Christopher Campbell Gardiner is a magician. He transforms anxiety into serene objects through his meticulous artistic labour. His retrospective exhibition at the Dunlop Art Gallery's satellite venue, the Sherwood Gallery, is at once ascetic and opulent. Drawing on minimalism and conceptual materialism, Riddance contains a spare five pieces that occupy the middle space between painting, sculpture, and reliquary.
Christopher Gardiner Campbell, Cancer-Ivan August Sellers, 2004-2008, wood, lead elements, beeswax, brass screws, industrial felt, grommets, brocade cotton fabric, thread, gesso, gold latex paint and shellac
The title placards, whose listings read like an incantation or poetry, hint that these are not merely experiments in texture and pigment. The materials – "anxiety-based (undeclarable) contents" – and processes detailed on these labels offers a glimpse into what drives the artist to labour over his creations. A troubling object is placed in a hand-made box fashioned from reclaimed, "contextually significant" wood, then shrouded in a canvas slip cover, stitched closed, and finally sealed with a skin of paint and varnish. The impenetrability of these objects is underscored by the inclusion of felt baffles or lead linings.
On one red canvas construction among the gold ones, a damask pattern is discernible under the paint, suggesting a previous life, perhaps as a chair in his grandparents’ home. The label tells the story of the painting’s making and glosses over the real story: "5 layers of gesso, 10 layers of gold latex paint, 5 layers of black latex paint, 5 final coats of red latex paint / concealed painting made for my Grandfather who died before getting to see it / Final coats reinitiated in late 2010 when my Grandmother passed away." The repetition of each brush stroke building a thick gloss of paint or each stitch in a smooth run of embroidery is like a prayer counted off on a rosary.
Over the course of the exhibition, the artist will be onsite to complete Riddance – Part I, which will encase handwritten letters submitted by the public. One can imagine him carefully mending the Fontana-like gash in the canvas through which the letters are inserted, row upon row of stitches forming a sturdy seal, raised like a scar from the surface of the canvas. This is the art of a healer.
Dunlop Art Gallery: http://www.dunlopartgallery.org/
Christopher Campbell Gardiner: Riddance continues until June 7.
Sandee Moore is a nationally exhibited artist, arts administrator, and occasional art writer. She can be followed on Twitter @SandeeMoore.
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