Words by Kyle Nathan Brown
On entering A Small View exhibition place, dimly lit only by the lights from the corridor outside, one is confronted by a white plinth in the centre of the room, about waist height, atop of it two mini digital projectors side by side facing opposite directions. Opposite from each on the side walls are the projections. This is the new show by Manchester-based artist David Mackintosh, entitled A Small Group of Idiots Ruining It for Everyone Else.
The projections, true to Mackintosh’s style, are a collection of loose ink drawings, animated, one after another to the timing of a metronome, the ticking sound coming from the projectors.
On the left wall the projection is around the size of A3 paper, landscape. The drawings are almost paintings insofar as the amount of ink used fills the ‘paper’ in solid black and washed out diluted grey. Vague landscapes, slanted buildings, houses, abstract architecture of inky ambiguous towns or cities, and parks, trees and a bench, bushes and streets. And those stray images that clock in and out to the click of the metronome which adhere to none of these descriptions. A washed out grey ink mass of sketchy wet brush marks almost filling the entire page with only suggestions of representation through a collection of thicker blacker lines.
On the right wall, the images are around the size of A4 paper, portrait. These drawings are made up of more solid lines; thicker ink, and less of it. You watch the images changing as the metronome keeps clicking to the next and you see suggestions of details. Faceless faces, heads turned away, the backs of strangers. Is that a hand or merely lines? Is that a person? A group of people?
These drawings, all of these images together and animated in this way, give the feeling of walking through the streets of a town or a city and taking it all in only to recall it in a kind of half memory. Half remembered and the rest suggested. The piece feels bold, confident in its vague nature. A distorted narrative, or illustrations of whispers, slight reminders of experience and memory.
When looking at the artist’s previous work, for example in his publication, imagine you’re in a room full of blind fools desperately grasping at nothing, you see the work of a very contrived and contemplated style. The fast-paced, sketch-like images become more familiar and more relatable. The immense confidence of the work shows through in its boldness to be itself, unashamedly. Saying this, however, the work is not void of context beyond form and subject. Referencing the traditional artistic practices, landscape and figure painting, this exhibition sees contemporary art contemplating modernity and beyond.
The press release for this exhibition says the show’s name highlights the categorising of certain collectives operating against the norm; a crowd causing enough of a ruckus to be made example of by persons of authority. Examples given of these groups of idiots are ‘acts of hooliganism at a football game’ and a ‘peaceful demonstration results in violent protest’; and the categorising of these groups made by football commentators and police spokespersons. The relevance of making these observations is then put into context when applying them to the role of artists and a possible way of understanding their actions and position in contemporary society; as someone who acts against the norm.
This, when given as the title for an exhibition of such composition, urges one to ask the questions, ‘what are we looking at here?’ and ‘what does the artist mean to say by these images, these animations?’ What I believe we are seeing is David Mackintosh’s observations of life passing-by in all its banalities and forgettable detail. We see the artist as voyeur, carefully considering and highlighting the way we, acceptingly, live our lives; in houses, on streets, in towns and in cities. The act of protest or interruption being made is by making example of this way in which society continues day by day. By saying ‘This is how we live!’ those listening are momentarily taken out of that situation and are able to observe it, before once again continue to keep on keeping on.
The true strength of this exhibition is its simplicity; two projectors, two basic animations. And the strong, cool style of the work, which comes from their confident execution, transforms the simple appearance into intriguing, incredibly well-composed pictures. The result of which is a sketchy narration of everything we expect to see; all day, everyday.
The exhibition continues until 26 July.
This article has been commissioned by the Contemporary Visual Arts Network North West (CVAN NW), as part of a regional critical writing development programme supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England — see more here #WriteCritical