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Laconia Gallery


This Mortal Coil

Randal Thurston

Friday, October 1, 2010 to Saturday, November 20, 2010

print of skull in vines

For his first solo exhibition at Laconia Gallery, Randal Thurston creates immersive, site specific wall-filling installations of monochrome imagery. Thurston looks at the patterns, symmetries and meanings inscribed in our most enduring monuments by first isolating individual elements and then orchestrating a completely new relationship with groups of them. Working in flat high contrast black on a white wall, hundreds of hand-cut shapes are organized, attached to the wall, moved and added onto other elements in response to the overall composition.

Using these elements together creates a decorative wallscape that disguises its intensity with a readable overall pattern that mimics floral wallpaper or a traditional damask wall covering. But once a single element is recognized as a “skull” or “carnation” the elements unroll into heady narratives from rituals or religions–not your normal wallpaper motifs–which are complicated by connections with the larger chain of objects. Thurston reminds us of the shared visual affinities as well as the historic decorative relationships of symbols from many disparate origins. Two crossed femurs beneath a frame of carnations ending in a spray of olive branches, seamlessly combines our ideas of death, victory and memory in an intelligently unexpected way.

Individual forms provide an entry point to his work but defy a singular translation. The meticulously crafted silhouettes of laurels, crossed bones, skulls, irises and carnations are derived from funerary jewelry, tear jars, headstones and epitaphs. Flowers are used both as symbols of bereavement and as a representation of the brief flowering of life. The butterflies and mirrored profiles of human faces are more personal and relate to individuals and the act of remembering for the artist. The chains formed from the linked vertical arrangements reference the great talking corpse of Dickens’ Jacob Marley.

The overwhelming scale and razor sharp clarity help the rhythms of the chains swell and fill the entire gallery lobby as a single work of art. The simultaneous effect of space filling immensity and the delicate rendering of detail allows a micro/macro vacillation for the viewer that pushes beyond a mere optical response. Formally and chromatically restrained but packed with meaning and interrelationships the work expands visually and metaphorically as it is experienced by each visitor walking through the space.

– James Hull, Curator