Temple Bar Gallery, Dublin, Ireland & Dorich House Museum, Kingston upon Thames, UK
Temple Bar Gallery + Studios sits incongruously on a corner of one of Dublin’s most unlovely squares – a headache of signage, tour groups, competitive drinking and fast food. Some stretches of The Band (all works 2017), a video within Hilary Lloyd’s show at the gallery, survey a similar terrain. The film also takes in a bar interior and a partial view of a stage piled with speakers, cables snaking across it; a strain of wordless singing plays, is repeated, then reversed. Neither the song nor the band’s concert ever starts; what occurs instead is endless rehearsal. A work on an adjacent monitor at floor height offers a similar sense of deferred pay-off. There’s a fixed view of a city street with two unnaturally large bursts of hazy white light over rooftops, in what otherwise appears to be the dead of night. I couldn’t say with complete certainty if this is a very inert video or a photographic still. Its title, Action Film, wryly cements the ambiguity.
More, but not much more, happens in Woodall, the video that gives the show its title: a handsome woman sprawls around a postwar flat sporting a dress printed with a pattern of autumn leaves. The whole thing has a blissed out, bohemian quality: the kind of scene Sylvia Sleigh might have painted in the early 1970s. Lengths of tie-dyed fabric adorn the gallery walls – one, Black Velvet, does a trompe l’oeil of looking like, well, velvet. Surfaces here have mystery: echoing the leaf-print dress, a screen nearby displays a close-cropped photo, Metal, of a pair of jeans covered in a deceptively convincing silvery metallic-effect dye. High on one wall are two pixelated images of dogs, overlaid with leaf shapes created with the scattergun glee of a school child learning to use Microsoft Paint.
A parallel installation occupies one large room in Dorich House Museum, built as a home and studio on the edge of Richmond Common by the Russian émigré sculptor Dora Gordine and her aristocratic husband, Richard Hare, to their own, deco-modernist design. (Appalled neighbours likened it to a Stalinist jam factory.) Lloyd has taken over Gordine’s studio, where models, mostly women, would pose. Huge screens of hot-pink plywood lean across the walls and windows, with cartoon bones cut out of them. Its straight shaft met with bosomy ends, the motif has a hermaphroditic aspect (like ‘Dorich’: a portmanteau of its owners’ Christian names). The whole installation is titled ‘Awful Girls’ (2017), and the codes of sex roles are gestured at by found images of female models pasted on the wall, the prominent display of Gordine’s study of a buxom male flamenco dancer mounted in one corner and a feather duster shoved discreetly behind a screen in another. Most conspicuously, Lloyd projects a video underneath Gordine’s study for her huge plaster relief, Power (1960), commissioned by Esso, which depicts a muscly miner. At moments, one of her (female) subjects imitates the miner’s pose, her arms reaching up to the ceiling of a gazebo on Dorich House’s roof as she becomes a billowy caryatid. The image recurs throughout the film, again flipping and reversing, among shots of swaying trees and a woman mouthing ‘Fuck Off’ at the camera. Gradually, this registers less and less as a commentary on gender roles than as a declaration of effort: of making a film, of making art or just of passing time. I thought of the mythical Atlas, cursed to hold up the sky forever.
Another screen plays a shorter, if no less hypnotic, film of one of the adjacent common’s parakeets gnawing determinately on a nut. Or should that be gnawing like ‘a dog with a bone’? The curves of Lloyd’s osseous motif rhyme with the lines of Gordine’s furniture – particularly a cupboard that Lloyd has repurposed as a projector mount, as well as the arched windows and doorways of the building. Gordine carefully designed these, I read, as apertures – to frame views of her sculptures. The idea of the frame runs through both these shows. In celluloid days, this was the stuff and measure of filmed duration, but all visual media, to an extent, is a question of framing, of dissecting the field of vision to focus on ‘this’ rather than ‘that’. Why not look at a bird, a dog, a fabric print or a still street? If the result is a ‘film about nothing in particular’ – as a handout describes the longer film at Dorich House – well, isn’t that what life is?
Back at Temple Bar, along the gallery’s large glass frontage, Lloyd has propped sheets of corrugated cardboard with disc shapes cut out at random intervals, like cartoon Swiss cheese. I looked for some meaning or pattern in the placement of the discs, but ended up instead watching the street through them, waiting for pedestrians’ heads to be momentarily framed. There was nothing really to see that couldn’t be seen just by standing in the street, but for a few minutes it became fairly compulsive. The piece is called Theatre.
Lead Image: Hilary Lloyd, exhibition view of 'Awful Girls', 2017. Courtesy: Temple Bar Gallery, Ireland and Dorich House Museum (Kingston University London); photograph: Ellie Laycock
First published in Issue 188