Too much night, again. Pae White, South London Gallery
13 March to 12 May 2013

SLG Pae White A SLG Pae White BSLG Pae White C SLG Pae White D SLG Pae White F

Visited the South London Gallery yesterday to see Pae White’s installation ‘Too much night, again’.

The exhibition guide says it is about insomnia and the ‘transience of our existence’. Thousands of lines of coloured yarn spell out the ‘words’: TIGER TIME and UNMATTERING, apparently random words at a ‘super graphic’ size that carry the weight of an unknown dream significance. I don’t think unmattering is a word, but that doesn’t matter I suppose. Originally Tiger Time was going to be  Tiger Tiger until someone pointed out that Tiger Tiger is a UK bar chain. However Tiger Tiger also recalls William Blake’s poem The Tyger, which begins: Tyger!, Tyger!, burning bright / In the forests of the night, / What immortal hand or eye / Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

Through an intricate construction of mapping, criss-crossing and iteration letters are revealed and words are built and the yarn pools at the stress points of the letterforms. But it isn’t one continuous thread. Each length of yarn is tied off at both ends to either a letterfom point or a ‘control’ line facing the letterform. This is understandable but a bit disappointing as the work as a whole is not under tension, it just appears to be. Conrad Shawcross had the same problem with Chord, a ropemaking installation in the Kingsway Tram tunnel in Holborn, London (2009). Two machines spun strands of string into a thick ‘hawser’. There was insufficient tension, or rather tension was not sustained as the work progressed and props were needed.

What I think is really successful about ‘Too much night, again’ is the work’s powerful physical presence, the installation’s material and spatial qualities are striking. When you first enter the gallery and walk instinctively beneath the apex of the crossing threads it is very easy to walk right into the fragile looking yarn because the multiple and densely interlaced lines create a disorientating layered ‘fog’ effect where it is impossible to judge what is near or far. The exhibition guide says you have to position yourself within the installation to read the lettering and I found that I couldn’t read until I had measured myself against the yarn itself.

Advertisements