12

– Autumn/Winter 2005

Today

Polly Staple

Cathy Wilkes, Our Misfortune (detail), recliner, wood, tie, 185cm x 75cm x 20cm, 2001. Courtesy the artist and The Modern Institute, Glascow.

Cathy Wilkes, Our Misfortune (detail), recliner, wood, tie, 185cm x 75cm x 20cm, 2001. Courtesy the artist and The Modern Institute, Glascow.

In July 2001 I invited Cathy Wilkes to make a show at Cubitt Gallery, London. Cathy had recently completed a solo show at Transmission Gallery, Glasgow and - as she often does - proposed remodelling the piece for the Cubitt space. 'Our Misfortune' opened in London on 30 September 2001.

I had always thought that to present Cathy's work at this time in London was charged with a certain resonance. Her sensibility and working methods were distinct from the plethora of slick and poppy sculpture and painting that had followed so naturally the brittle sophistication of London art production in the late 1990s. At this very particular time - so soon after the events of September 11th - the downbeat tone and autumnal melancholy of 'Our Misfortune' chimed with the prevailing mood of shock and confusion. A reappraisal of a value system shot - if only temporarily - to pieces.

Our Misfortune consists of an arrangement of found and made objects: folding card tables, their tops cracked and peeling; a rusting sun lounger; several small, almost monochrome paintings; and one colourful abstract/geometric figurative painting. The tables carry small hand-crafted wooden sculptures: little broken wooden armatures that end bluntly and barely manage to stand up, a rectangular box shape and a collapsed wooden frame limply measure space. On one table a fabric collage manages to conjure a piece of nougat, a jigsaw puzzle and a face. The sun lounger sports a gentleman's tie decorated with a cubist Picassoesque pattern.

The entire show is set on a horizontal plane. The sun lounger sets the tone. The remnant of a more buoyant era, its beaten tubular frame serves

Footnotes
  1. Cathy Wilkes in conversation with Polly Staple at a public event at Cubitt Gallery, London, 20 January 2001. Unpublished transcript from live sound-recording. All subsequent quotation by Cathy Wilkes regarding Our Misfortune is in reference to this conversation.

  2. Yve-Alain Bois, 'Sophie Taeuber-Arp against Greatness', in M. Catherine de Zegher (ed.), Inside The Visible, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995, 413-17

  3. Ibid., p. 415

  4. Cathy Wilkes in conversation with Polly Staple, Glasgow, 22 July 2005. Unpublished transcript from a live sound-recording. All subsequent quotation by Cathy Wilkes regarding recent work is in reference to this conversation.

  5. Cathy Wilkes, 'Fine Art Research Pages', Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee, 2001

  6. Will Bradley, 'Quiet Radical: Will Bradley on Cathy Wilkes', Untitled, no.25, Summer 2001, p.6