The artist’s labour-intensive techniques are translated into the medium of video for the first time. His new work presents us with the body of a hedgehog, frozen to death in the winter months, reanimated. The small creature is curled up into a spiny ball, suggestive of a defensive posture or perhaps the sleep-like state of hibernation. It was found by chance, in an overgrown foot tunnel under the Lea Bridge road which has traditionally marked the dividing line between the city of London in the east and the former countryside surrounding. The film is essentially the documentation of a staggered performance. During the course of a month, the artist returned to the site of the animal’s discovery, eventually rolling it along the entire length of the tunnel in both directions, taking photographs at intervals. The film is constructed from 564 of these photos, transferred to digital via a home computer, placed sequentially along a time-line, with the colours inverted, evoking the original exposures on the undeveloped negatives.
The next work, ‘St. George’, consisting of 128 photographic prints, reveals something of the film’s origins. These 2 blocks of photographs represent the beginning and end sequences respectively, of the kicking of a punctured football through thick mud deposited when the River Lea burst its banks following the melting of the winter snow. These images show the gradual morphing of a shape, growing, shrinking and apparently even growing a tail, before folding back on itself, and beginning again, like a lump of clay on a potter’s wheel. The work’s title derives from the obscured English heraldry on the ball, hidden underneath all the mud.
The third piece is a sculpture produced in Denmark over the course of 14 days, by the continued rolling of 26500 metres of Gaffer tape into one, incredibly dense and heavy spherical form. This tape was originally developed during World War Two, to provide a watertight seal for ammunition cases. It is known as ‘panzerband’ or ‘tank tape’ in Germany, as a result of its toughness, and the military have awarded it the nickname ‘1000,000 mile per hour tape’, due to their description of anything that exceeds expectations as being ‘high speed’.
Arranged into a group of wreath-like circular forms on the wall, are many modest sized pieces of metal. These are the remains of a single burnt out car, reforged in the heat of the fire that consumed it, which Bryans came across in London. The rectangular outline of the car was burnt into the asphalt of the road surface, with long fibres from the four melted wheels splaying out on the sides, and a pile of blackened and charred weckage heaped up in he place where the car body and chassis should have been. After collecting all the metal pieces he could find, it took the artist many months using a wire brush to clean and polish all these fragments, slowly releasing them from the thick black layers of oxidised soot. This methodical work process could be seen as a kind of inverted reference to the ritualistic logic and momentary thrill of ‘joyriding’- the criminal act of stealing and setting fire to other people vehicles.
Matt Bryans (1977, Croydon) lives and works in London.
Recent exhibitions include Jack Hanley Gallery, NY; ‘Pastiche’, Sølyst, Denmark (2009); Kate Macgarry, London; ‘Stray Alchemists’, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2008); ‘System Error, War is a Force That Gives us Meaning’, Palazzo delle Papesse, Siena, Italy (2007); Matt Bryans, Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Atlanta, USA (2006); ‘Picture This!’ Museum Dhondt Dhaenens, Deurle(2005) and ‘Pin-up’, Tate Modern, London (2004).
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