They, and Gideon Bok, are nothing but subjective

Time and perspective
By BRITTA KONAU  |  November 23, 2011

EVER-CHANGING Gideon Bok’s wall drawing at SPACE Gallery.

Commonly artists prefer to work away from public scrutiny, shielded from revealing the awkward phases of creation, to emerge with a finished work of art that will last, if not for eternity, at least for quite a while. Not so Gideon Bok. Since 1992 he has made his studios the ostensible subject matter of his paintings — but now he has transferred that practice to public spaces, creating site-descriptive drawings as a performance in time.

Bok has started a large charcoal drawing on and of the interior of SPACE Gallery that he will continue to work on during the next few weeks until its destruction upon completion. Similar to last year's project at Belfast's Chase's Daily, the drawing is structured using two vanishing points that allow for the totality of the space to recede and collapse onto a flat plane — a 360-degree view that begins and ends with the drawing itself. This circular vision revolves around the artist and his movement in space, warping it in the process while highlighting the formation of an overarching visual narrative.

In Bok's drawing, space and perspective provide the stage for time. By the time this piece appears in print, the work will differ from what I saw. Then only shadowy outlines of people inhabited the space anchored by architectural superstructure. As a selective history of the place it reminds me of Janet Cardiff's parallel-universe narratives — both suggest a temporal slippage by portraying actual or imagined earlier happenings in our space.

Bok draws freely with an exciting variety of marks from large, courageous sweeps to finer lines and wet drips. The roughness of the wall acts like the nap of paper and allows for a broad range of values. The same scope of application also informs the 188 oil on MDF panel paintings of record covers arranged in three grids. They look almost dashed-off, some built up of translucent layers of paint, others heavily impastoed; designs are intimated, significant elements picked out. Each cover was executed while listening to its music, which probably influenced the paint handling — Bok clearly loves the physicality of paint. Although the panel dimensions correspond to those of the record sleeves, Bok foregoes the painting-as-object solution and instead approaches the covers like still lifes, or rather landscapes. Lying on the floor or insulation foam, the covers' background is brown, gray, or blue. Their shape is exaggeratedly foreshortened into trapezoidal forms, which is unsettling to the eye, because we know that they are really square. The phenomenology of perception, and conception, is thus foregrounded to highlight the act of representation. As in the wall drawing, perspective is used to direct attention to its human point of origin — the artist/viewer as a participant in the construction of meaning.

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