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Turbulence: Andy Currie
The Exchange Penzance, 7/3/09-30/5/09
Andy Currie's show at the Exchange in Penzance follows on from that of another local artist: Partou Zia. Both were in the Tate St Ives show: Art Now Cornwall of 2007. Currie's main contribution at the Tate, small kinetic sculptures installed on a low trestle table, were particularly well received. What was there not to like about them? Cute, low-tech and cheeky: they were like the joker in the pack.
But to what extent did their success depend on the context of the show, and the fact that they could play off the other more serious or sensible works? Now, two years down the line, would Currie's nonchalance and lightness of touch survive the soberingly large and forbidding space of the Exchange?
The answer is, emphatically, yes. But the mood of the new work could n't be more different. Gone is the rebellious good humour. Instead the four sculptures at the Exchange have a serious, even magisterial grandeur, that is linked to their impressive scale. The titles don't add much, and in fact they are deliberately dumb and emotionless; but one of the works, 'Dust Sheets' (above top), which reaches from the floor to the ceiling has an unlikely mesmeric, otherworldly aura, like a spectre or ghost. Simply made up of 6 or 7 plastic translucent sheets drifting about in the turbulent air above a nest of electric fans, it benefits from the dimly lit atmosphere of the innermost section of the gallery.
The soft artificial light also seems to benefit the work in the opposite corner. '28 steel rods' (above bottom), which is a similar size, is also particularly strong, though in contrast with 'Dust Sheets' it's skeletal and stiff: the component rods are powered by windscreen wiper motors and turn awkwardly around on their axes.
An electric fan also animates 'Untitled Shadow' (above top), this time by blowing about ping-pong balls on top of an overhead projector. Again showing an inventive use of contrasting, elemental materials, it is a work which is lighter in mood, and was first seen at the Out of Bounds event at the end of 2008. 'Fans with Propellers' (above below) nearby is built around the solid structure of shiny new scaffolding, in which the floating movements of tiny propellers, like humming birds or sycamore leaves, is delicate and subtle in comparison.
Unlike Zia's paintings, there is no narrative or biography discernable in these works. Currie's personality is present in his art, but otherwise it is not about him at all. It is tempting to compare this show to Peter Geschwind's at the Exchange in the middle of last year. However, whilst Geschwind used similar component parts, it seemed at times he was trying to make a point eg about consumerism (and IKEA furniture).
But Curries work is more formal than that, and more beguiling. It borrows directly from a tradition of kinetic art that reaches back via Roman Signer and Rebecca Horn in the 1980s, via Yves Tinguely to Naum Gabo's vibrating wire of 1920. For better or worse, it doesn't really have a message, but it does allude to the forces of nature, and in so doing extracts a powerful and engaging poetry from unlikely sources.
Rupert White 10/3/09