Qwaypurlake

This Critics’ Pick on “Qwaypurlake” at Hauser & Wirth Somerset appeared on artforum.com:

View of “Qwaypurlake,” 2015–16.

The mix of science fiction, archaeology, and magic in this varied group show makes for a lethal cocktail, bound to leave visitors feeling somewhat queasy. At the outset, David Wojtowycz’s looping video installation The Lake, 2012—the only moving-image work on view—presents a pier stretching out toward the horizon, a lurid pink at both ends, as if lit up by twin setting suns. The unnaturally still and ruffled aspect of the water adds to the sense of the uncanny, compounded by a disquieting sound track that permeates the adjacent rooms.

Bringing together mostly British artists with some connection to Somerset and the neighboring counties, “Qwaypurlake” mines England’s magical hinterland with its enchanted forests, glades, moors, and legends. Its otherworldly qualities are captured in James Ravilious’s ravishing small black-and-white photographs of north Devon and Jem Southam’s two large-scale color C-prints of oval ponds set in a bleak wintry landscape, and they’re hinted at in the exquisite stoneware works by ceramicist Hans Coper: the chalice-like Vessel, ca. 1965, and its companion piece Small Cycladic Arrow Form, ca. 1972.

Simon Morrissey’s overall curatorial conceit reimagines Somerset and its boggy marshlands, subject to frequent flooding, as a lost Atlantis of sorts in an unspecified, postapocalyptic future. In this scenario, the sculptural objects, ceramics, photographs, and paintings displayed across the four gallery spaces become physical and material traces of an ancient civilization, there for us to piece together and decipher.

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