I Spy

Etienne Clement & Seamus Staunton

27 June - 2 August 2015

Whitecross Gallery is pleased to present a selection of photographs by Etienne Clément from his Toy Stories series 1, 2 and 3, alongside new sculptures by Seamus Staunton from his Constellation series.

An unlikely pairing that sets up dichotomies such as figurative vs. abstract, photography vs. sculpture, or even deliberate approximation vs. orderly precision, there are just as many similarities between these works. Both sets of work, for instance, are characterised by the use of strong colour and high gloss surface, and both emphasise their 'objectness' by sitting proud of the wall.  

The wall-mounted sculptures of Staunton's Constellation series all have a glossy coloured external shell enclosing a flock-lined interior chamber in contrasting colour. A number of circular apertures punctuate the surface, drawing the viewer's gaze to an inner space that remains elusive. He has chosen specific contrasting colour combinations as a means of setting up a dialogue between the outer and inner surfaces of his works. Through his use of colour there is a sense of changing mood and temperature, ranging from the light-hearted to the subdued, some radiating warmth, while others engage in more muted optical play. The interior space of some pieces pushes forwards and outwards whilst in others it recedes into the distance.

Their glossiness is reflected, not only in the Diasec finish of Clément's photographs, but also in the plastic figurines themselves that are the subject of his pictures. Staged within abandoned, often dilapidated, but all too real architectural settings, using techniques that play with scale and illusion, the aging second hand toys appear life size and surprisingly human, each within their own world, and invite the viewer to imagine the, sometimes disturbing, narrative beneath their surface gloss.  

Both sets of work utilise a defined internal space. Clément's dramas are staged within an enclosed room or yard open to the viewer, an illusory pictorial space within the two-dimensional picture plane. Staunton's sculptures physically enclose a real space that is only partially visible and must, therefore, be partly imagined. This mysterious inner space gives the work an intriguing quality and requires viewers to use their own imagination in order to complete the work. Shown together there is almost an inference that Staunton's apertures will lead the eye to further Clément dramas contained within.

A combination of portraiture and architecture, Clément's scenes convey a sense of the moment frozen in time, almost viewable as film stills. Their placement beside Staunton's apertures draws attention to the act of spying on his series of characters, captured within personal domestic spaces such as kitchens and bathrooms. Their narrative is seductively revealed through gesture and symbols, just as in art historical portraits, a subject Clément has studied in depth. Staunton's soft linings are like carpeted domestic interiors, adding to suggestion and metaphor, which can even be broadened to question the idea of surveillance within the wider political arena. Where Clément puts the narrative into architecture, Staunton provides the reality of the environment, his solid structures giving weight to the imaginary.

Born in Paris and currently living in London, Etienne Clément has participated in several group shows at the Whitecross Gallery. His photographs have also been exhibited in the Jerwood Space; Bloomberg's Art Futures; the Architectural Association; the RIBA Gallery; the Geffrye Museum; and recently at Forster Gallery in London; as well as Magda Danysz Gallery in Paris; and Galeria Fruela in Madrid. Etienne's work has entered many collections including BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead; The Geffrye Museum; Vivendi Universal; BnF (Bibliotèque Nationale de France); Bouygues Immobilier; and The Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Based in Bristol Seamus Staunton was also selected by CAS for Art Futures 2007. He has exhibited throughout the UK and Europe, including Triennial Sculpture Exhibition RWA, Bristol; Small Works VINEspace, London; and the Tallinn International sculpture Symposium, Estonia. He has received several prestigious awards including the Crest-Nicholson Sculpture prize and the Tallinn International Sculpture prize. Over the past few years Staunton has completed many major public art commissions including Look Ahead Housing Association; Cardiff Bay Arts Trust for Bellway Homes; and the South Gloucestershire Council.