Pangolin London

Ann Christopher RA 'To Know Without Remembering'

Ann Christopher RA 'To Know Without Remembering'

white lines by ann christopher

Ann Christopher

White Lines, 2013

making lines: ruwenzori triptych by ann christopher

Ann Christopher

Making Lines: Ruwenzori Triptych, 2012

restless shadow by ann christopher

Ann Christopher

Restless Shadow, 2013

resting line by ann christopher

Ann Christopher

Resting Line, 2013

held line by ann christopher

Ann Christopher

Held Line, 2013

found line 3 by ann christopher

Ann Christopher

Found Line 3, 2013

Thursday, November 7, 2013Saturday, December 7, 2013

Kings Place
London, United Kingdom

Following the success of Ann Christopher's first solo show at the gallery in 2010, Pangolin London once again exhibits works by the acclaimed Royal Academician. Renowned for their intimate attention to detail and meticulous treatment of surface texture, Christopher's works are both subtle and elegant, whilst retaining great presence and power. The exhibition includes an exquisite selection of new works in a variety of mediums, including sculpture, jewellery and works on paper, displaying the breadth of her talent.

What a wonderfully enigmatic title for an exhibition, and how intriguing. It suggests a dream-like quality where a memory is snatched back as it hovers on the edge of consciousness before fading forever. Ann Christopher collects phrases in long lists until suddenly a single form of words will detach itself and float invitingly free. This was how the exhibition title was born, a mysteriously beautiful phrase which seems to encapsulate the spirit of her present body of work. Christopher usually works on a larger scale than in the present exhibition but, due to a recent shoulder injury, all the pieces displayed here are on the small side, easily handled, with one remarkable exception. From the wide variety of shapes in the exhibition The Edge of Memory (p.34) is a seminal piece, its axe-head shape spreading like the wings of a bird. Christopher has long been fascinated by knives and blades, and in particular an Eskimo seal skinning knife belonging to a friend which she eventually acquired. The lovely shape of this lethally sharp object can be linked to several of her small sculptures. There are other associations such as regal ceremonial headgear, which Christopher acknowledges may come from her visits to Uganda, and her interest in other so-called ‘primitive’ cultures. Perhaps there are also distant memories of Mexican sculpture and its sacrificial rites. The Edge of Memory began its existence as a piece of hardboard which Christopher cut out to its present shape. Building up layer upon layer of resin paste, a material with which a beautifully even surface can be achieved, she smoothed the paste manipulating and teasing it into craggy, pitted shapes like the surface of the moon. Repeating this process until she was satisfied with the depth and shapes of the applied surface, the piece was then cast in bronze and patinated in a rich, rusty red, with touches of black intervening along the sharp, black edge. Christopher has worked in France, Menorca, Uganda and Ireland, and is profoundly influenced by the landscape and particularly the seascape of those places. The coast in particular is an ever-present influence: the sea at dawn, rocks and seaweed all creep into her work. Striations of cliffs and escarpments, the sense of countless geological strata, are vividly present, although often veiled.

Contrasting with the relatively low sight-line of The Edge of Memory is the tall tower of From the Edges of Silence (p.17), a bronze piece patinated in a soft pinky-red, quietly self-contained, a gentle presence, monumental despite its small size. The pitted and bitten surface of the arrow-head-shaped piece has a very precise cut line in it, made by a milling machine, which contrasts with the marks made by the hand of the artist, creating a tension between the machine-made and the hand-made. In Light Shadow (p.33)Christopher adds an extra dimension using a positive as well as a negative line by means of an external neoprene band contrasting with an incised cut. Shaped like a fat arrow, broad and earthy, one side is markedly more worked upon than the other, and Christopher leaves it to the viewer to decide which is back and which is front. Held Memory (p.9), in stainless steel, is a prime example of Christopher’s unique sensibility to material. Irresistibly tactile, its surfaces are reminiscent of fissures in a craggy surface, of deeps and hollows, promontories and valleys. The material has a coolness about it which makes one think of a fish darting through the depths. It is made so that it can be displayed on its small base or lying down, which immediately offers the temptation to pick it up and handle it, hence the title. Christopher’s use of cords, strings and bands as embellishments to her sculpture is a new development in her work. Held Line (p.25) is a larger, curved piece of bronze held in gentle tension by two cords and White Lines (p.21) and Light Shadow (p.33) also incorporate their use. Here there is a clear crossover between the sculpture and the drawings. The title of the drawing series, made in Ireland, Drawing Lines (p.14) sees Christopher drawing lines with string as well as physically drawing lines in charcoal and graphite. The starting point for Drawing Lines -6 was a white line of light on the horizon with a cloudy sky above, the setting sun shining on the very edge of a dark sea. Christopher’s interpretation finds form in a drawing of dense charcoal, the white line left as a negative space and a piece of mylar (a thick opaque paper) hung over the charcoaled paper with metal clips, like little half-moons peeping over the top. The drawing also incorporates shredded nylon string which Christopher found on the beach and rubbed and pressed hard over the mylar, biting into the surface leaving marks that recall the ghosts of the seaweed she saw on morning walks. The cotton string, dyed black, which zig-zags across the surface are reminiscent of the telephone wires that divided the big grey skies seen from her Irish studio.

The largest sculpture: Restless Shadow (p.11), is a grand and magisterial piece which leans nonchalantly against the wall, its gentle curve just touching at the top. It started life with two pieces of wood which Christopher leant against the wall and spent many months simply looking at. She moved them around, eventually into a larger space where the sunlight caught them, the shadows following the sun, softly or sharply, depending on the intensity of the season. Then by electric light they looked different again. The tall tapering forms fabricated in corten steel are drawn together towards the top by a small intricate locking piece, and rounded off smoothly. Christopher confesses that she herself felt restless during its long gestation, to which the moving shadow is a living testament. From Restless Shadow to the smallest of the sculptures, inspired by such disparate and mundane objects as a magnetic soap-holder and a tiny bobbin, there is an unmistakeable thread of shape-consciousness in Christopher’s work. It runs from the tall aspiring cone, perhaps inspired by skyscrapers or missiles, to the axe-head, with its ceremonial suggestions. Behind it all stands the landscape, with its wind-bent trees and grasses, caves and hollows, and above all the rocky coast, with its seaweed-draped boulders and the eternal roar of the sea, contrasting with the absolute precision of the machine-made line. Thus the natural world and the man-made world come, not into collision, but into a seamless harmony. Ann Christopher’s work combines antiquity and modernity, her voice is calm and serene, qualities urgently necessary in our increasingly frantic world.
Mary Rose Beaumont
August 2013