'In attempting to write something about the work produced for this show I have floundered and struggled. The famous suffragette quote ‘Deeds not words’ came into my mind as I scrambled around searching for the right words. To speak of injustice and inequity at the moment is akin to stating that the world is round or the sky blue, by which I mean that the truth of inequality of all kinds has rarely been so self evident, at least in my lifetime. Be it race, gender or economic these inequalities and fundamental injustices have always surrounded us but recently (and presently) it is as if a beam of searing light has illuminated them in all their brutal depth and breadth.
So, how does this clarion call to address injustice connect with the work in this exhibition? I return to the Blake quotation which comes from a poem entitled ‘To see a world...’ itself part of the Auguries of Innocence. The poem beautifully and ingeniously posits the notion that in our universe the micro and the macro are inextricably linked. That, to quote again this time from Wolfgang Tillmans, ‘if one thing matters, everything matters’. It is an anti- nihilism world view where the seemingly insignificant is as important as the momentous:
A Robin Redbreast in a cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage
Now to speak of the images in this context. In the paintings we see statues petrified and bound on their pedestals. Disembodied arms which encircle with dependance and dominance. An acid accusatory - or beseeching? - gaze. Broken mythological figures seemingly stunned by their own constraint and ineptitude. The inevitable passage of time pulsing relentlessly. Explosions which are simultaneously exquisite and deadly. Gloriously ambivalent gods and goddesses remain cooly indifferent to what seethes below. And of course ‘the cage’ - the Blakian cage for the robin - the frame itself that holds the image, frozen in postures of pleasure, sensuality, pain, confusion, titilation and torture.
Particular and peculiar human rituals and urges which play out across the images, and we can see our collective hunger for both pleasure and pain. One of endless binaries with which we quantify and shape experience. And we swoop down into the specific - the micro - the minutiae, the banal, the autobiographical, the journal, the diary. The means through which we lay bare those calamitous, ordinary experiences which serve as the balast of all our lives.
- Ilona Szalay, 2020