Ben Jamie: Sense Data
18 November - 17 December
Castor Projects are pleased to present Sense Data, the first London solo exhibition by Ben Jamie.
It was 1974 when we last visited this building in 2010. Beckham was on the roof firing a Canon and Snoop was chasing teenagers down the street in a black Ford Capri. This was four years before the artist was born and five years before he moved in upstairs. Wrap the caapi in a towel and break it with a hammer.
Autumn 2016 and it is dark in the buildings corridors. Usually, we digest Jamie’s work via an electronic screen. The strange coral and pastel coloured landscapes are safe and easy to consume on a small screen floating inside a perfect white space. This, however, is reality - the screen is an illusion. Powder the mimosa with a coffee grinder.
Inside the studio it is uncomfortably bright, lit by Hydroponic lights. Our eyes adjust and we realise we are stood inside a growth chamber. Rectangular frames are hung low on the walls, like they are crouching. Operating height, easier to cultivate. The ridge of the stretcher bars defines the edge of each work but chunks and flecks of each piece are smeared across the wall and trailed on the floor.
These works are much larger than we had expected. They have a smell and texture and we have to watch them. Pay attention. Do not point; something gummy will have your finger. Put the mimosa and caapi in a litre of water and add a teaspoon of vinegar.
One wall in the studio is comprised of a double glazed black mirror. The artist keeps music trapped and bottled in the vacuum. In the reflection of the glass we notice the paintings are moving. The unsettling forms of jelly, ooze and viscera freeze if we look directly at them. However when they surround us, functioning as a pack we can’t observe all of them. Simmer for three hours. Avoid bubbling. Speak your intentions to the brew as it infuses. Do not leave unattended.
We briefly left the studio to smoke cigarettes in the foyer. Strain. Brew. Cool. Warm. Drink. Purge. When we return five minutes later the works have changed. The landscapes are familiar but the angle has shifted and they have grown. The stretchers are wider, the forms inside nourished by the multi-coloured krill splattered across the studio wall. There is a disturbing sensation of vents opening across the canvas surface and tentacles curling around our ankles.
The presence of the artist is no longer reassuring. These things eventually become ungovernable even for him. They form themselves; growing stronger beneath the lights and the oil paint that Jamie feeds them. There comes a point where he has to abandon his brushes and take back control by wrapping them in plastic, cutting off their life source and preserving them as they are in that particular moment, just like the music in the black mirror vacuum.
A short story by David Northedge