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Simon Ingram at Vavasour-Godkin

We're going back to December last year.

This gallery insulates itself as well as it can from the chipped paint of the battered concrete staircase of this oldish High Street building: far from a cube, but thoroughly white. Inside you can usually get some of the tougher low-key colour abstraction in town.

In December it was sheets of almost black steel with rectilinear designs lightly - 30 seconds - etched in with hydrochloric acid. And a small wood thing at eye-level, which, it transpired, was a stove for a doll's house. And in an angle of the wall, high up, a video-loop of hands assembling - with a fumble or two - from a kit-set sheet said wooden thing. So. Yes, a Ready-Made design (a de- sign).

These steel sheets are only masquerading as paintings. Or, if they are to be taken as "works", literally taken, that is, taken home, they can hardly be explained away over cocktails as if they were Mondrian's or Gordon Walters'. But seductive they are in a dark, broody kind of way, unpretty and barely legible, images of desperation or angst - (oh, yeah?)

The show as a whole is really the work, undermining art as aesthetic preferences by using an appropriated, ready-made design. The design proves to be for a surprisingly elaborate production process, for a consumer-item, whiteware, durable, part of the training equipment for a very young consumer of the future. Think of the expenditure of social energy for this admirable end.

Representation is also ironised under Simon Ingram's steely gaze. The miniature stove, mounted in a cabinet with non-functional drawers, is represented not in metal but in wood, while the elaborate architectural-looking plans for it are enlarged grandly and etched into metal.

As with his previous work which incorporated spirit-levels, the discourse he sets up is elaborated, punning, and deeply indebted to the Duchampian opposition. As with the 1960's succession to Duchamp, the setting has to be an art-gallery, usually a dealer-gallery, which is necessary to it for the production of its irony in respect of high art. It is, in the end, directed at modernist attitudes in the gallery-goers, who are the gallery's clients. There is a problem here for the artist.

His work comes into focus locally as part of a tradition that extends back to the 1960's and which is still virtually excluded from consideration by the "histories", i.e. from that sort of canon-making that favours modernist painting, self-expressive, whether representational or abstract. There stands official taste and granting bodies with it.

Tony Green
January, 1998