Articles

2012

Frieze Magazine. Issue 149. Review of Kilian Rüthemann & Kate V. Robertson @ David Dale Gallery

Kilian Rüthemann and Kate V. Robertson are artists with a shared interest in the physical and social properties of materials. Exhibiting together for the first time in the inaugural show at the new home of this artist-led gallery (which was established in 2009), their installations and subtle interventions created a calmly compelling conversation between the space, the objects within it and the viewer’s own expectations.
 
Rüthemann originally trained as a stone sculptor and, since graduating from Basel’s School of Art and Design in 2005, the Swiss artist’s site-specific practice has comprised a consistently rigorous exploration of the limitations and potentials of his chosen materials. From parquet floor tiles to concrete plaster, burnt sugar to glass cylinders, Rüthemann delights in revealing the physical characteristics of the pieces he creates, testing their structural qualities in order to uncover what lies beneath. At David Dale Gallery, his first exhibition in the UK, Linger! (2012) was constructed from 8mm-thick cold-pressed steel, a response to the vertical steel girders that intersect the gallery. The installation consisted of three large rectangular sheets, constructed from sections and painted white on one side, which were then leant against the girders and welded in place; viewed from the front, the sheets resembled a trio of sagging metal sails, crumpled and buckled by their own weight.

Interviewed in the May issue of this magazine, Rüthemann spoke of using titles ‘to hint at the issues I’m into’, and Linger! could be seen as both an exclamatory request and a declaration of fact. The way the installation dissected the gallery forced viewers to renegotiate the space, to linger a while as they unpicked this spatial intervention. The steel itself could also be said to represent a kind of lingering – despite being hard and resilient, it will of course corrode, slowly succumbing to its own mutability. In the context of a post-industrial city such as Glasgow, once known for its world-conquering shipyards, both material and title acquired another layer of meaning; a much-depleted ship building industry still remains, but its future is uncertain.

Like many of Rüthemann’s previous sculptural interventions, Linger! was beautifully simple and, despite the industrial nature of the metal, ethereally effective. It was this gap between the nature of the materials and the messages they convey that provided the bridge between both artists’ work. Positioned around the edges of the gallery space, Robertson presented a series of pieces – all made this year – that played with our expectations. A wall-mounted glass tube, Untitled (Assign), was a squiggle of transparent nothingness, an indecipherable neon non-sign; a wax plinth, Untitled (Wane), doubled as a candle, but any light it emitted was hidden inside the well created as the wick burnt down; Untitled (Compromise) replaced one of the gallery’s external window panes with a frosted sheet of glass that included a brick-sized indent, while on the opposite side of the gallery a large block of ice doubled as a projection screen, Untitled (Refresh) (all 2012). The artist’s interest in changing states and the transient, fluid nature of things was unambiguous.

Robertson, who graduated in 2009 with an MFA from the Glasgow School of Art, has worked extensively with paper – her 2012 publication, Works on Paper, is a monochrome hymn to its properties and possibilities – and two previously exhibited pieces continued this ongoing enquiry. Untitled (Draft) was a white sheet of A4, stuck to the wall at the top and lifting slightly at the bottom thanks to a small electric fan behind it; Untitled (Bond) (both 2011) consisted of a creased piece of A4 paper cast in grey cement. As with Rüthemann’s sheets of steel, there was a sense of these objects not quite doing what’s expected of them. Linger! was clearly this exhibition’s centrepiece, an example of the artist’s adeptness at reconfiguring space in order to conjure atmosphere and meaning. Yet Robertson’s work was no sideshow. Rather, it completed the circle, her interest inthings absent and unstable a welcome complement to Rüthemann’s interrogations.

Chris Sharratt


Scotland on Sunday

By MOIRA JEFFREY
Published on Sunday 29 April 2012 00:00

[Extract]

 

In an utterly charming show at the artist-led David Dale Gallery, in a workshop in Bridgeton, artist Kate V Robertson projects an image of the sun on to a block of ice. Gradually it melts, a wax plinth burns like a giant candle, a pane of glass bears the imprint of a brick, but it hasn’t broken. History seems to have stopped, time is rapidly melting. Or maybe I’m just exhausted.

 

2010

Studio Projects 22 & 23 @ Market Gallery.

by Andrew Cattanach, Mon 27 Sep 2010

The two concurrent studio projects at Market Gallery this autumn address how we represent reality. There is something of the slavish will to reproduce our surroundings in all its intricate hyperreality in these two large-scale installations. They contain the very futility of the Sisyphean act of replicating the world around us, and hold up a mirror to our ineffectuality in the face of nature.

Firstly, Kari Stewart covers an entire wall with an image of what looks like a rippling sea or a rolling desert. Painstakingly reproduced in graphite or charcoal, the image goes slightly off kilter as the surface undulates to the right. This clear distortion of the picture plane seems to reference the original image, perhaps a photograph, from which the likeness is taken. It wants to expose its irreality, that it is a representation of a representation.

Next door Kate V Robertson has installed a huge boulder in the centre of the room. Grey and craggy it sits stout and inert; how it got there is little understood. Wedged between floor and ceiling, its muted tones complement the gallery’s subdued interior. On circling the work one begins to see the flaws in the rock’s surface, that like Stewart’s work Robertson’s rock is an outright fake, brazenly flaunting itself as a forgery.

What's more, Robertson’s sculpture brings to light the ongoing crisis within art, that we can no longer represent the world by appealing to outmoded notions of reality. She seems to illustrate the very distance between the world and our representations. Is it perhaps too pretentious to suggest that here lies the inherent sadness of the human condition: the insurmountable gap between us and the world around us? [Andrew Cattanach]

2009

Sunday Herald - The Art of Being Invisible

You may already have seen some of Kate V Robertson’s contribution to the Edinburgh Art Festival … you just wouldn’t know it. By Sarah Urwin Jones

THE IDEA of art designed not to be noticed might strike most people as a rather futile endeavour. Why spend hours conceiving, creating and fashioning something if most of your potential viewing public aren't even going to notice it's there?

It's a question one might rightly ask of Kate V Robertson, an up-and-coming young artist who has just completed her MFA at Glasgow School of Art, and whose contribution to the line-up for the forthcoming Edinburgh Art Festival - Notices - is a guerrilla-ish show about town. Or a non-show, to be more specific.

Described as "invisible graffiti ... either happened upon by the observant passer-by, or sought out by the inquisitive Festival spectator", her works will be abstracted to the extent that they contain "no lucid message", mounted on temporary walls (of which Edinburgh currently has no shortage) and deliberately, deeply unnoticeable - unless you happen to be on the lookout for something to notice.

"There's every possibility that they're going to get overlooked altogether," Robertson says, admitting that the whole concept is, indeed, potentially quite futile. "But is there any more point to getting something exhibited in a small gallery which only 30 people will see? You start thinking: what's the point of anything?"

If this thought suggests a closet anarchist, or indeed depressive, Robertson disappoints. While her work has a political undercurrent, it is now of a far more subtle hue than the sloganed work she experimented with at art school.

"If you use slogans, I think you have to subvert them somehow, and while I'm interested in subversion, I don't have a cause to fight," she says. "For me, it's more about political context than content, and questioning the usefulness of political communication and demonstrations in the form of flags and placards. I'm interested in what those very simple forms suggest of themselves, and whether the people using them actually have anything to say. But I'm not cynical. I'm not saying don't bother."

Born and raised in Edinburgh, Robertson was never sure that she was going to be an artist, although it was her best subject when at James Gillespie's High School. Her early political tendencies left her struggling: "I was quite anti doing anything institutional. I knew academia wasn't for me, but it took a little while to realise that art school was a good alternative."

Working across all media - originally photography - Robertson's work rarely takes the same form from one project to the next, although her subject matter is consistent: "I thought it was something to do with youth, with being at an early stage in my career, but I think it's more to do with how I am. I get bored easily. I like lots of different art. The more you evolve as an artist, the better you know yourself and your practice. Now that I recognise I'm not a highly skilled craftsman, that it's all a bit makeshift and provisional, I come to use it as part of the content."

Robertson's artistic influences for this project range from Francis Alys (the paradox between the political and the poetical), Arte Povera (an influential 1960s movement which questioned institutional authority and the validity of art as individual expression) and Keith Wilson ("an artist dealing with a kind of nothingness"). There are precedents in her own work. Last year, on an exchange in New York as part of her MFA, Robertson mounted a series of subtle abstract wooden "posters" on a temporary wooden wall in Times Square.

"I thought it wouldn't last half an hour," she says, realising that her choice of location was somewhat audacious. "But it was still there two months later."

As with Times Square, Robertson has not sought any permission to put up her work in Edinburgh this summer, although she will provide a map. There is the very real possibility that the work may be taken down, or indeed flyered over by the plethora of Fringe shows desperately seeking audiences. However, the ability to respond to this is part of its attraction: "That's the good thing about being local."

Despite her cloak and dagger ways, Robertson is a rather polite guerilla. "I have a strange, quite contradictory approach to these things. I like to do things that are unauthorised, but at the same time I'm not a vandal, I don't want to damage some nice Edinburgh building. And I don't want to get arrested. If I'm stopped, I'll just say the art festival said I could do it!'"

But Robertson doesn't foresee too many problems of that sort. "I think as long as you look purposeful doing something, no-one really questions it." As to the response her work might elicit, she says: "People might not even think it's art. They might just do a bit of a double take, might think that's not functional, that's not accidental - what is it?'. And that will be enough for me. Just a slight disruption ..."

Notices by Kate V Robertson will appear at various locations throughout Edinburgh, August 5-September 5

Reviews 

2006

a-n magazine - Review of 'Comfort' by Ken Neil

2005

The Times - Top 5 Exhibitions in Scotland listing for 'Preserve Rock and Roll'

The List - Listing and picture for 'Preserve Rock and Roll'

2004

Sunday Herald - Review of 'Below The Root' by Catriona Black

2003

The Herald - Review of Degree Show by Moira Jeffrey

"...From Celia Hempton's prize-winning paintings, which featured forbidden or circumscribed areas...to the words "Civil Disobedience" spelled out in spaghetti hoops by Kate Robertson.

The same artist has a wonderful photo pf a Rubik's cube in which the coloured panels appeared to have been torn off and stuck back on in a new sequence, emblematic of frustration. By the end of all this emotion, I would have been happy to refer to the vast pile of self-help books she has wittily stacked in the corner from What to do in an Emergency to The Women's Book of Courage."