A Review of Maya Rochat: Give Me Space at Seen Fifteen Gallery, Peckham
London is currently cold, grey and wet. Anyone could be forgiven for wanting to escape the dreariness of January in the city. Thankfully, Seen Fifteen gallery - on the first floor of the Bussey Building in Peckham - have escaped the winter blues. The space's growing audience have been reinvigorated by a stunning display of colourful artwork by the Swiss artist Maya Rochat in her solo exhibition titled Give Me Space.
Rochat’s cutting-edge work has completely overtaken the gallery. Transparencies hang from the ceiling and the windows have been pasted over with digital prints on transparent vinyl, which gives a slightly psychedelic, stained-glass effect. Although Rochat trained in photography her textured work could easily be mis-interpreted as a completely different medium such as painting. She explains that, "there are no rules in my process," and her work could definitely be described as experimental. In fact, her more open approach towards the process makes for an ideal pairing between the artist and the gallery's director Vivienne Gamble. She predominantly works with photographic artists in the ‘Expanded Field’ that cross inter-disciplinary boundaries and experiment with non-traditional display.
In the middle of the gallery floor lies a projector. It has not been plugged in, but the remnants of brightly-coloured paint have dried all round the sides. The machine was integral to the live painting performance during the exhibition’s opening night. The projector, together with Rochat’s hand became the backdrop to a collaborative music performance with French musician Buvette. The viewer is able to get a sense of what this might have been like from A Plastic Tool, which Rochat has aptly referred to as a video collage. Dozens of images light up the gallery space as they move across the walls and are reflected onto the floor. The images are accompanied by music from a group called Bermuda. The piece is largely made up of different shades of blue against black, making the space's atmosphere feel a little like a 1970's nightclub. The different hues run into and out of each other like liquid with Rochat explaining that she uses bleach, glue, soap and paint to create her work.
The wall facing the video installation has been covered in a large black and white piece called Meta Filtres (Give Me Space), using inkjet on wallpaper. The addition of the brackets to the title suggests a sense of urgency. In terms of the curation, it is this act of displaying art in areas of the gallery that we would not usually expect that makes Rochat’s show so mesmerising. Not only has she moved off the canvas and onto the walls, but she has even covered the windows, creating an immersive experience in which the viewer simply cannot hide. I found the transparencies hanging from the windows the most beguiling. Covered by one large piece of transparent vinyl in the form of A Rock is a River (Dark Water), an image has been cut into strips and then hung across four windows. It is a glistening impression of the artist’s native Lausanne in Switzerland where she had a residency last year.
By masking the windows Rochat has forbidden us from looking outside; moreover, we forget where we are. Far from Peckham, the viewer is transported to another world. The work, much like stained glass and the very nature of photography, becomes reliant on light to create an atmosphere. The mood of the gallery is governed by how bright it is outside. During the middle of the day we are able to see Rochat’s prints clearly, but when evening sets in, the video installation is more prominent as it becomes alive in darkness.
Rochat’s show has many layers, and so too does her artwork. She mixes colours and patterns together while combining analogue images with other mediums and textures. Besides products of the artist’s time in Switzerland on display, there is also work inspired by France and Japan. One of the most beautiful pieces is Give Me Space (Magic Trees Spray), which was created in Japan. Among a sea of blues, reds, blacks and oranges, it is the only piece that is green. Unlike the rest of the work, it is immediately clear what is on display here, with beautiful cream-coloured flowers floating behind tall, slender tree trunks that have grown up the paper, glowing against a dark background.
Upon leaving the exhibition space, the director informs me that the projector that so intrigued me upon arrival is to be put back into action on closing night when the artist will again be present for a finissage. She has no idea what Rochat is planning, but with the Swiss artist’s penchant for pushing the boundaries, it is certain to be anything but boring.
Maya Rochat: Give Me Space is on display at Seen Fifteen Gallery, Bussey Building B1.1, London SE15 3SN until 22nd January. The artist will be present for the exhibition’s finissage on 21st January between 6 and 8 pm.
Written by Lizzy Collier, a Contributor to Arteviste.