336 Old Street
CHARLIE SMITH LONDON is delighted to present ‘Transcript’, a group exhibition curated by gallery director Zavier Ellis and artist
Hugh Mendes. Both Ellis and Mendes have an enduring interest in text based work and in the occurrence of text itself in our
general cultural environment.
This exhibition will explore the use of text in contemporary art that has been transcribed from every day or alternative sources. For
over a century, ushered in by Pablo Picasso’s inclusion of the fragmented word ‘JOU’ and collaged oil cloth in ‘Still-Life with Chair
Caning’ (1912), artists have turned to low sources and materials gleaned from everyday life, thereby navigating visual
communication away from its traditional reliance on imagery. Found elements derived from life in the studio, street and café were
deployed to confront the audience directly with the stuff of reality at a time of great political, social and cultural flux. Fast paced
change was axiomatic of the modern period, echoed by incessant industrial, technical and mechanical progress. Additionally,
during a period of economic depression during and between the two world wars, adopting the use of accessible collage elements
and found objects represented a democratisation of materials in themselves.
Picasso’s introduction of text as a prominent surface component prepared the way for contemporary artists to develop it into a
subject in itself, and to engage directly with popular culture; commercial strategies; and semantics. The artists in this exhibition
wholeheartedly embrace the dissolution of hierarchical materials and sources. ‘Transcript’ will include painting, work on paper,
video, installation, sculpture, performance and assemblage derived from film, signage, posters, advertising, newspapers,
notebooks, diaries, clichés, graffiti, tattoo and schizophrenic acoustic hallucinations.
Beyond this framework, ‘Transcript’ will investigate the disruption of language. In 1916 ‘Course in General Linguistics’ by
Ferdinand de Saussure was posthumously published, and became a critical work in the field of semiotics. Central to Saussure’s
theory is the arbitrary relationship between the signifier and signified. Taking the written word as the ultimate signifier, where
meaning is attached by general consensus, text based work has the facility to communicate universally, at least to an audience
who speak and read the same language. However, again from synthetic cubism onwards, text based work is often characterized
by fragmentation and incoherence, where the association between signifier and signified is disrupted. This exhibition will assert
that broken, covered, erased, reversed, redacted, or dissolving words, letters or sentences serve to deconstruct language in order
to encourage ambiguous, new or unintentional meanings, both cognitively and instinctively.
The exhibition will include a performance by Tim Etchells at the private view and on the final day:
Tim Etchells 'Some Imperatives', 2011 Performance (performed by Andrew Stevenson)
Thursday 24 May at 6.30pm | Saturday 23 June at 3.00pm