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Escaping shadows

The first show at Blain|Southern, the new gallery from Haunch of Venison founders Harry Blain and Graham Southern, comes in the form of Turning the Seventh Corner by Tim Noble and Sue Webster.

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Photo by 2 Shooters

Tim Noble and Sue Webster (see our interview with Sue), British artists working together for 15 years, stage their latest installation Turning the Seventh Corner. Known for their ‘shadow sculptures’ – forms melded out of meaningless rubbish that project a detail portrait onto the wall when set before a light source – the pair takes the experience further, creating a seemingly-distant space to view the work.

Entering a darkened tunnel, the day is quickly lost. Turning barely-discoverable corners (yes, seven of them) as the floor and ceiling rise and fall, disorientation and isolation set in. A golden glow hints at the goal, a chance to exhale. And suddenly the viewer stands before two seemingly abstract forms posted on a two-pronged steel pole. The shadows are recognisable as profiles of the artists.

But for all the magical charm of the shadow (‘How did they do it?’ is an oft-heard gasp) the sculptures themselves are quite astonishing. Made from the mummified remains of squirrels, rats and frogs, then cast in sterling silver and dipped in liquid gold, the treasure at the end of this trek reinforces the Pharaoh-tomb inspiration of the work.

There are actually two shadows: the dominant self-portraits on the wall and two masses on the floor. The floor shadows are caused by a small light from above, what Noble regards as a ‘heavenly feel’. Webster sees the sculptures themselves become more and more important in their work, the overhead light providing a chance to explore the detail.

This is the first show at Blain|Southern, the new gallery from Haunch of Venison founders Harry Blain and Graham Southern. The new space takes up 1300 sq. metres over two floors of the old Der Tagesspiegel printing presses. Noble and Webster’s installation is a perfect fit: “There’s no way we could do this anywhere else,” Noble says. “It’s like a dirty Tate Modern.”

Through the organic materials, the richness of the gold and the meditative journey, the religious and spiritual influence is abundant. But where is Webster’s love of David Bowie and Nick Cave? Where is the rebel spirit? “There’s no rock and roll in this work,” Webster explains. But that just doesn’t sound right. Dark tunnels, disoriented audiences, gold-dipped road-kill? That seems pretty rock and roll to me.

Turning the Seventh Corner, through July 16 | Blain|Southern