Tuesday 7 June 2011

‘Tender Vessels’ by Cathy Ward and Eric Wright

It seems to be increasingly the case that if you wish to find a reasonable account of current events, visit an art gallery; artists tend to be more reliable investigators of the state of human affairs than the average journalist these days. Should you prefer poetry to headlines, however, then you should look no further than the work of Cathy Ward and Eric Wright. Published by Strange Attractor Press in association with Galerie Toxic of Luxembourg, Tender Vessels offers sumptuous documentation of one of their more recent shows. As always, their work demonstrates the extravagance of artists who don’t waste the smallest thing if they can possibly help it – everything is used and nothing is wasted. The result in visual terms is a kind of post-industrial folk art, offering a detailed glimpse of lives spent in the shadow of dark and terrible forces.

In this particular case, Ward and Wright examine the baleful influence of industry and empire as historical processes – a theme ably discussed in the accompanying essays by Mark Pilkington and Doug Harvey respectively. Punctuated by quotations from Milton, Melville and Defoe, and illustrated with photographs of rituals and riots, Tender Vessels is a mixed-media show in which the richest materials appear to have been thrown together either by shipwrecks or sacred rites. Economic progress is consequently revealed to be just another tribal fetish fashioned to protect us against the coming storm. Those who recall the elegant tourist-centre trash of Ward and Wright’s Transromantik project may be tempted to believe that, swimming against the tide of history, Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid has finally had her revenge.

Tender Vessels
Cathy Ward and Eric Wright
£19.99, full colour, PB, 120pp
ISBN 9781907222047

Pictured from top to bottom: The Luddite Revolt/Home Rites; The Initiation Rite to the Order of Gain; Before the Gold Rush; Tender Vessel

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