Ceri Hand Gallery – Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson ‘No Sign of Helicopters’

no-sign-of-helicopters-100 Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson ‘No Sign of Helicopters’
16 September – 16 October 2010
For their debut solo exhibition at the Ceri Hand Gallery, which coincides with the Liverpool Biennial, Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson present a new body of work exploring issues of containment and release.

Human figures sit concealed beneath foil survival blankets that hum with the chirp of crickets whilst kaleidoscopic footage of a bridge being dismantled at night clangs and rattles in an adjoining space. This is a world in which action is entangled with nostalgia and a confusion between function and deployment is the norm.

The Hunters, a group of twelve coils of rope hung on a line of wall brackets, set the tone for the show. Suggestive of a group of disciples, the kit room of a mountain rescue team or local lynch mob it is a darkly foreboding work. A group of photographs, entitled Rope, make this outcome no more certain. Shot inside a trailer on a hillside in Poland during a workshop to teach rope ladder making the resultant images owe more to the language of soft core erotica than they do to the instructional manual.

Empire is a sculpture that consists of a garden chiminea utilised to present a video of a short performance. A naked man in some kind of admiral’s hat is seen apparently in the process of preparing a ‘set’ and performing a puppet show. Representing perhaps everyone who ever fretted about their changing neighbourhood, or their place in our fast paced developing world, the character in the film seems trapped as much by his clinging to the past as he is by the phantom of an encroaching future. And whilst we might enjoy his ham-fisted puppetry the silent theatre he presents is an over familiar tale, echoed in the human-scale figures placed beneath survival blankets in the audio sculpture Citizenship. Thin tin foil sheets, reminiscent of camping and news footage of disasters, consciously depict themselves as a mountain range, in this instance complete with the chirping of cicadas. In conflating human forms with a landscape form, the work examines not what an outsider is, but how that label is formulated and promulgated.

Following on from their recent exhibitions of video (FACT, 2007; Northern Art Prize, 2009), Crowe and Rawlinson will premiere a spectacular new work entitled Die Brücke. Filmed at night during the dismantling of a railway bridge in Berlin, the work is a rapidly changing kaleidoscope of welding tools and cascading sparks. The urban texture of Berlin is folded and multiplied to create a hypnotic series of patterns which allude simultaneously to European and Middle Eastern architectural forms.

The exhibition can be experienced as a soundscape in which natural rhythms are in counterpoint to hard industrial noise. Sounds are taken to be both implicit in the sculpture Monument and viscerally present in the lull of insects emanating from Citizenship.

Die Brücke’s percussive pulse is located in the live noise of its street location and underscores a motive force that finds its mute echo in the form of the ceramic Anvil.
The black ceramic Anvil contains in its form the sound of hammer on iron as well as the sound of breaking pottery. An internal heating element has been inserted inside which intermittently heats the anvil. This association with the memory of heat is set against the fact that a heated anvil becomes, once again, a functional object.
Monument consists of a basic drum kit in which the components have been stacked on top of one another to form a tower – a totem – and like Anvil this is a recasting of function. The vertical stacking presents a form that echoes monumental sculpture and because of this sense of building the feeling is not one of commemoration of something past, rather something aspirational, albeit uneasily so.


No Sign of Helicopters sets up a series of poetic resonances between place and person and the activities that preoccupy them. Whilst some works allude to spectacle and escape, there is an ever present concern with the individual constrained and positioned by social forces. This is a world explored in partial glimpses. Vignettes of anxiety and release evoking images of labour, energy and heat are as much symptoms of the retreat into nostalgia as they are of what might once have been called purposeful industriousness.

Part of the Independents Liverpool Biennial strand.

Nick Crowe & Ian Rawlinson Study for ‘Monument’, 2010
Drum kit, 219 x 56cm