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Spring Rain

Curator Helen Legg

Spike Island

26 January to 31 March 2013

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British artist Becky Beasley explores relationships between photography and objects, the body and interiority in a way that is highly subjective and yet developed through deep immersion in the thoughts and methods of other artists and writers. Arguably a wildly ambitious endeavour, like a contemporary Don Quixote, Spring Rain attempts to catch life in all its complexity, offering a richly informed yet joyously simple and deeply enigmatic meditation on the passages of human encounter and experience.

The title of the exhibition is taken from a short story by Jewish American writer Bernard Malamud (1914-1986). A minimal tale of the ambiguities of everyday human relations, of things unsaid or unsayable, the story opens onto concerns that lie at the heart of Beasley’s practice. The exhibition adopts the story’s cyclical structure, offering a passage through three spaces that embody distinct encounters with self and others.

 

Another reference central to Beasley’s thinking for this exhibition is Étant donnés (1946–1966), the canonical installation by Marcel Duchamp. Created secretly towards the end of his life, it offers a view through peepholes onto an ambiguous constructed scene. This sealed, unknowable interior that looms so large at the heart of twentieth century art history informs a specially commissioned linoleum floor piece by Beasley.

 

The rhythms and forms of daily life are also a source of inspiration for the artist. Throughout the exhibition cucumbers operate variously as proxies for vitality, growth, reproduction and acts of tending and nurturing. Multiple brass casts of tiny gherkins form a shimmering mobile — the spring rain of the title — while photographs of curly cucumbers shot on stark white backgrounds, like marks made on paper, push towards language. The artist frequently reflects on family, and on 16 March her father, Peter Beasley, will be in the gallery to meet visitors.

These new works are accompanied by two displays of work by other artists selected by Beasley. The first is a grouping of Richard Hamilton’s Interiors prints, while the second consists of photographs of vegetables by Charles Jones, a Victorian gardener and self-taught photographer. These bodies of work reflect Beasley’s interest in still life and the domestic and have been significant in the development of her practice.