Cathy Wilkes

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Across three daylight-filled rooms, Cathy Wilkes releases a drip-feed of unrest that gestures towards the turmoil of being and remembering. Motifs that simultaneously conjure flowers and bombs explode on handmade paper with frayed edges, floated in shiny aluminum shadow boxes. In an accompanying text, the Belfast-born artist writes with welcome directness that “the exhibition shows impressions of flowers and landscapes from my childhood.” Wilkes explains in the following line that she “read about the Siege of Leningrad…a terrible place,” and invites us to anchor interpretation in these first, lasting impressions.

In the next room, an assemblage of found objects—kitchen rags warped by the hands that clenched them, alongside a photograph of an animal being butchered and crotch shots—are displayed in an open glass vitrine that showcases but doesn’t protect them. Light streaming into the gallery fades these elements further and reiterates Wilkes’ preternatural ability to provoke conflictual feelings of intimacy and distance, disintegration and structure. And although the specific meaning of these configurations remains opaque, a nearby sculpture of white linen, smeared with egg tempera, holds onto light and time as things to be guarded more closely than content.

At a moment in which many of society’s lifelines are suspended, Wilkes’ use of familiar and tired materials conjures a circular kind of suffering. Her associative threads draw us inward, then force us back out, freshly burned by a reminder of the push-pull between destruction and creation, collapse and resilience.

Isabel Parkes

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