In her first solo exhibition in Asia, Virginia Overton presents new sculptures and works on paper. In this body of work the artist explores the histories embedded in certain materials, and the narratives and value systems that are created when these materials are appropriated, revived and re-contextualised.
Overton’s sculptures are made from objects and elements she comes across in her immediate environment, her choices and working process driven by what she has described as the ‘natural push and pull in materials’. She selects materials that are part ready-mades, altering their purpose and function through a shift in perspective or orientation. As with so much of her work, the materials used in this exhibition have had other lives before taking on a life as artwork. For this new series of sculptures Overton has reassembled aluminium letters and logos salvaged from the names and signs adorning the facades of high-rise corporate buildings.
In both the sculptures and works on paper, geometry is employed to create a tension that seems to run counter to the inherent qualities of the materials. She uses this carefully balanced tension to explore the poetic potential of the works, as in Untitled (Tiger’s eye) (2019), which is made up of fragments of red signage that have been configured to form an almost perfect square with an oval-shaped void at its centre. This sculptural relief, composed of imperfect off-cuts, resolves into a harmonious whole, achieving an equilibrium that not only brings the viewer’s attention to its materiality – its curves, blemishes and weathered texture – but equally, to the space which the work both occupies and displaces. By appropriating the mechanisms of a capitalist society, the object now ‘spins off in an entirely new direction’.
For the work Untitled (#11 Pink) (2020), Overton returns to using neon in juxtaposition with found materials: an aluminium truck rail – a long piece of metal used to cover the edge on the bed of a pickup truck – is installed against the wall and coupled with a piece of bent aluminium, its curved edge traced with a line of delicate pink neon. Here, the artist upsets the dichotomy of ‘trash and treasure’ by reviving the discarded truck rail; willfully combining disparate materials in a single gesture of cohesion.
Shown alongside the sculptures are a new series of works on paper, made of cut-up adhesive vinyl lettersets spliced back together and glued onto paper. Referencing Constructivist collages of the early 20th century, Overton relies on the flat plane of the paper to develop a three-dimensional composition whereby she lays the letters on top of one another, opening up spaces within the resulting graphic configuration. Working simultaneously on the sculptures and works on paper, the artist describes these bodies of work as ‘two channels of water flowing that have a confluence but remain unique in their materiality’.
The American writer Rebecca Solnit proposed that: ‘The names of colours are sometimes cages containing what doesn’t belong there, and this is often true of language generally […] We need the words, but use them best knowing they are containers forever spilling over and breaking open. Something is always beyond.’ The poetic undercurrent in Overton’s exhibition reminds us of this; the works still brandish their material histories while living in the presence of a new form, encouraging us to look beyond language, beyond materiality and to relish their new otherness.
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