649 – 651 Commercial Road
31 March – 21 April 2015
Matt Gee: Natural Simulations
Natural Simulations is the title of emerging artist Matt Gee’s first solo show, at the Husk gallery in Limehouse, London. The show contains a series of small to large scale artificial crystal geode sculptures, canvases and video. I went to visit and see for myself the works on show.
The exhibition is housed in Husk, a former Danish fisherman’s chapel turned multi-format project space. It’s a cosy open plan interior with a little coffee shop area to the right as you walk in with sofas and a bookshelf (with real books!) to indulge in, then the gallery on your left and the drinks bar ahead. After acquainting myself with the bar, the next logical place was to go left. Husk, meaning ‘remember’ in Danish, has certainly tried to do just that. A plaque detailing the former function of this building is positioned on the wall of the stairs up to where one would find the chapel organ.
Matt Gee, Shelves of Faux Specimens Genuinely Archived. Photograph courtesy of London Artist, Steven Gee.
A surrounding of clean white walls of course have been installed in this space (no contemporary art space is complete without white walls) wedged in between the glossy red brickwork of the floor and the upper exposed rugged bricks of the chapel’s original architecture. One would almost forget if it weren’t for the white walls, and the presence of Gee’s art-e-facts.
I feel it’s fitting for Gee’s show, Natural Simulations, to be situated in a place such as this, after all, God knows the euphoric feeling of divinity. Gee returns to that of the sacred through mulit-sculptural compositions like Shelves of: Faux Specimens Genuinely Archived, 2015, a shrine taking the form of a natural history display. The largest work in the show, a headstone-looking piece of cavernous expanding foam taking dominant position.
The show primarily looks at Gee’s experimentations with chemically compounded crystals and the environmental toll of waste. He demonstrates a good eye for material appropriation as seen in Afloat, 2015, a heart shaped hanging sculpture (‘heart shaped’ if you’re in that initial deluded period of a relationship where everything, looked at from the right angle, looks enough like a heart in order to remind you of your love) made of a segment from a swimming float, polyurethane and perspex, hopefully adequately buoyant for when global temperatures raise incrementally enough to cataclysmically melt the polar ice caps, causing rising sea levels, one could grab hold of it and drift to the safety of Noah’s Ark. Or a piece of debris. Whichever comes first.
Matt Gee, Afloat, 2015. Photograph courtesy of London Artist, Steven Gee.
I commend Gee’s look at process as the defining feature of this exhibition – it’s not where you’re at, it’s how well you dance to death’s chime. But also what’s interesting about the Process Art movement is that mechanical reproductions have paved way for an industry of automation. Matt Gee’s use of chemical reactions in his work opens up scope for systems of production that occur without the artists’ hand, a discourse that has been pertinent in the art world since Marcel Duchamp’s readymades and more recently with artists like Damien Hirst and Takashi Murakami’s factory models of output.
The argument about whether or not the artist ever had handled the brush or wielded the chisel in the creation of work is no longer of necessity. What artists like Duchamp, Hirst and Gee are really looking at is a post-craft mode of production, the utility of an overload of materials, cheap labour, even cheaper manufacturing methods and a deficient global recycling system. They employ the same mode of practice as Zaha Hadid does with her architectural firm or as the film industry does in the production of a film. Together we can make bigger, more valuable and resource hungry creations.
Gee’s work explores states of change and our relationship with artificial realities, asking at what point do we predominately live among simulated monuments and systems rather than those of the first order and would we genuinely recognise either? A baudrillardian quarrel because you never ‘know’ if he actually existed or not.
Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, 1970 – Similar to Gee’s work with his themes on pollution, states that understanding the responsibility of the artist’s hand is necessary in order to establish a bond with our environment.
I suppose Natural Simulations takes that dialectic position. Expanding foam painted to reflect geological qualities, crystals grown in the artist’s studio simultaneously acting as a surrogate laboratory/mineral mining locale, these don’t operate to deceive but purely behave as truth. They are beyond simulations and simulacra’s, Gee’s work argues that they take root in reality. From the extensive extraction of conflict resources like Tantalum, the chemical element used in digital components, to its rapid increase in price as demand rose; considerably so during the release of the Sony PlayStation 2 games console in late 2000. Demand for the mineral still endures as high income nations continue an increasingly excessive consumption rate. A heavy price for a go on Fifa despite approximately 5.4 million deaths in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1998 as a result. The Sony PlayStation 2 console, I believe, best delineates the reliance of an original corporeality in order for the simulation to operate. Naturally.
Natural Simulations attempts at presenting a holistic exposition and does so well. The show is open Tuesday – Saturday and on until 21st April.
Matt Gee will be exhibiting his second solo show at Gallery 286, opening 14 July 2015, if you’ve managed to miss this one.
Written by Kosha Hussain