing a distinctive robust toughness with its solid forms. Interpenetration is ambitious; the folding and tiding knots, movement from and to different points to another side is almost the span of wide open arms, which defines and invites some sort of embrace or perhaps a relationship. This is in striking contrast to the notion of the display, explained by Martin Beck as a commercial form of exhibition.
The cumulative, modular abstract installations are in vaguely figurative shapes, a sort of sculptural form that experimental Hungarian photographer André Kertész could appreciate; there is a definite connection between this artefact and space, natural lighting emanating from massive windows where placed, controlled LED light and audiences access. Together, these attributes render the complete installation to function harmoniously; it both and welcome and invites us to be closer, yet mindful of its own boundaries.
While Martin Beck cites German designer Klaus Franck, writing in 1961 that “To exhibit means to choose, to display, to present a sample or an example. The imparting of information in every exhibition, and such information may be of a didactic, commercial or representational nature” (Steeds, Exhibition: Documents of Contemporary Art, 2014, p. 29), not all conditions and venues with which to exhibit can be so carefully, rigidly controlled – and perhaps at times the unpredictable conditions can have a symbiotic relationship with the installation. In my most recent exhibition experience, in the display area, I observed a plant, growing inside the room from outside. It is notable this plant had conditioned itself in its life a method to survive outside elements and Weather - this was incidentally particularly relevant and representative of the thought-provocative intentions with which the installation was conceived, expressing the same inward and outward appearance of the shining bronze abstract sculpture. This plant, ironically like the installation, was similarly responding to the reality of what it has have been through individually, finding a way to survive and thrive through great hardships and pressures – much like the stressed and laboured materials in the artwork. Perhaps Swiss exhibition creator and artist Hans Neuberg, writing in 1969, offers some perspective that supports my experience, in Beck's article: “To exhibit means to expose, to show, demonstrate, inform, offer. In either an enclosed space or open space some topic is shown or objects are presented in such a way that their specific qualities can be comprehended” (Steeds, Exhibition: Documents of Contemporary Art, 2014, p. 30).
The almost four-meter bodily installation functions and performs dramatically in the space to render a spectacle of the what is at once aspiring to perfection, while naive and fragile. Although the materials are exceptionally delicate and thin, a dense volume both physical and emotional is evoked, thus presenting a way it has been penetrated and physically demanded of the space exhibits its own manifestation of strength and resilience. This encourages the audience to reach and experience it.
Fig 3: Davoudi, Mehrak. Interpenetration. (2017)
Interpenetration is explorational of multiple interwoven themes. The theme of the mirror in the abstract sculptures is demonstrative of the complexities of life; life is an uneven, asymmetrical process of emotions and interactions. Pain is the tumultuous process of surviving. Reflecting on the distortions and
sometimes perversions and tangents of our life journey are where our emotions converge. The reflected and manipulated objects are that which operates in and beyond space, inwards and outwards, inducing vertigo, engagement and distortions of perspective. In this, there is a sense in which one can lose oneself. These visual principles rise and cross through different points, carrying mysterious moments of memory, experienced repeatedly. Each occurrence inspires something puzzling, performative, yet stoic; an object which presents views from disparate angles that engages and manipulates the same viewer, but in different ways. This object can appear to carry a multiplicity of emotions and inner struggle. The materials find themselves in an ongoing battle; in some ways defeated, in others victorious, recalling the resonance of a particular condition. Presenting itself as a distorted reflection which morphs into a completely liquid form, or is camouflaged in its environment, what is left is emptiness with no solidity.
There were distinguished feedbacks from the audience, including Prof Sonia Boyce and my talented peers and tutors. While embarrassingly unable to recall verbatim their comments, they told me that it is very provocative, interesting and particular. That it gravitates audiences to have the courage to approach it and observed that the reflective pieces absorbing daylight from windows and flooring as well as the colours of bronze installation mix with mirror pieces all develop a new sense of relationship. Many were curious about how the mirror pieces were made - are they moulded or made it just from the material itself? Is the bronze pieces are pepper or its plastic in bronze colour or it's a bronze thin sheets? The material and its fabrication and installation was fascinating for them. On Social Media, the Ply Gallery Instagram account – play gallery – described my work as “beautiful” on the 2ed April post. From the audience, I received a kind and unexpected hand-written note of support and admiration from an individual named Danny Atherden, asserting that he understood my art and it resonated greatly with him.
Bourgeois, Louise and Celant, Germano. Louise Bourgeois: The Fabric Works. Milan, Geneva and New York: Skira, 2010.
Krauss, Rosalind. 'Notes on the Index: Seventies Art in America', October. (Journal Article). Vol. 3 (Spring, 1977), pp. 68-81. Boston: MIT Press.
Steeds, Lucy. Exhibition: Documents of Contemporary Art. Boston: MIT Press, 2014.
Stiles, Kristine and Selz, Peter. Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art. Oakland, California:
Univ of California Press, 2012.
Davoudi, Mehrak. Interpenetration. (2017). Personal work and photograph.
Davoudi, Mehrak. Interpenetration. (2017). Personal work and photograph.
Davoudi, Mehrak. Interpenetration. (2017). Ply Gallery photograph. Available at:
Davoudi, Mehrak. Interpenetration. (2017). Ply Gallery Instagram photograph. Available