press release

In Callan’s first solo exhibition at Houldsworth Gallery, he confronts the viewer with an array of perplexing meditations on materiality. Callan takes that which is readable and comprehensible and turns it into something that appears to defy its form. The book becomes an object not to be read, but experienced - sometimes exploded into thousands of pieces and at other times twisted or pumped full of silicone. So Far is a monumental extension of Callan’s earlier book pieces. Here Callan has twisted and screwed layer upon layer of books together to create a 6ft high free standing sculpture that appears as an organic construction, with the mutli-coloured irregular shapes mimicking the rings of a tree or the layers of a geological cross section. Like much of Callan’s work this piece inhabits a place between the sculptural and pictorial – from one side the dyed blues, reds and yellows of the books edges line up perfectly, creating a magnificent abstract collage and from the other side the varied ends of books jut out at different levels, producing a chaotic and dynamic terrain. In recent pieces Callan explores his own kind of drawing; using paint or abrasive tools to obliterate an image leaving only one object or the outline of the image behind. The significance of the isolated branch, chair or pair of eyes is lost, but in the absence of context it takes on a greater meaning. Using an opposing process Callan also turns light sources, in black and white appropriated images, into shafts of black light – linking each object in the image to a fixed reference point off the page by a network ofblack lines.

In Taliban these drawings spill into the sculptural realm, as webs of inky lines are turned into wall to wall installation; black thread leaps from many holes drilled into a wall disappearing into a mirror image of the holes in an adjacent wall. There is a strange connection between the extrapolated image of the Taliban soldier and No Legend, a beautiful woodland scene reduced to lines by carefully applied areas of white paint – both pieces seem to hint at an inherent beauty in disinformation. A re-engagement with the familiar occurs through a reification of detail, which is surprisingly achieved through the reduction of information. Accompanying his wall pieces and sculptures is a video of toy animals gradually morphing with silicone. The result of this study into these chaotic and yet manipulated self-forming creations can be seen displayed as a large scale wall installation. The gaudy colours of felt fabrics are punctuated with Callan’s trademark white silicone that oozes from their cloth paws until the piece is effectively censored by the obliterating snowy substance. The effect of Empires and Other Works is to question the all pervading analytical culture of Western art history and politics – a culture that is unashamedly literary. Language is fundamentally dethroned in Callan’s work and replaced by the physical – each piece quietly bulging under a potential energy that engulfs the object.

Jonathan Callan has exhibited widely both nationally and internationally. He has a major solo exhibition at the Mattress Factory Pittsburg, October 2005; recent solo exhibitions include Martin Kudlek, Cologne 2004; Nicole Klagsbrun, New York, 2003; New Art Gallery, Walsall, 2003; Firstsite Gallery, Colchester, 2003 (catalogue available). In 2004 he exhibited in Heimweg with Hamish Fulton, Kasper Konig, Richard Long, Yoshimoto Nara and Lawrence Weiner. Callan is included in numerous collections including MOMA, New York, The British Museum, London, The Henry Moore Institute, South London Gallery, London, Whitworth Gallery, Manchester and The Ferens Art Gallery, Hull.


Jonathan Callan
Empires and Other Works