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Devils in the detail

IMG_2797[1]Many local authority collections have a budget for purchasing from local artists, or indeed benefit from donations of work by local artists welcome or not. In Glasgow, which has such an important art scene internationally, the local authority museum has a small but interesting collection of work by Glasgow School of Art graduates which they regularly show with different curatorial slants. Just now they have a show running til Sun 28 Feb 2016 which includes artists such as Christine Borland, Jim Lambie, Roderick Buchanan, Victoria Morton & Simon Starling.
There is one work on display which I think is worth looking at in more detail. It is a piece by Nathan Coley entitled Lockerbie Evidence and Lockerbie Witness Box, which is an exact replica of the witness box used at the Lockerbie bombing trial surrounded by hand drawn versions of key pieces of evidence.
There is not space here to elaborate on the intriguing issues raised by Coley’s journey to becoming an artist in residence at the Lockerbie Trial in terms of how artist interact with the world around them, but the link I have attached to his name above will give interested students a chance to follow up on his very particular approach to research led practice.
In this blog, I would like to look particularly at the way Coley has constructed the art work itself. Mimesis has been such a contested and yet apparently resistant concept in art making. Any artists needs to spend time coming to their own conclusion about the part it plays in their practice and its relevance. In this work Coley has produced ‘an exact replica’ of the chair and desk used by witnesses. It is not an appropriation (as a piece of industrial furniture presumably he could just have bought one from the same supplier) but it has been commissioned and built to be identical. The evidence on the other hand is painstakingly drawn by hand and enlarged to about A1 in scale. These are not expressive or overtly authored drawings. They are a testament to the labour and temporality of drawing as an act of translation of movement into line.
For me this work is like watching someone pick the lock of objective reproduction and watching them swivel the chambers of the lock just one turn each way.
For many years I have been encouraging my level 3 students to consider articulating their practice across the various disciplines of making at their disposal – opening up the ideas to be curated and positioned relative to each other between objects, rather than necessarily trying to do everything in one painting or within one art work or way of making. The new Sustaining Your Practice course at level 3 gives students even more space now to consider their work as a curated entity. This piece by Nathan Coley with its juxtaposition of almost static but lurkingly human bureaucratic collateral is an excellent exemplar of such an approach.

Posted by author: Emma Drye
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3 thoughts on “Devils in the detail

  • Thank you for posting this. It is definitely something I need to see. I’ve just googled this and it is at GoMA, Royal Exchange Square, about 5 minutes walk from Glasgow Central railway station. Looks like I’ll be making the trip soon.

    • Thank you Steve, I am naughty for not making that clearer. Its a nice show – it has Torsten Lauschmann’s little balloon and some quite good shrigley videos.

  • Thanks Emma, I too will be paying a visit to Goma to see this. I’m intrigued by the concept of mimesis and what it brings to an art work, and what the value is, as opposed to going to see the original witness box.

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