1 November to 8 December 2012
Groombridge’s latest solo exhibition at the gallery continues his measured and highly conceptual investigations of epistemological concerns. As artist Yam Lau recently wrote on the artist, “Could the phrase ‘exercise in custom measure’ befit Brian’s work in general and thereby underscore the continuity between his early and the most recent work? Perhaps... I am inclined to postulate Brian’s operative principle as custom articulation of life’s manifold mystery through the invention of poetic measures.” What Groombridge “invents” is a cool, reductive vocabulary of forms that become “poetic” in their expressions of idiosyncratic phenomena or meta-descriptions of the very spaces they occupy. His sculptural gestures are the result of a careful cataloguing of the world’s singularities and patterns, and work toward meanings of a higher order from nominalist and empirical study. For example, in one sculpture, Groombridge juxtaposes two images taken from two distinct sources: a drawing of an 18th century oddity called an astronomer’s chair—which has a backrest set at a “delirious angle” that permits one to swoon at the night sky and observe its contents—is paired with a grid of standard symbols—hearts, spades, clubs, and diamonds—from a set of 15th century French playing cards but expressed using an unorthodox colour palette. Their presentation as symbols depicted on a pair of custom flags—the literal epitome of the floating signifier—upends their pragmatism and fixity, but regardless of Groombridge’s aesthetic choices, the chair and the scrambled set of playing card symbols are charged and propelled by various ineluctable factors: chance, wonder, delirium.
Exhibited alongside the flags is a set of four rectangular aluminum panels, each painted with an esoteric vocabulary of symbols: pointed markers tracing a perimeter, a twin set of matrices comprised of an ordered pattern of squares, or a curious elongated shape with its sides pared away with varying elliptical or toothy marks. And words, though “most of the time” is just as uncertain and no more a elucidating signifier than any of the others. Each panel hangs askew from a single nail on the wall, at the ready as a potential new tool or machinists’ template. While Groombridge points out that the existing standards of measurement are equally arbitrary, his templates and models point to new ways of quantifying the world. Namely, these templates are not just ways of describing their respective unique things; they are proof of their existence.