There is a cave nestled between a taxidermist and a nail parlour on Islington's Essex Road. Garageland Reviewer Alicia Rodriguez ventures in and suffers a slight formal crisis (in a good way).
The cave is made up of ambiguous substance. Our form is undetermined within the dark, damp spaces, although we mostly think that we are solids. Our position is hard to define by just our own edges or borders – it’s more complicated than that. Where does the earth stop and our body begin? In Fixed Position, Flora Parrott has produced a series of ‘3D diagrams’ in order to develop a study of fixity and sensation. This study takes the form of an installation that mediates information and space.
Tintype Gallery has been transformed into a disjointed cave structure that maps Parrott’s experiments and evidence. Formlessness in relation to the cave, but also to digital space, is a recurring idea. Within this there are nods to the abject and anxious in a way that is harshly contemporary.
In Portal Parrott has carefully smeared the gallery’s shop-front window with blackboard paint save for a small square at the centre. The square becomes a screen, a portal through which to distinguish space that is real and space that is immaterial. Before entering the exhibition we can use the small window to be selective, to focus and to examine from the other side of the glass.
The Petar Caves in Brazil are central to this exhibition and their physicality occupies the gallery space. Parrott’s decision to visit these caves was rooted in an obsessive desire to define her surroundings as solid and unmoving, to make a firm distinction between the real and the virtual. What the resulting work actually represents is a continuous overlapping of the two, and a relationship between body and space that is not fixed, but always in the process of being formed.
Flora Parrott’s time in the caves has been documented through a montage of print, sculpture and installation. Each piece is referred to as a diagram, and this is an appropriate term – the work offers a tactile form through which we can understand her experience in an almost academic way. In order to 'articulate instinctive experiences' Parrott has used the authority of field research and professional terminology to explore her own compulsions.
Each work informs the next and the theme of 'uncertainty' is eloquently approached. Stalagmite Sculpture, a thin column made up of photocopies, a screenprint, a steel rod and a mound of gritty black sand, is a particularly striking piece that is fragmented in its nature but that constitutes a single, fixed form. Stalagmites are in a state of constant metamorphosis, and Parrott's choice of material reflects this process.
Parrott’s fascination with her boundaries manifests within large prints of her own body breaching surfaces. These, in turn, become spatial and part of an object. Push Through is a pair of C-prints mounted on steel and grounded by rocks. One image depicts full submersion in liquid, the other an inability to reach beneath the surface at all.
Some laser prints are taped directly to the floor and recall a sense of scatter-brained research, joined up only by tactility and strong sensory allusions. Alongside acute arrangements of bones, metal and piles of black sand, the immediacy of the images is powerful; I feel as if I could sink into the ground.
Fixed Position has the effect of a visual essay. Loaded with ideas and bodily experiences, it is geography, geology and biology as unraveled by fine art preoccupations. The black plaited ropes that run throughout the space are a symbol of these joined-up ideas, providing a constant reminder of the malleable, formless sensation that Parrott is desperate to understand. They cascade into the viewer’s peripherals at every angle, drawing lines between fragments of thought.
We are lucky to catch a glimpse into Parrott’s earth-science musings, a state that is not really fixed at all, but travelling between solid and virtual. The 'cave' has facilitated a dialogue for work that, by its very nature, represents a process. I am interested in reading this exhibition now, but also anticipate its metamorphosis, the next form it takes and the next position.
Flora Parrott: Fixed Position
12 March - 19 April 2014
Tintype Gallery, London N1