Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Folding House

The Folding House
Spartacus Chetwynd 2010

Constructed from wood, steel, aluminum, glass. (courtesy Sadie Coles HQ London)

On display in Plymouth Museum as part of British Art Show 7 (BAS7) until December 4 2011

Partly due to standing off the ground and to the wheels underneath, my first impression was of a light and airy caravan-like structure. From mainly recycled materials especially old partly glazed window frames and pieces of colourful material stretched across folding doors the artist has created an imposing piece.

When I first saw it several days ago I walked past with no more than a cursory glance. It was what it was, a large, colourful caravan-like thing. In conversation after that first visit several people commented that it had brought to mind a gypsy caravan, a quiet and secure place, a garden room and such things. So on this second visit I have taken time to look closely.

So much contemporary art, especially installations, are open to the viewers' interpretations. What struck me about this item is that it had affected people in a similar way. Whatever the artist intended the visual impact was achieving a similar resonance. The cushions inside the structure made viewers imagine a relaxing place, a writing den, a place for tea in the garden. Because emotional responses were so similar does this make a piece successful?

Entitled 'The Folding House' is an indication that the artist clearly intended the piece to be seen as a representation of some sort of habitable construction despite all its gaps and holes. On the other hand there are no visible steps up to the floor level and at such a height off the ground it would be tricky to enter the house without some assistance. That makes one wonder - is this a house you are not supposed to enter? Is the unsuitability, its temporariness being emphasized? And what is the meaning of the mirrors and wheels underneath?

A structure, yes; folding, possibly; a house, not in the way we normally use the term but the title does make you question your point of view, literally, and your understanding of the artist's intention. For me, that makes the piece worth pondering.

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