30 July to 21 August 2010
SUSAN JACOBS MELTS WIZARDS.
Jesus Christ, Mary Mother of God! There are certain effigies today that, if bottled in bladder water, will cause panic in an instant. I drew breath when I set eyes on Susan’s wizard smeared down a wall – a gasp of fresh air. Surely in ye olde worlde days, melting down a pewter wizard would have been an offence worthy of hemlock.
In the Wizard of Oz, a melting witch brings on a ding dong song; yet when the wizard is found to be a Mr Baldy huffing and puffing behind the velvet curtain, he is forgiven because he exists as an idea. He’s the fat enabler; he enables others to dream and believe in themselves.
As artists we may hold onto ideas of enablement. But I prefer not to. I act out ‘what ifs’ in my ‘here and now’ / ‘what was’ / ‘what might be’ world. In Susan Jacobs’ world, art is practise and a place where wonderment is tested and resolved, sometimes coming to nought, the most important number. Fallout is presented as potential; on another occasion she might just bring the remains of that day into union with her dust, vapour or charcoal and rekindle some magic.
The artist’s alchemical power to cast an irrevocable spell on a sliver of silver wizard, is something of a paper / scissors / rock contest. Susan melts wizard / wizard succumbs to heat /… In a more drastic circumstance Susan may well succumb to heat but – touch wood – for now, only the heat of an exhibition. For Hard Age New Edge, in delicate operations of transfiguration, she exercises her will over the materials to examine their propensity for resistance or yield. In turn she exposes a material’s essential inner structure to the thrall of a prevailing condition, or incites the material itself to prevail.
This temptation for the senses to understand the workings of something from the inside out – or outside in – is as much about ourselves in the natural world as the supernatural one where we make up signs and symbols for explaining the inexplicable. I often distort something to fit a particular theory or interpretation: It’s a wrenching drive and l suspect that it is primal.
When I had my first experience with the power of caustic soda, I was home alone: An adult, in my own home. I asked myself – why scrub this aluminium stove top espresso machine? The word caustic I knew as criticism long before I understood it as agency. So this is what I did: I plunged it into a bath of caustic to get rid of the stubborn stains. And it did – along with the entire apparatus. Result: 100% zero. The witch had truly melted.
I stood before a substance that could reduce a robust object to a few specks in the laundry trough in a matter of hours. These days I know to use New Age solutions to age-old problems. I will not even use caustic soda to unclog soap hair from the drain. But the urge is there. Like paint stripper, the bubbling up and evaporation of matter into vapour is the bit that bicarb can’t deliver.
These are some of the instincts that Susan’s melted wizards and goblets – the romantic relics of maypole, pre-enlightenment days – arouse in me. Susan’s approach to the New Age knocks hard edge reality into these ghosted relics of anniversary gifts through acts of hammering / smoking / trowelling / sanding / smearing / shaving / secreting. They fill and fit like moments of pleasure – hedging and edging and the tickle on the tongue as it glides over a perfectly crowned tooth. In the face of empirical evidence, seeing is believing.
But when Susan presents her wares, as belief unravels to myth, we are asked to throw caution and superstition to the wind. Imagination refills the empty vessels with the depth charge of things both powerful and beyond belief.
So did Susan choose the wizard to forge an opportunity to melt a chunk of lead and tin? Or was she playing wizard when she happened upon the trinket, ultimately finding the melting point at which we are recast, beaten and transformed. Nature – restless and inexhaustible – distilled.