Angus Fairhurst/Caroline Caley

Karsten Schubert Ltd.

Angus Fairhurst revels in disjointed humor which he has compared to the move of the knight on the chessboard: bound by rules like all the other pieces but free to strike out in different directions. In failing to live up to expectations without entirely confounding them, such punning is moral not in the prescriptive sense of defining right and wrong, but more fundamentally. In Fairhurst’s words: “A so-called animal battle against the inhuman structures of over-civilization is very moral, in the sense that it’s done for the love of something.”

Earlier works used vastly enlarged postcard images whose surfaces were pierced by a close grid of plastic clothing tags. Fairhurst sees even this obvious index of consumerism as operating in a double-edged way. The tag does invoke the ersatz individuality of the processes of consumption, but it doesn’t entirely reject this aspect. Likewise, the tags penetrate the surfaces of the images. This may seem vaguely repellent, particularly when, as is often the case, the images contain people, but because of their size they also draw the viewer into a more intimate relationship with the image. More recently Fairhurst has used his own, rather than found, imagery. The recent “All evidence of Man removed,” gives a literal account of what has been done to a group of scenes that collectively evoke West Coast suburban affluence. In some cases, such as Chimp Bongos (all evidence of Man removed) (all works 1993), and Urban, Evidence of Man Left Out (There Goes the Neighbourhood) any part of the composition that would depict either a person or something constructed has been left blank. In others, such as Diver and Pool, All Other Elements Drilled, a pencilled grid has been superimposed on the watercolored scene and in each square where something similarly human or constructed falls he drilled a hole. Caroline Caley’s schematic line drawings—more floral patterns than flowers—on large wooden panels chimed in with Fairhurst’s work without adding to the exhibition as a whole.

Like the tags, which act both to obscure and to focus an image, Fairhurst’s action in absenting humanity from his pictures does nothing of the sort. Instead, it emphasizes humanity as something that requires anchoring or orientation, and in this the images in “All evidence of Man removed” are the flip side to an earlier work, Man and Woman Abandoned By Space, 1992, which contained numerous pictures of a male and a female figure jumping in a void. They were transfers, “suspended, waiting for (their) base.” An installation entitled Diver, in the second room, immersed the viewer in this same featureless void. White plastic on the floor and a huge blue laser-copy covering one wall placed us at the bottom of a swimming pool. Two video monitors on the floor played silent, looped sequences of a man and a woman somersaulting on a trampoline. You might think that sorting out which way is up in a situation like that would be the way to find some meaning. But meaning, as Fairhurst once told Damien Hirst, is “a short man who kicks you in the shin. . .It’s a new verb, it’s how he treats people. . . . so small that it matters.”

Michael Archer