TIMOTHY TAYLOR GALLERY, London, until March 6th
Pink on the Inside 2013 Cut armchair, paint, linen, glazed ceramic 90 x 84 x 84 cm T008963
(c) Jessica Jackson Hutchins; Courtesy, Timothy Taylor Gallery, London
Rarely does an armchair get a chance of being an artwork. Armchairs (like couches, several of which are also in this exhibition) are usually props where maidens and mistresses languish. Or they may be useful in providing stiff horsehair upholstery where family groups sit in uncomfortable rank. They may even be relegated to fill an awkward space in an interior composition.
But Jessica Jackson Hutchins takes a found arm chair which bears the marks of time, and persuades it to offer up its a unique history. Pink on the Inside is a hybrid. The artist mixes furniture and paint, found objects with those that are thoughtfully crafted. It is not just an armchair. It also acts as a plinth to a ceramic sculpture, a crumpled vessel so sinuous it appears to have been poured or slung over the back of the chair.The sheer physicality of the irregularities and bulges of the sculpture, the way they twist and turn, are disturbing. Where is the exquisite perfection of the curves and planes with which ceramics is usually burdened?
The bright pink is a shock. It draws our attention to the innards of the chair, the bits we don’t normally care to look at. The chair is undressed. It seems rude to stare. The phrase ‘pink on the inside’ has sexual undertones: it’s also how some people want their steak cooked. Meat like chicken left ‘pink on the inside’ can cause havoc. The artist explores the relationships between people and objects and how they form and inform each other. She fuses public and private moments, creating a giddy sense of the mystery of humdrum, repetitive, quotidian life.
Two Hearts is soft and curvy; its arms are open ready to enfold. The colours of the upholstery melt lazily into each other, stunning shades of earth and water. Its fabric looks silky, made perhaps of ‘plush’, a gentle material with a nap not unlike that of velvet. It would be pleasant to touch (as if I would dare). And what can we infer from the shirt and T shirt absent-mindedly draped over the back? Is the sculpture a stand-in for a real occupant who one day might have slumped onto its cushions?
In 2010 Hutchins made a work Kitchen Table Allegory (not in this exhibition) by turning her family’s old table into a printing press. She applied ink to the surface and used it like a woodblock, letting its scratches and scrapes reveal the story of its daily use. The art critic Colin Lang writes in a recent publication that she is an archivist, different from most in that she excavates the present.