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Colin Crumplin: Joel Fisher Substance and AccidentArnolfini Bristol  









Reviewed by Sue Arrowsmith
December 1981


I really enjoyed this exhibition:the works inspire both confidence and trust. Each work is sensitively placed in relation to its neighbour and to the gallery space as a whole.They correspond on such an unusually intimate  level  that I had the distinct impression that the artists themselves had only just left the room momentarily.
Strange fragments of  information await discovery and seem at first to be placed quite casually - and them their logical derivations begin to register. It’s this promise that curiosity might be rewarded  that really encourages the viewer to attend further at this stage. It’s  also equally possible that one could miss the point altogether: the works aren’t impressive, as such - they neither invite argument nor strive to give out information.
In fact the works rely to a great extent on the viewers complacency for their effect. This would be an intolerable state of affairs if it were not for two overriding factors: (1) both artists determine to explore rather than exploit this tendency, and {2}its only in retrospect that one’s own Quixotic leanings begin to both intrigue and nag on a conscious level.
There have been many attempts to promulgate man alternative to the Classical system of representation within which we are still bound: failure is less a matter of nerve than it is of pretext. Although concern has been pretty much consistent throughout this century there have relatively few attempts to ‘contain’ as problematic the relation that still holds: but as Fisher points out in his text “ A two dimensional world reproducing itself is not an abstraction’.Recognising a number of common aims and objectives the artists themselves first conceived the idea of a joint exhibition. Each has produced a small booklet with illustrations and text…..

Colin Crumplin’s work isn’t so ethically bound to empirical statement as Fisher’s is, and provides some necessary fun. In this respect the works complement each other beautifully. Crumpling’s work seems to be situated somewhere between the most sinister aspects of a Magritte and the frustration of a Mac Adams mystery! Both of which pepper a staple diet of Nouveau Roman School type theory - the difference being of course that the latter could never have admitted such a ‘fiction’ into their actual work.

Crumpling ‘first event’ is obtained by fixing gestures, made with ’sensible’ parts of the body, in plaster although he admits to selecting those objects which , when cast, hold the most forceful connotations. These are then used to advantage in the final stage of the presentation. His approach is systematic in so far as he’s interested in the idea of copying,simple repeats and symmetry. The objects thus obtained are then arranged  according to  the same rules and correspond roughly with the reach of certain gestures. Weird and wonderful scenarios result; in one corner of a room positive and negative shapes give the uncomfortable impression that some(one) was being disturbed by by some(other) as they attempted to come ‘in’ from ’outside’ - the first being caught in the act of doing something they shouldn’t -it all seemed so deliciously naughty!

However “one very disquieting point - which is, the painful impression, as soon as the excitement these works have stirred up dies down, that what they described was not reality…… it suffices to recall what a revelation the interior monologue was for us” Nataalie  Sarraute.

Highly formalised copies are also taken from the ‘first event’ and these take on a strong architectural character. When placed they serve to delimit an area of ‘activity’  and to further impress the fact that there are rules to the ‘game’. Unravelling all the clues kept me occupied for quite a time: I did find a number roof ‘real’ red herrings flapping around, which should either be got rid of altogether or fully realised as red herrings!

Both artists declare an affinity with Constructivism, in particular, which is interesting as a reminder that a materialistic outlook need not , as is often feared, determine either  content or style…..it also reassures us as to their overall sense of purpose. Properly understood materialism simply provides a systematic framework upon which problems of knowledge might be dealt with. Her both artists - determined that art should maintain its position as a viable activity in this arena - assume the same vantage point as the viewer from the outset and, because both must therefore  agree on the point of access there is the very real possibility that insights might actually be shared.

The real problematic now appertains to matters of choice.