Emma Geliot's picture

Cities of Ash, g39 Installation shot 690 Rory Duckhouse visits an exhibition that goes to the heart of how our built environment affects us physically ad emotionally.

The artists in Cities of Ash have responded to the expansion of urbanism and its impact on the built environment. Over half of the world s population lives in cities and they are growing, expanding outwards to accommodate the increasing mass of people. Over the centuries we have moved from a pastoral to an urban way of life, and with this change comes new developments in technology, design and community. We adapt to these transitions and our perception of place evolves.

How the buildings we occupy shape our world, both physically and psychologically, is explored in Emily Speed s Plans/Ruin. Her installation remains in a state of uncertainty, somewhere between an architectural plan and an excavation of a ruin. Societies have looked for shelter through time, and this built-up knowledge expands to the modern city, a layered space that builds upon previous generations and their need to create a legacy.

Rob Voerman  - Cities of Ash  at g39 Rob Voerman - Cities of Ash at g39

And this need for permanence and shelter is at the core of building, it is upon this structural model that people go out to build their own utopias, as seen in the models of Rob Voerman. His self-built structures fuse art deco and modernismas he examines the architecture of fictive communities living on the outskirts of society, such as the cabin of the Unabomber, hidden in the Montana forests. The three structures, Aftermath, Shelter 3 & Incinerator sit towards the edges, away from the other works, attempting to get away from the modernist architectural elements

An expanse of recycled wooden blocks spreads across the floor where they meet a series of technological skyscrapers. The floor space is mapped through the intervention into the gallery, as the viewer has to traverse the space created by Colin Booth and Robin Tarbet s installation.

Robin Tarbet - from Cities of Ash at g39 Installation shot (detail) Robin Tarbet - from Cities of Ash at g39 Installation shot (detail)

These installations physically alter how the space is navigated, much like city planning, with reference to psychogeography, a playful way of navigating the city. Sprawling out over the gallery floor, Colin Booth s Metropolis covers a vast amount of space only to be dwarfed by Tarbet s large towers made of circuit boards. They resemble a futuristic city that is aesthetically impressive yet technologically redundant. The interplay of materials depicts the transformation in architectural design, from the simple and natural wood to the technology that permeates the modern city.

Colin Booth  - Metropolis - Cities of Ash at g39 Colin Booth - Metropolis - Cities of Ash at g39

Continuing these themes are Hannah Waldron s weavings that interact with the architectural invention through their warp and weft. The patterns and marking are grounded in architecture, and the human interpretation of landscape, taking patterns from cities such as the gridded streets of Manhattan. Resembling maps, the tapestries present the nomadic qualities of textiles and an exploration of the city through the eyes of the traveller.

Meanwhile Isabelle Hayeur svideo work Uprooted/Deracine moves out of the centre to explore the peripheries. Viewed from a distance the video takes the viewer on a journey through the suburbs, industrial space and developments as the city expands outwards. The work focuses on North American cities, similar in design and appearance, which blur into one another. It is in these spaces that we expand out too, non-spaces that develop a reason through expansion. The spaces are tenuous, at a point of transition as we move out into them, further expanding our evolving visions of the city.

Looking over the space from its higher vantage point are James Moore s paintings, Extreme Metaphors and Mount Analogue. They offer a simulacrum of the experience of space, a constructed landscape that sit on the borders of the fictional and the real. These landscapes point to our cultural obsessions with simulations of our everyday scenes, as seen in computer games and film. The paintings at first seem out of place in this sculpturally dominated show, but in fact hold the key to unlocking the exhibition s narrative.

James Moore  from Cities of Ash at g39 James Moore from Cities of Ash at g39

All the artists respond to this obsession with our everyday space and find ways to look at it from a new viewpoint. The exhibition, curated for g39 by Sam Perry, creates an immersive environment to ask questions about the city structure, offering a god-like view onto this space, often only seen from eye level. This reconsidered view offers us unseen glimpses, creating a space to consider our immediate environment.


Cities of Ash continues to 13 September 2014 at g39, Oxford St, Cardiff CF24 3DT

If This Is Nowhere (Part 2), curated by Nia Metcalfe opens in g39 s Unit #1 on Friday 22 August 6-9pm