Review for This Is Tomorrow: Contemporary Art Magazine: "Julia Crabtree & William Evans: Antonio Bay"

Antonio Bay, South London Gallery, 2014

Antonio Bay, South London Gallery, 2014

Published in This Is Tomorrow: Contemporary Art Magazine, 23 June 2014

South London Gallery

7 June - 14 September 2014

Following their successful solo exhibition, ‘Hyper Bole’, at Legion TV (February – March 2014) and their six-month stint as the Nina Stewart Artists in Residence, collaborators Julia Crabtree and William Evans further explore the codependent relationship that exists between the body and the screen in their current SLG show, ‘Antonio Bay’. Exhibited on the first floor, the installation unfolds within the space to reveal the duplicity of visual representation, as well as the malleability of form.

Subjected to various layers of virtual and material alterations, the finished pieces carry marks of their individual histories as they merge to create a cohesive whole that points to the influence of digital technology on visual culture. Hence, atmospheric mist is flattened onto the thick carpet that paves our way around the exhibition, whilst horizon lines morph into abstract sculptures in the middle of the space. Engaging with filmic and cinematic discourses, the installation speaks of the digital revolution, of the deceptiveness of B-movies, of the spatial logic of cartoon physics, of Jacques Baudrillard’s ‘Simulacra and Simulations’, and of the trajectories that carry images from real to virtual spaces and the consequential shift that occurs in the viewer’s perception.

Referencing John Carpenter’s 1980 film, ‘The Fog’, the installation’s floor was created by engulfing a virtual model of the gallery space with multicolored smoke. An aerial photograph was then taken of the scene and printed onto dense pile carpet. Epitomizing the tension that exists between the use of digital technology and the consequential deterioration of the image through its replication, the floor’s manipulation of spatial depth further conjures the notion of the theatrical backdrop. The creation process is also integral to the sculptures that undulate through the gallery. Constructed using prop-making and industrial materials (expanding foam and car body filler), the pieces are sanded to expose their facture.

Much like Crabtree and Evans’ ‘Death Valley’ (2013), ‘Antonio Bay’ submerges us into a pool of our collective virtual memories. While the former drapes intentionally-pixelated photographs around a gallery space intermittently punctured with surreal cactus-like constructions, the latter furthers the submersive qualities of the artists’ oeuvre as it forces visitors to step onto the simulacral images. Moving away from the figurative, ‘Death Valley’s recognisable moon-like landscape evolves into an abstract imprint of smoke in ‘Antonio Bay’. Likewise, the columnar cacti morph into horizon lines in Crabtree and Evans’ 2014 installation.

The artists’ exploration of the pool of images that make up the virtual world we interface with on a daily basis deeply anchors the installation within the now. Blurring the line between a simulacral hyperreality and the three-dimensional world around us, ‘Antonio Bay’ booms the interconnectivity that exists between these two spheres.