Jane Simpson

Laurent Delaye Gallery

After studying many different kinds of ruins, the architectural writer Robert Harbison, concluded that we need a “careful series of the degrees of ruin like a paint chart or colour wheel.” For the contemporary connoisseur of ruins, Jane Simpson’s furniture sculpture is as good a place to start as any.

Simpson, a thirty-one-year-old Londoner, is best known for installations of domestic objects that appear to have been overrun by glaciers. Ice Table, 1996, a typical example, is a rudimentary, wooden, metal-topped table with tins, glasses, and cutlery laid on it-but the tabletop is wired to a refrigeration unit, and the objects have been frozen into place. It is like a set from from one of those arctic circle adventure movies—the scene in which the hero discovers the tent of the missing explorers, with their last meal perfectly preserved. Assorted Jugs, 1996, a selection of vessels on a frozen shelf, is marginally more emotive because of a stronger contrast between the objects and the ice table: the silicone-rubber jugs are all in soft pastel shades, creating a feeling of genteel domesticity. As the ice expanded, it crushed them, warping their forms.

In some respects, Simpson’s work can be read as a dryly humorous critique of purist aesthetics. Since the shelves are often directly fastened to the wall, the ice often seems to grow directly out of the white-cube exhibition spaces, the icy lack of color suggesting a predatory force assailing these icons of domesticity. What gives Simpson’s work its edge is her apparent uncertainty about whether to crush or preserve this “warmer,” traditionally more feminine world. Her ambivalence becomes even more apparent in a series of photographs of Tupperware, in which each object has been photographed in strong sunlight against white Formica backgrounds, suggesting a fleet of Tupperware Titanics: monumental hulks becalmed in a sea of white.

The remaining furniture sculptures, also made from silicone rubber, seem to have been subjected to extreme heat, rather than extreme cold. The thin, pale-pink legs of Nest of Tables, 1995, splay out on the floor like tentacles, while Baby Bath, 1996, has a melted yellow rim. These works suggest the enervated remains of a late-twentieth-century Pompeii.

James Hall