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Certain Lengths



Solo Exhibition

27.05.17 – 01.07.17

Cape Town

In Ruann Coleman’s exhibition Certain Lengths we navigate through precariously balanced, tilted, leaning and firmly connected objects and forms. These sculptures and their accompanying titles evoke a sense of fragility and play as they connect with both the surrounding architecture and viewer. Relationships are evoked out of entangled materials. These relationships are geological and speak of time, matter, age and sediment. They are disposable and speak of waste, improvisation and haste. They are plastic and speak of composite chemicals, expanding foam, industrial intrusion and infrastructure. They are found objects, old and re-framed.

Ruann RE-collects and in doing so RE-members. He uses materials to re-member each piece, collecting each object to re-collect, translate and reorient these material and objects into a new vocabulary. In doing so, the construction of each sculpture involves a certain deconstruction of the materials. In this way their behavior and function are subverted and appropriated. A large foam rock with constricting blue duct tape seems violent, even claustrophobic. But the works can also be light hearted, playful and precarious as in the bent steel balanced pieces. A wooden elastic band with steel rod is quiet and reclusive and yet also flashy and highly sexual. These pieces speak of entanglements, embraces and relationships of form and matter. Painted bronze assumes the role of wood or duct tape. Materials ‘behave’ in one way, but their make up is transformed and altered. In each of the works there is a visual play of what is implied and an altering of what we see and what we assume.

Length, reach and weight inform the poetry of the works, questioning the inherent value systems of measurement and scale. The Distance Between Us suggests the impossibility of true measurement. The interdependence of each measuring system and an anthropomorphic articulation of two measuring tapes face each other in a symbiotic and effortless embrace. Similarly, Certain Lengths and Ode nod back to art history as materials take on a casual and playful dance. In the book Abstract Bodies critic David Getsy recasts conversations around abstraction and figuration to ask questions of how gender and sexuality can be investigated and articulated through abstract sculptural objects. In dialogue with Jennifer Doyle he explores notions of what they term “Queer Formalisms”, where the subversion and appropriation of materials and the abstraction of form can lead to conversations about the ambiguities of gender specific bodies and relationships. This is discussed specifically in the work of artists such as Scott Burton, Math Bass and Jonah Groenboer who, for Getsy, are “….envisioning new ways to inhabit the body or to give an account of the self.” This notion is deeply resonant in Ruann’s Certain Lengths. As he uses his body to create the work Ruann balances, frames and reconstructs the relationships between material and form to embrace poetic reconfigurations of matter. In doing so he questions binaries, hierarchies, assumptions of form, and in turn our relationship to these forms.

At the heart of Ruann’s work is a journey, a walk, an awareness of space and stillness, of how objects exist in these spaces and held in place by gravity. Certain Lengths speaks to an ongoing journey of seeing, noticing and imagining.

Text by Ledelle Moe

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