April 19th to May 19th
Opening: Friday, April 18th
A walk around Bethnal Green onto Whitechapel market will take you past several trades and endeavours that provide modest, essential details of living. Key cutters and shoe repairs, often a dual trade, appear as contemporary vestiges of medieval craftsmanship, their workshops, machinery and daily fabrications on view to the customer and the passer by. Metal charts of the different possibilities of key shape and cut, colour and finish decorate these shops, the diagrams of the skill of replication in the work. The outdoor market stalls are full of repetitions of cheaply manufactured plastic forms: boxes of colourful combs, sets of brightly matched plastic coat hangars. On any journey through this part of the city, the curvilinear ironwork of recent decades ‘ornate’ railings, door protectors, and gates, which adorn so many homes and domestic enclosures, is evident. A rubberised doormat made in a pattern that resembles this style would sit usefully on the ground making a relationship of pattern and appearance to the safekeeping iron forms.
The cross over of these common relics of trade and commerce, and details of exchange and distribution bound in home and street are palpable in Stefan Thater’s drawings on paper and in concrete. In the opening room of the exhibition, drawings are laid on a table like a tablecloth, and the depicted object trouvé’s begin to look like substitutes for the flora and fauna one would normally associate with domestic fabrics. On top of this stands an aged box file, filled with concrete, holding inside it the curvilinear form of a coloured band of plastic, embedded like a three-dimensional drawing. Impressions of objects exist throughout the show, figuring like uncertain pictorial diagrams of low commerce, how the city is made up through the movement of objects. Forms are set out that derive from cardboard packaging unfolded to its flattened irregular shape, which become new containers for the often ambiguous representation of the found objects. Laid out like a chart of seafaring knots, in some pictures objects appear as if they were present in the making, like a brass rubbing, but this is part of the vacillation of the imagery.
“Yet nothing here functions by way of simple recognition. The depiction of […] a ship with sails set, intrigues one’s curiosity, but it is impossible to overlook the fact that the artist is not just interested in what can be seen. He paints against the grain, complicating the way things and their representations signify.” Petra Feichensperger, BB5