IKON Birmingham

Ikon Gallery | 1 Oozells Square, Brindleyplace
GB-B1 2HS Birmingham

plan route show map

artists & participants

press release

British artists John Wood and Paul Harrison are best known for screen-based works that often involve the manipulation of familiar objects, giving rise to a wide range of imaginative associations. Shelf (2007) for example, presented in Ikon’s Tower Room, features a row of green bottles, recalling the well known playground song, and model horses jumping a barrier reminiscent of Muybridge’s explorations of movement in film. The sense of humour is characteristic, signifying an optimistic proposition that informs the artists’ work overall. The situations they invent may seem absurd at first glance, but always they embody an attempt to make sense of the world.

Night and Day (2008) is arguably their most ambitious piece to date. As the title suggests, light and dark play signifcant roles within individual events, as if they were protagonists moving from one scene to another. Consecutive exchanges with everyday things, some play with illusion and the transformation of space, some suggest a fragmentary narrative, while others imply a wryly comic touch.

Much of the work here, newly commissioned, indicates a change in direction for Wood and Harrison. Although they have frequently produced drawings as a way of developing ideas, these methods have remained in the studio rather than appearing in the gallery space. Works now acknowledge the pivotal role played by drawing and diagrammatic models. Pieces such as Transition (clockwise) and Transition (squares) (2009) are permanent marker on paper and clearly handmade; lines visibly filling in areas of black tone. Hung vertically on a wall, we are inclined to read them as a film strip, in turn suggesting graphic devices used within opening credit sequences for film and television.

A radical departure for the artists is the exclusive use of text, most clearly seen in Some words. Some more words. (2009), ten A1 prints from an ongoing series, and Of Knowing Where You Are (2009). The latter is a new video which uses combinations of words, like sub-titles from an unseen film. Frugal texts, ebbing and flowing like an open-ended storyline, express a sense of place and location. These ‘dry’ visualisations thus open up a space for personal reflection, surprising us with the emotional response they elicit.

This exhibition was organised in collaboration with Musée départemental d’art contemporain de Rochechouart and Kunstmuseum Thun.

John Wood / Paul Harrison
Some words. Some more words