Tim Noble and Sue Webster, the artistic duo known for their shadow sculptures made out of rubbish and discarded furniture hailing from London’s East End is back in full force. Their exquisite new show ‘Nihilistic Optimistic’ (until 24 November 2012) at the Blain|Southern gallery in London, documents both their personal 26 years relationship and their strong commitment to the continuation of their art. As they reflect upon their recent show, they also explain that one of them had to go so their art could be saved.
Upon entering, the first thing you come across is a large piece titled ‘My Beautiful Mistake’. A dynamic piece, whose presence dictates the room as a fragile body, made out of objects such as books, chairs and a wheelbarrow that towers to the high ceiling of the gallery. This looming pile gives you the illusion that it could collapse at any minute and celebrates the welcome “mistake” and the element of chance in an artist’s process.
Moving forward, you enter the main room where the other five large autobiographical pieces reside; all of them explicit in the messages they convey and in the characteristic style that has defined Tim Noble and Sue Webster’s work. Out of the assembled rubbish collected by the artists themselves, large shadows are cast from an angled light projected on them. When first seen, these meticulously assembled ‘street compositions’, as referred to by the artists, are magically transformed from the discarded and the mundane to conceptually charged work that addresses the issues of sex, identity and the self. The pieces become even more personal and autobiographical as the duo always insists on incorporating themselves into their work.
The magic of the sculptures lies upon the fact that even the slightest details of their bodies, from the heads’ hair to the strings of their shoes can be detected on the wall projections. These intricate, detailed-oriented pieces of work celebrate the idea that something beautiful can be created out of everyday discarded objects thus inviting viewers to embrace and experience the isolation and sentimental state of the artists themselves. This becomes clear as some pieces show them together and others alone thereby casting light on their recent separation.
‘Nihilistic Optimistic’ is a complete body of work that comprehensively documents all of the duo’s tension, despair and hope. Through both abstraction and figuration, the show is a statement that clearly expresses their strong dedication and their truth to their art.