Lilah Fowler, a 2008 graduate from Royal College of Art, came to the Maria Stenfors gallery in Wren Street and assessed the space. The building’s architectural plans were retrieved from a dusty box, measurements were taken and the history of not only the building but also the surrounding area was investigated. This was before the show was even confirmed.
This process is not unusual for Fowler, who works on an architectural level to integrate the building and its surroundings into her work and, thus, ties every exhibit to its location. Were the exhibit to be transferred to another gallery, it would have to be deconstructed and rearranged to reflect the individual character of that space, together with its history and surroundings. With all this in mind, it doesn’t sound too pretentious to say that this really is a unique never-seen-before never-will-see-again exhibition.
What does sound a bit strange is that Fowler took inspiration from both Camden, the gallery’s borough, and California, where she recently visited. A few minutes in the gallery will, however, reveal this to be surprisingly self-evident: the spaces portrayed through the images and installations are open, wide and empty, reminiscent of the Californian desert.
…soft blues mix with bolder reds and greens…
Soft colours reinforce this, especially in ‘Bounds’, where soft blues mix with bolder reds and greens, creating a warmth that complements the sparseness of the images. Creating space is surprisingly difficult, as images are magnified so the viewer can see every colourful pixel of the picture, zooming in so much that one may be excused for feeling claustrophobic or overwhelmed. A short step back, however, and the expansiveness of the image comes through.
It is the architecture of the exhibit that really has an impact on the viewer; having visited the gallery before, I knew the space and what to expect, which wasn’t two blocks across the room, creating new spaces, corners and, curiously, even more light, when you would have thought the opposite to be the case. Against the larger of the two partitions rested ‘Slant’, a white steel sculpture, casually positioned at a jaunty angle that sorted the anal organisers from the messy observers.
…beg you not to stomp all over them…
I love when art and images jump off the walls and interact with the viewer or, in the case of ‘Blue in colour’, lie on the floor and beg you not to stomp all over them. Fowler placed blue and yellow neoprene squares on the floor in arrangements representing the blocks into which the gallery’s units are organised. Atop these squares was what looked like compressed bubble wrap and image printouts that cleverly changed depending on which angle you viewed them from.
By combining materials and techniques with the influences of the gallery and its surroundings, Fowler has created a unique exhibition that presents itself, quite plainly, before the reader. Quietly self-assured, the pieces ask you to consider the interaction of the work, the building and its greater surroundings, serving to make the work – and the viewer – seem incredibly small yet perfectly placed.