It’s always the quiet ones…

It’s always the quiet ones.

By Amy Pettifer

While several of the other works in ARCHIPELAGO are brazenly engaged in transgression and trespass – planting spies, growing and trailing over lines of division – Ian Bourn’s work Skirting (Version 1) is staging a subtle revolution.

Situated in a room just off the main space, away from the cacophony and chaos; Bourn’s work is the most sincere take over, dominating in its stillness. Formed of a quasi-domestic/natural/studio arrangement, Skirting allows the artist to create his own island stream within the over-occupied territory. The individual elements include a paint spattered desk, a wooden chair, a cloth covered canvas leaning against the wall and two screens; one placed easel-like at the centre of the assemblage and the other at floor level, working to blend seamlessly into the architecture.

These separate islands form and are formed of a particular landscape; the recurring motif of a mountainous coastline, edged with crashing waves, appears throughout the work and is suggestive of Bourn’s takeover bid. The image repeats in varying forms, as a work in progress, a sketch, a finished painting and most notably as a real site, as seen from the bobbing hull of a sail boat. There is a sense that having set up camp – furniture moved in – the fixing of the landscape is next. The physical/object parts of the installation are firmly established, they hold their place and feel ‘lived in’, the scenery however is in a state of becoming and Bourn seems to be playing with it, time and again in order to get it just right.

The main video piece shows the artist painting a large canvas with the mountain seascape, the staccato addition of dashes of paint almost suggesting changes in the weather, an element which continues the blurred existing/pre-existing state of his territory. As the painting reaches completion, the white flecks of the clouds begin to take over and before you know it the landscape is obliterated, a bare surface remains and the process begins again.

The interesting thing here is that we now know that what looks like a new, unblemished surface could in fact hide a multi layering of other views – footprints previously trodden – outlines already etched and it’s not unreasonable to wonder at the questions this poses around the politics of ownership and borders that proliferate and endure in our own social history.

The painting he creates is not quite the one that hangs on the wall; the seas are rougher and the colours less vivid. But an exact replica of nature doesn’t seem to be the agenda of the piece, there is the pervasive sense of making something new, a site that is personalised by alterations and inversions. For example, the literal Skirting to which (we can assume) the title refers is that of the room we are standing in, the floor-based screen showing a series of images which cleverly match existing lines of horizon with the borders of the space. As such, Bourn uproots our normative sense of orientation, literally re-siting the horizon, downscaling the middle distance and capturing it, postcard like, to fit neatly by his kitchen door.

Skirting also suggests evasion; keeping to the edges, refusing to get to the point or to the big reveal just now, or just yet…

Which leads us to the remaining mystery; what is on the concealed canvas leaning again the wall? Perhaps he has the definitive version of his landscape under wraps or else a mapped site from which he can get the lay of the land.

Are we seeing something hidden or rather, something in waiting?

Perhaps Bourn has yet to show his whole hand – leaving something yet to install and establish – an intention for the future of his corner of the world and beyond.

Skirting (Version One) will continue to quietly develop until 17 July as part of ARCHIPELAGO.

Images: Various developments in Skirting (Version 1. Photos by Laura Milnes

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