Tim Noble and Sue Webster: STICKS WITH DICKS AND SLITS

Tim Noble and Sue Webster: STICKS WITH DICKS AND SLITS

By ​Anna Fulmine

Blain|Southern, London
Fri 3 February – Sat 25 March 2017

Constraints, limits, boundaries determined by us or imposed upon us. Whatever the boundary may be, it impacts; creating a limit edge. A significant push/pull action between will and denial.

Whether stopping at the red and going on the green, our actions are moral, ethical and ingrained. But is there a perverse pleasure in being constrained? Like an animal that contentedly abides by its master, do human beings rely and revel in rules?

Tim Noble and Sue Webster create within boundaries they imply upon themselves. We have seen selective installations of rubbish to conjure shadows, paintings whilst blindfolded, animal carcasses and now the single, pervasive, continuous trail of the metallic line. In each of these works a representation of the self, the analytical portrait, another limit on their artistic interpretation.

Tim Noble and Sue Webster, STICKS WITH DICKS AND SLITS, 2017.
Tim Noble and Sue Webster, STICKS WITH DICKS AND SLITS, 2017, Installation view, Courtesy the artists and BlainSouthern. Photo: Peter Mallet.

BlainSouthern plays host to the conflicted and ever evolving skill set of this duo. A series of sculptures created for the space, the latest in their interrogation of the self. This bleached out, bourgeois and boutique gallery in Mayfair entices its viewers from street level. At the window a row of spectators point and laugh, incredulous at the show's title, titillated by its insinuation that there is something permissively sexual to see here: ‘dicks and slits’. Upon entering, the strikingly imposing sculptures, impressive not only in size but construction, tower significantly in the space. Though clown-like in their presence there is something very serious about each of the six pieces in this white, stark environment. They each have a personality, a gargantuan stillness, simultaneously awkward and comical.

Tim Noble and Sue Webster, A Lovely Pair (Standing) (detail), 2017.
Tim Noble and Sue Webster, A Lovely Pair (Standing) (detail), 2017, Courtesy the artists and BlainSouthern. Photo: Peter Mallet.
Tim Noble and Sue Webster, A Lovely Pair (Standing) (detail), 2017.
Tim Noble and Sue Webster, A Lovely Pair (Standing) (detail), 2017, Courtesy the artists and BlainSouthern. Photo: Peter Mallet.

Picasso mastered the art of the single line, eliminating the need for unnecessary detail. Whimsical in nature, his illustrations titled simply ‘Line drawings’ are worth bearing in mind whilst viewing these works. Forms were reduced to the bare necessities for delivering a message. But what of Noble and Webster’s message? What crucial detail has been eliminated? Other than their gender, these sculptures communicate actions that are crucial to understanding the duo. They tease and tempt one another in submissive ways and encourage discussion about the artists rather than the work. These self-portraits easily misconstrued as narcissistic indulgence are another opportunity for the couple, who were once married, to look at one another. To interpret one another's bodies and communicate the necessary detail of an action. We see the anxiety of the masochist, the need to subconsciously restrict through the use of a single line. The pair have entered into a contract that elicits some form of delicious punishment on the other.

Tim Noble and Sue Webster, A Lovely Pair (Standing) (detail), 2017.
Tim Noble and Sue Webster, A Lovely Pair (Standing) (detail), 2017, Courtesy the artists and BlainSouthern. Photo: Peter Mallet.

Both dualist and monist beliefs can be applied to these self-portraits that capture the performative nature of the body versus the mind. The soul, self, subconscious minds of these artists, has it been eliminated or is it hiding in plain sight? Don’t be fooled by the punk persona iterated in the title of this show. These are revealing and intimate sculptures in which we see not just the transparent figures of Noble and Webster but the shadows that fill in the gaps.

​Anna Fulmine is a writer based in London.

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