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Sunday Salon 18 | Expanded Impermanence | Amelia Bowles and Nadia Guerroui
Saturation Point, 17 -
©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock All rights reserved.
One plausible way to specify further what this iteration of Guerroui’s Friction in
Plain Sight does is to associate it with Marcel Duchamp’s concept of the “infra-
As odd as it may sound, I am reminded of a passage in Walter Benjamin’s oft-
But this idea can be pushed a little further if it is recalled that the ambivalence
of Benjamin’s essay can only be fully understood in light of his long standing philosophical
interest in the notion of experience. The German language provides two words, Erfahrung
and Erlebnis, both of which can be roughly translated into the English word experience.
Compressing a difficult argument to the strictest essentials, it can explicated that
Benjamin emphasizes the qualitative distinction between Erfahrung and Erlebnis ,
with the former encapsulating a capacity for experience that is “deep,” “sustained,”
and leaves an indelible mark upon one’s subjectivity, while the latter nominates
a capacity for experience that is superficial, momentary, and easily forgotten. Benjamin’s
essay “On Some Motifs in Baudelaire” unpacks the writings of Baudelaire and Proust
as a witnessing to how urbanism, capitalism, and technological developments enacts
a transition from Erfahrung to Erlebnis as our standard forms of experience. Needing
to manage psychologically a faster-
Benjamin’s account of technology, perhaps, now feels rather remote from our own present
age of the digital twitch in which communication and image become rapid-
Matthew Bowman, May 2022.
1. Robert Morris, “Notes on Sculpture, Part 2” reprinted in Continuous Project Altered Daily, (Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England: MIT Press, 1994).
3. Philip Armstrong and Laura Lisbon offer an exemplary account on the connections and differences between Minimalism and the French scene in their essay “As Painting: Problematics” in Phillip Armstrong, Laura Lisbon and Stephen Melville (eds.), As Painting: Division and Displacement (Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England: MIT Press, 2001).
4. This sentence amasses a number of key concepts in Michael Fried’s 1967 “Art and Objecthood” in Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews (Chicago and London, University of Chicago Press, 1998); Stanley Cavell’s remarks on Morris Louis in The World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology of Film, enlarged edition (Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England: Harvard University Press, 1979 ); and Fried’s important book Manet’s Modernism, or, The Face of Painting in the 1860s (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1996) Although I cannot expand this is here, it is worth noting that “candour” in Cavell is a reformatting of “presentness” in Fried, and “facingness” is Fried’s rewording of Cavell’s references to “frontality.” All these terms are, at bottom, in dialogue with Clement Greenberg’s infamous discussion of modernist painting’s orientation towards flatness. And it would be worth further exploring how these terms are reworked in Bowles’ and Guerroui’s works.
5. See Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in its Age of Technological Reproducibility”
in Selected Writings, Volume 3: 1935-
6. Walter Benjamin, “On Some Motifs in Baudelaire” in Selected Writings, Volume 4:
L:Nadia Guerroui Trustful Hands, 2022. Variable dimensions, ambient white light, wood (2 panels of 62 x120 x 1,8 cm each), gesso, fluorescent pigment and interferent acrylic paint. R: Amelia Bowles, Daughters of the evening, 2021, acrylic on cotton panel, 140 x 205 x 11 cm. Image credit: Benjamin Jones.
Space for Experience: On Amelia Bowles’ and Nadia Guerroui’s Expanded Impermanence
Expanded Impermanence is a dialogue between new and recent works by Amelia Bowles and Nadia Guerroui shown in Saturation Point’s exhibition space. Although that space may seem sparsely curated, and the works decidedly reductive, the exhibition unfolds its significance slowly. Indeed, the beholder’s labour of attention is invited by the artworks on display. Such an invitation is not necessarily an injunction, and such labour need not be a laborious undertaking. Indeed, the exhibition’s text references the writings of Gaston Bachelard and, especially, his notion of intimate immensity. Bachelard is an apposite figure here insofar as Bowles’ and Guerroui’s artworks invite a similar reverie that brings the beholder intimately and closer to their works in all their materiality. And, in permitting that reverie, our attention recognizes the interlacing between space, time, and artwork as crucial to our attentiveness.
Amelia Bowles, Daughters of the Evening, 2021, acrylic on cotton panel, 140 x 205 x 11 cm. Image credit: Benjamin Jones.
Arranged perpendicular to the wall, Daughters of the Evening consists of eight panels on the wall. Each panel is upholstered in cotton, with one side painted in a stronger shade of peach pink and the other being pale peach pink. The front edges are almost white and so the beholder sees a conglomerate of alternating lines of white and peach pink. Additional, but not supplemental, to these eight elements is the shadow cast between them, which takes on a subtly peach pink hue; linking each panel; that hue will vary depending on the strength of the daylight from the windows to the right of the work. Because of how the elements constituting this painting is distributed, we cannot stand directly in front and observe only the vertical lines; our lived perspective determines that we will always notice stripes of peach pink, too. And the width of those stripes will vary in thickness according to where we stand.
Hopefully, that is enough of a description to indicate the significance that “the
variables of object, light, space, and body”  hold for it. Such variables are
also pertinent to another of Bowles’ inclusions in this exhibition. Mirage may, at
first, appear a smaller and simpler artwork; a single blue-
Amelia Bowles, Mirage (2022). Acrylic on cotton panels, 120 x 20 cm. Image credit: Benjamin Jones.
As the quotation in the previous paragraph already signposts, we can take these artworks
as testifying to the ongoing legacy of Minimalism. Maurice Merleau-
Admittedly, not all Minimalists were as enamoured by Merleau-
Yet it is important not to construe this kinship in terms of identity; indeed, there
is something of a reversal here. Judd avowed that the thought underpinning his works
stemmed from painting, even though he did not paint. Bowles’ artworks can be apprehended,
then, as returning Judd’s procedures back to that originary thought of painting.
In doing so, any influence from Minimalism in her practice is rerouted via the various
explorations of painting that occurred during the 1960s and 1970s within the French
art scene. Resisting the School of Paris approach and the dependency upon gestural
Amelia Bowles, Untitled (2022). Acrylic on cotton panels, 68 x 37.5 cm. Image credit: Benjamin Jones.
The concern for reserve and spacing is thrown into relief by Untitled, which is placed on the floor for the purposes of this exhibition. Freestanding just slightly away from the wall, Untitled is resolutely obdurate as regards its material presence. Yet that obduracy does not entail the work lacking ambiguity. On the contrary, it befuddles certainty—is it a painting, a painted sculpture, an object, or even a readymade? The point is not to decide upon a single category, however, but to witness how it shuttles between them. With its somewhat stressed painted surface, a commonality emerges between itself and the immediate environs it resides in, as if it was discovered in the factory and given a new lease of life.
Nadia Guerroui, Friction in plain sight (London Skyline), 2022. Variable dimensions, Ambient white light, double tone polyester and magnets. Image credit Nadia Guerroui.
Perhaps one of the easiest to miss works of the show—at least initially—is Guerroui’s
Friction in Plain Sight (London Skyline), a square of polyester covering a window,
or rather a square pane of glass situated within a large gridded frame of windows.
Several of these windows are probably the original distorted glass that obscured
exterior views and prevented distractions for those working there, whilst others
are plain glass subsequently inserted when whatever need arose. Guerroui’s intervention,
perhaps, constitutes the most obviously site-
Nadia Guerroui, Friction in plain sight (London Skyline), 2022. Variable dimensions, Ambient white light, double tone polyester and magnets (detail) Credit Nadia Guerroui.
Bowles’ interest in phenomenology—inherited, as said, from 1960s Minimalism—is shared
by Guerroui, who likewise deploys the beholder’s embodiedness as a decisive factor
of the artwork’s capacity for producing meaning. Trusted Hands consists of two rectangular
panels of a predominantly white hue. At first glance, perhaps, the panels are identical;
but perceptual complications interfere with initial perceptions. Their sanded-
Nadia Guerroui, Trustful Hands, 2022. Variable dimensions, ambient white light, wood (2 panels of 62 x 120 x 1,8 cm each), gesso, fluorescent pigment and interferent acrylic paint. Image credit Nadia Guerroui.