Alice Channer 
Body Conscious

The Approach
18 March – 24 April 2011

Body Conscious, represents a discrete project with departure points from Alice Channer’s previous practice. Several new elements seem evident in this body of work from an artist who has an extremely edited and intuitive approach to materials and form.

The show’s focus is cited as an adjusted view onto the body, when previously the room has been foregrounded and ‘dressed’. The idea of the body is skirted around, delineated by references to clothing and skin and is performed through Channer’s choreography and the viewer’s presence in the space.

The skin, in several works, is flat amphibian pattern, taken from high street clothing by photocopying, then distorted, re-presented and revered through several connected works within the show (all works 2011). Hanging across the centre of the space is Tight Skin, a double-sided, flexing image of snake and lizard print on ‘Heavy Silk Satin’. The luxury of the material and soft gloss of its surface prompt a sensory reaction and a cerebral one; are we more familiar with the heavy metal Lycra snake than with the skin of a real reptile? The consumerist re-hashing of nature and more prevalent re-hashing of trends make it likely.

Snakeskin is also manifest on paper in Deep Skin, rendered meticulously in graphite and coloured pencil over a synthetic, but complementary, loose, marbled pattern.

In tune with the refined aesthetic of Channer’s work a reference to the classic garment Cigarette Pants (red), sees aluminium casts of waistbands (a recurring motif) hang directly down from simple oak dowels. They become formalist units but are never able to shirk off connotations to the encircling of human form.

The most concrete, hard-edged and brutal of the works take the most intimate names: Slip and Shift are large sculptures, which snake through the space like vertical waves. They are high-shine stainless steel accompanied by puddles of sooty ‘accordion pleats’; dyed paper folded precisely to create a material which can flow and expand. These assertive sculptures are banded occasionally with coloured fabric stretching perfectly up the vertical axis of the wave.

Channer has used a pared down but extremely beautiful and illusory handling of the accordion pleats in Volume and Body. This piece forms a slim shelf out from one of the gallery walls at hip height and the sinuous lines become a liquid ooze of colour reminiscent of pigment within paint palette and landscape and, of course, fabrics.

The care within the works implies the artist’s hand but several of the finishes indicate industrial processes. Channer has used the parameters of these processes to effect decisions around the production. For example, the dimensions of Tight Skin are partially led by the measurements of the fabric and the scope of the digital printer. Channer’s own body is a shadow alongside Slip where her standing height was used as one of its measurements.

With Body Concious, Channer has clearly illustrated that her practice presents captivating works, which reflect on concepts at the nexus of sculptural practice, fashion and modern commercial living.

This is an unpublished review by Laura Simpson.


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