27.01.12 — 08.02.12 ‘Agnieszka Stone and Birthe Jorgensen, 'Noisy with Appeals for Silence'’

Temporary project space at 31 Shorts Gardens, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9AP
Opening hours: Monday – Friday, 10am – 5pm / Saturday – Sunday 10am – 6pm

Man&Eve in collaboration with Lorem Ipsum projects are pleased to present ‘Noisy with Appeals for Silence’, an exhibition of recent work by painter Agnieszka Stone and sculptor Birthe Jørgensen. There is a shared interest in the possibilities and limitations of language that unites the work of these two artists and, over the past 12 months, this has provided the basis of a close artistic dialogue between them.

Agnieszka Stone’s paintings combine the vocabulary of Surrealism with Rococo eroticism and pre-historic or primitive art. She uses the recurring motifs of eye sockets, mouths, caves, openings, orifices and volcanoes put together in strange juxtapositions and floating in unknowable spaces. Her painting, ‘…And man shook off his animal nature’ (2011) takes its title from Georges Bataille’s 1957 text on ‘Eroticism’ in which he argues that man evolved from ape when he started engaging in eroticism (as opposite to animal sexuality), art (cave painting) and religion (shamanism). In Stone’s painting, a thick red curtain is pulled back to reveal a cluster of sensuous pearl-like shapes, peeping out from beneath fleshy lids. Above these is suspended a dripping black mass, pregnant with heavy fruits that resemble breasts. The curtain appears as an entrance to some invisible inner realm, and calls to mind the design of the international Surrealist exhibition on the theme of ‘Eros’, held in Paris in 1959 in which visitors entered the exhibition space through a dark cavernous tunnel that led into a deep red chamber, where the ceiling appeared to breathe in and out in time to a recording of women’s orgasmic sighs. Stone’s painting is heavy with sexual connotation, whilst remaining ambiguous and non-specific in its depiction of form.

Another work, ‘‘Our eye’, said Gauguin, ‘insatiable and in heat’’ (2011) takes its title from Gilles Deleuze’s book, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, first published in 1981. In this passage, Deleuze discusses the power of painting to discover the material reality of our bodies – and the power of the eye to attend to the material existence of any material presence. Stone appears to be referencing the bodily intelligence of the artist (who in succumbing physically to the process of painting might hope to produce works that transcend consciousness) – and the bodily intelligence of the viewer whose eye encounters the work. There is a sense in which she is yearning for consciousness seeking to know itself, or of a physical unity with something other, something universal. Whilst Bacon’s scream is “the operation through which the entire body escapes through the mouth”, Stone’s yawn is perhaps the operation through which the entire body melts into another body. And yet, these are not works which seek to idealize the body or which appear confident of the possibility of transcendence. Often claustrophobic, clawing and grotesque, there is an underlying sense of anxiety contained within them that seems to acknowledge its own limitations and resonates with the Surrealist sensibility for philosophical pessimism.

Birthe Jørgensen’s work fits within a loose tradition of bricolage and assemblage, both in terms of its use of found, ready-made objects and materials, and in respect of the influence on her work of theatrical improvisation. Between 2005-2011 Jorgensen was a member of the experimental, multi-disciplinary company Apocryphal Theatre, where her role was to improvise upon scores and use theatrical tools and concepts to produce a stream of quick sketch-like sculptural elements live on stage. Her recent work consists of a series of three-dimensional assemblages that just barely hold themselves together. Her process has consisted of making five separate compositions that explore themes including religion and gender, as well as notions of the sacred and secular. Having spent time observing these compositions, she then works quickly to ‘cut them up’ and assemble them as a single work – a process that allows her to arrive at unfamiliar destinations that challenge and frustrate her cultural preconceptions and emotional investments.

Jørgensen’s works are wide-ranging in their references: ‘Legitimate Sway’ (2010) appears as a direct reference to the kinetic sculptures of Alexander Calder, whilst ‘Don’t trust yourself (too much)’ (2011), with its deliberately crossed sticks and muted palette of black and beige, twigs that appear as bones and black plastic that appears as feathers, has all the archaic fetishism of a Joseph Beuys installation.

Jørgensen’s work also contains many visual motifs in common with Stone’s paintings: black tape cascades from a suspended support above a small red circle (or is it an orifice); a string of pearls hangs beneath a black, circular form; and in ‘Infrastructure’ (2011) a slab of pinkish polystyrene appears to resemble flesh that has been pierced and lacerated by multiple shards of irregularly shaped broken mirrored glass. And yet, Jørgensen’s work resists easy interpretation. If Stone’s work contains a sense of yearning to transcend consciousness, Jørgensen’s appears to function as the antidote to consciousness – an attempt to sketch out new prescriptions for looking that might enable a more sensuous experience of the work, or a deeper conceptual engagement with it.

Stone and Jørgensen’s work both points to the problem that language (being weighed down and corrupted by historical accumulation and the corresponding alienation of historical consciousness) poses for the contemporary artist. In her essay The Aesthetics of Silence, Susan Sontag gives an account of how the prestige of silence increases as a corollary of the declining prestige of language. She concludes that, “Silence is likely to remain a viable notion for modern art and consciousness only so far as it’s deployed with a considerable, near systematic irony.” On the contrary, Stone and Jorgensen both reject irony as a tactic: the works included in this exhibition are about searching and longing rather than resolution and belonging, and about a modest (but enduring) belief that art might still have something left to say.

Notes to editors:

The exhibition runs from 27th January – 8th February 2012
Private view, 26th January, 6 – 9pm

Temporary project space at 31 Shorts Gardens, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9AP

Opening hours: Monday – Friday, 10am – 5pm / Saturday – Sunday 10am – 6pm

Agnieszka Stone graduated from Central Saint Martin’s College of Art, London, 2003. Since then she has exhibited in places such as: Icons, St Botolph’s Church, London (supported by Victoria Miro); Dialouges, w. Sophie Erlund, Forgotten Bar Project, Berlin; Undergrowth, Lorem Ipsum Gallery, London; lifeisonlyhalfthestory, along side Peter Doig, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Chris Ofili, Grayson Perry, Wolfgang Tillman, Christ Church, London; A Certain Kind of Conditioning, Lorem Ipsum Gallery; East Meets West, Malo Polska Art Gallery, Gorlice, Poland; Agnieszka Stone, (solo show) Stables Gallery London; Response to Roman Signer, Camden Art Centre, London.

Birthe Jørgensen graduated from Central Saint Martin’s College of Art, London, 2003. Since then she has exhibited and performed as a visual artist and as a live visual artist with the experimental company Apocryphal Theatre. Jørgensen has guest taught and lectured at Iceland Academy of Art and she is the founding director of artist run Lorem Ipsum Projects. Selected exhibitions/performances include: Icons, St Botolph’s Church, London (supported by Victoria Miro); Right Here, Lorem Ipsum Gallery, London; lifeisonlyhalfthestory, along side Peter Doig, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Chris Ofili, Grayson Perry, Wolfgang Tillman, Christ Church, London; UBS: A Long Weekend, w. Apocryphal Theatre and Sarah Washington, Tate Modern, London; Besides, You Lose Your Soul Or The History Of Western Civilization, a Julia Lee Barclay production, Camden People’s Theatre, London and touring; A Match Made In Heaven, M3 Kunsthalle, Berlin; Da Ikonet Blev Til Et Flydene Enigma, Gallery Paul Kleefeld, Copenhagen; Ten Of The Best, Artreview Magazine yearly selection of emerging artists, Deluxe Gallery, London.