A Review of Exterior. (Morning.) by Christopher Page at UNIT9, London

 
Installation view of Exterior. (Morning.) at UNIT9, London, 2017. Photograph: Damian Griffiths

Installation view of Exterior. (Morning.) at UNIT9, London, 2017. Photograph: Damian Griffiths

 
 

Christopher Page’s site-specific art work Exterior. (Morning.) currently occupies the East London exhibition space UNIT9. Founded by Alex Flick, an artist in his own right, the space aims to provide an exhibition platform for emerging artists who demonstrate a sense of ambition, promise and talent. Focusing on the mediums of installation, video, performance as well as conceptual works with a distinctive voice, UNIT9 offers a refreshing alternative to the traditional structure of a commercial gallery. It allows each artist the opportunity to focus on creating works without the pressure of commercial viability. As the programme states, “UNIT9 will provide a blank canvas for artists to experiment without pressure or preconceived expectation other than artistic authenticity and talent.”

Page’s exhibition at UNIT9 is a visually-spectacular installation in the form of a large-scale ceiling painting that radiates synthetic pink light. The day-glow has been achieved by the artist's application of multiple layers of acrylic paint on the surface, which was later sealed with a final layer of oil paint. The artist’s ceiling work is essentially an adaptation of the Baroque quadratura - the illusionistic ceiling painting technique- originally used to simulate architectural reliefs on the flat vaults of churches.

Framed underneath the somewhat garish, but also majestic work are three sculptural forms. Whilst they have been acknowledged by the audience as being reminiscent of ‘modernist reclining figures’ as well as ‘contemporary poolside lounges’, they could also be compared to the architectural detail of modernist architect Le Corbusier. If we examine the modified bathroom chaise lounge at his famous Villa Savoye (1930), we can see similar organic forms to Page’s series of three inanimate objects.

Page’s reimagined quadratura plays with the tradition of painting further as the sculptural forms, which on first inspection appear to reflect the pink glow radiating from above, have in fact been spray painted with a layer of acrylic paint, alluding to the technique of trompe l’oeil. Furthermore, the bubblegum pink of the ceiling could be interpreted in both a natural and unnatural context, on the one hand suggesting an extreme sunrise or sunset, and on the other the synthetic lights found in a nightclub or casino. This ambivalence that Page encourages through the installation is provocative and unnerving, as the work arouses feelings of both pleasure and discomfort.

Phrased like a stage direction, the title of the show is used to emphasise the work’s theatricality, as it ultimately acts as a substitute for real space. Page successfully extends and adapts the traditional confines of the gallery - a rectangular white cubed space - by using the artificial gallery lights as the frame of his ‘canvas’, rather than the four gallery walls. Notwithstanding its unsettling qualities, through his dramatisation and abstraction of the white interior, Page creates a space that invites contemplation, similar to that of a Church or museum. On show until April 15th, Exterior (Morning.) merits a visit not only for its aesthetic appeal but also it is important to support and engage with a programme that is promoting progressive concepts within the London contemporary art scene.

Written by Lara Monro, a Contributor to Arteviste.