Not Taught – Vanessa Billy

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Vanessa Billy — Not Taught
22nd October — 3rd December 2011
Opening Friday, 21st October 2011, 6 – 8 pm

Not Taught is Vanessa Billy’s (born 1978 in Geneva, lives and works in Zurich and London) second solo show at BolteLang.

Vanessa Billy’s titles speak volumes, they complement and often further her artwork’s form and development. The title of the exhibition, Not Taught works the same way in relation to the exhibition itself. When spoken, the words Not Taught could be under- stood as Not Taut, this ‘taut’ meaning ‘stretched’ or ‘pulled tight’. This verbal game gestures towards a sense of fluidity instead of fixity and sets a tone for how the exhibition can be interpreted as a whole.

In the smaller of the two gallery spaces Billy is showing a single large-scale installation that uses rubble from a nearby building site. The rubble is entirely covered by over- lapping towels. This work, Making Do, 2011, is emblematic of the artist’s work in three dimensions. Here the seemingly spontaneous placement of the ‘found’ building waste determines the surface character of the piece. The solid elements covered by material become a fragile carpet that cannot be stepped on without altering the work or imperiling the viewer. What on first sight is reminiscent of a densely populated beach is in fact a subtle comment on the general state of things without being overtly political.

It is a similar case with Vanessa Billy’s Oil Spill on Skin series, 2011, which the artist makes by pouring used sump oil onto coloured and porous paper. Storage, materiality, and drying time all determine the final outcome of these images. But again one can barely refrain from interpreting a political tone in these works. For Billy the realization that meaning is embedded in a material itself (its provenance, its use in the real world etc) prevents the possibility of over determining what the artwork is about. Instead, simple physical laws dominate the artist’s entire oeuvre, where works are often the consequence of material experiments set in motion, every action is followed by a reaction. In fact, it could be argued that much of Billy’s work is the result of the interplay between natural laws, human intervention, coincidence and the co-dependency of matter.

Alongside the Oil Spills Billy is showing further sculptural works in the main space that play with simple physical processes, test the qualities of materials and do not follow rules. Hence their results are not predictable and Not Taught.

Exhibition documentation