In Six Memos, Italo Calvino writes of the magical charge attached to objects in narrative fiction. As the “knot in the network of invisible relationships”, objects bind locations, characters and events together. The material qualities of Calvino’s examples are important too: enchanted metal rings, helmets and swords in the chivalric romances, or the salvaged wood, rope and glass of Robinson Crusoe’s constructions.
Tony Charles’ ephemeral, sculptural works are the locus of a similar narrative matrix. His familiar motifs – house, carpet, bread rolls, and rowboat – are the anchoring devices of multiple social stories. There is always change, almost plot, attached to Charles’ objects. The house rusts from grey to brown in season; the carpet disappears; the rolls cool; the boat sinks. His fidelity to material – namely steel – sets the initial, conflicted tone: macho modernism, or industrial graft.
However, Charles’ most recent steel pieces are not modeled after existing objects. Instead, the Spun series, 2011, comprises spindly fingers of reinforced steel wool. He meticulously draws these long non-things on paper, installing drawing and sculpture in close relation. In doing so, he transcribes three-dimensions into two – as in the appearance of a bulky helmet in a flat, printed book – and measures them by each other. So, a portion of storytelling’s internal logic is preserved, while narrative itself is cut loose.
Tony Charles drawing of wire wool
Tony Charles, pencil drawing, 2011
This text is part of a series written for Platform A Gallery’s inaugural group show, Fuze, which opened on 28 July at Platform A’s newly refurbished gallery space within Middlesbrough Railway Station. Click through the following posts to view another five experimental exhibition texts.