Vanya Balogh on Absorption
“The body is like a sentence that invites us to rearrange it, so that its real meaning becomes clear through a series of endless anagrams” – Hans Bellmer
What is Absorption?
If this is your first encounter with the work of artist Mark Woods, I would suggest you pause. Pause before you enter and gather your senses for the visual experience that is ahead of you. It will be dark, submissive and it will tickle your brain in different ways. It could happen you will suddenly find yourself looking into kaleidoscopic dream or mirrored fantasy room but keep going and do keep looking. It will be a journey of discovery. On the other hand, if you are familiar with Mark’s work and have seen his artistic escapades over the years, get ready for a serious boost up on your knowledge, aesthetic pleasure, and intellectual pain.
Alienated, strange and most surreal, Marks’s current works traverse regions that are forcing him into a voyage of initiation – in some way into the depths of the unconscious previously unseen. The search for the incarnate is akin to touching the sacred and the forbidden, that is object of longing and desire. The pathos of development and creation contains a form of semi aggression, something must be undergone to reach the top of creativity – resistances, repressions, self-demands and ideals emerge steadily on this creative journey but need to be forced somewhat for the artist to reach that final place of calm and satisfaction. The place of dreamy psychic tribalism and unhindered artistic flow.
The boldness of new works reveals that power of the phenomenon of creation and explains the erasure of boundaries between subject and object as artist grapples with real world and his imagined one, a fantasised, created world. In this convoluted trance Mark Woods has dared to defy form and yet again transform his sculptural, object making oeuvre into provocative multimedia installation, which is equally showing his eye for still life and set management with the attention to detail of a master photographer. Creating uncanny and controversial self-portraits and surrealist still life arrangements has become a feature and is reflexive to his intellect and emotions. This photographic development, seen in the form of several deep, large, glowing light boxes which illuminate the space, are certainly a spectacular addition to the already evolving matrix of considered ideas, Mark has developed during lockdown and pandemic isolation in his studio complex. Reflections, spatial relations, superpositions and intersections all mingle to create surreal ambiguity of the highest order as you journey through the Absorption tunnel and discover the old and the new, the forgotten and remade, to express the unruliness of the world in all its complexity and bliss.
I could add that this gap between fantasy of a structuring fetish and its failure to be both can be part of fetishism and can produce intriguing but fake interrupts, as Freud explains, by producing exquisite objects available for devaluation and therefore fuelling ongoing dramas of substitution.
Like a prick of an illusion with the promise of pleasure and pain in its darkest corners, Absorption reveals much more than meets the eye. Being in the room with the vibrance of styles that Mark brings to relationality and that relationality induces can also induce us to meditate differently about how we remain around his meta erotic objects and libidinal concoctions. Once the fetish is acknowledged as only one of many styles to relation, it is possible to imagine processes other than the rule of disavowal that do not merely invert it, elevating structure over mess or the opposite. Multimedia installation Absorption points of some ways to reoccupy the relation of structure to noise within rhythms of exchange. Once one acknowledges that one has not lost one’s grip but never had it firmly or could have it, ever, in love, hate or any structuring relation, then metaphors of holding and hoarding can be affectively reinvested, reconsidered, replaced, distributed, diluted, and displaced – and there is no choice, in the sense that one’s exquisite objects are always being put next to other exquisite objects, other platforms for fantasy. Inducing transformative proximities like this is a task of politics and theory as well as labour of love and passion. In so doing Marks current installation ambitiously positions us to shift our way of occupying negativity’s hold on us, to being more engaged, immersed and absorbed in conversation complexities with those beautifully crafted, seductive, provocative objects, their edgy approximations, and arrangements, including stories they intimately reveal to us.
Absorption is the work of powerful dark ambiance, maximum joy, gripping when set alight, and equally disturbing when enveloped in semi darkness, pausing for that next visual reveal in the fetish labyrinth of peep and attention, taboo, and obedience, summarised beautifully and finally by the light and mirrors it holds within, which are equally magical keys to visually unlock and understand this exhibition. Walk it with as much curiosity and wonder as you possibly can, at your own speed. Tiny speckles of light will lead you on. This is a risk worth taking…and thank you for your attention.
Image: Kaileidoscope: Donald’s Dick, 2021, Mark Woods. All works copyright the artists.