Lewisham Art House in South East London, a community led space
Having never visited one of my most local galleries, Lewisham Art House (in Lewisham, south-east side of London) I went to check out their latest exhibition Doppelgänger on the 19th August.
Lewisham Art House is a community led space where, since 1992, artists and members of the wider community have engaged in a wide variety of practices. Members of the Art House contribute to the development of the collective, sharing a studio space in the reclaimed Deptford Carnegie Library building on busy Lewisham Way.
The exhibition occupies one room, the Project Space, a small but high vaulted space, the original Georgian windows allowing natural light to flood in despite the summer drizzle. Artworks are hung at various heights on the four walls, an apt curatorial decision for the eclectic mix of styles on show and the space they inhabit.
Birgitte Jurack, to whom the curation of the show and press release is credited, shows artworks in the exhibition. Entitled Don’t Know, two similar or same human figures standing just a little below average stature occupy the floor space in the centre of the room. The figures seem to be frozen in their ceramic materiality, unable to move forward.
The title of the show – translating literally from German as ‘ghostly double’ – is a fitting description of the challenges we face in today’s global digital society. This sense of unease that the word doppelgänger conjures is present in many of the works shown – not that they are necessarily haunting or difficult to look at – but that they express something slightly off kilter.
The title of the show , translating literally from German as ‘ghostly double’, is a fitting description of the challenges we face in today’s global digital society.
As expressed in the press release, this problem of the double has remained a vague preoccupation throughout much of modernity. One only has to think to Walter Benjamin’s seminal essay, The Work of Art in the Age of its Mechanical Reproducibility to begin to understand why. With technological advancement comes facsimile and alienation. Further, with the introduction of global digital media into our homes and back pockets, the notion of another self, or even selves, becomes yet more pertinent.
“Could there be, through the duplication of the self, the double or the shadow, a different self, a co-equivalent of the human soul?”
We may find a parallel between Jurack’s notion of a co-equivalent human soul and Benjamin’s of the aura of an artwork. However whereas Benjamin sees the artworks aura lost in its mechanical reproduction, the doppelgänger may have the same properties as that which it mimics. Benjamin speaks of a singularity of art objects, here we see a duality of equivalents, reproduction here does not strip the object of its aura but rather mirrors it.
Our attention is drawn to the use of this notion of facsimile or double as a method or methodology. Akin to the method of reproducing artworks for mass consumption as described by Benjamin, the artist James Quin uses a method of reproduction in painting a commercially reproduced artwork within a domestic setting. This becomes almost like a motif as it is again reproduced on a second canvas. The artworks’ titles, Repetition from Reproduction (Watteau) and Fold further embellish this image of mechanic reproduction, as we might imagine a print being made of an inkblot on a folded page.
Another painting reflects this notion of folding – of a copy unwillingly made – is Variant Sail #1 by MB O’Toole. The piece looks akin to a book lying flat on a surface, its cover splayed open to reveal the spine and two identical halves. Here though the reflected image is carefully constructed, not through accidental or mechanical means, but painted alike onto canvas.
Although I have used the term facsimile throughout this piece, it is clear that there is a definite distinction to be made between exact copy and doppelgänger. As previously stated, the doppelgänger exists as a ‘co-equivalent‘, this is exemplified by Mark Fairnington‘s twin paintings Lee and Jason, two children almost uncannily similar but nonetheless distinct.
Doppelgänger runs at the Lewisham Art House until the 28th August, with a finissage taking place on the evening of Thursday 25th between 6 and 8pm.