Natalie Dray

Studio_Leigh, London, UK

A facelift is a strike against time, an attempt to reverse the effects of ageing: to smooth those wrinkles, lift that sagging jowl. Natalie Dray’s exhibition, ‘Facelift’, at Studio_Leigh, feels like the setting for an odd sort of beauty salon, with bright-pink rose petals dotting the walls of the two floors of the gallery. The treatment you’d get here, though, may be a bit rough: occasionally punctuating the petals are thin, thorny branches, also painted pink, and coral-coloured metal tubes that have been crudely bent to point into the room. Inverse electrical sockets, tinted salmon and a pinky-brown, appear intermittently. In fact, this installation might actually be the perfect place for a facelift because, in here, it feels like time has stopped altogether.

nathalie_dray_facelift_2016_installation_view._all_images_courtesy_studio_leigh_london

Nathalie Dray, ‘Facelift’, 2016, installation view. All images courtesy: Studio_Leigh, London

Natalie Dray, ‘Facelift’, 2016, installation view. All images courtesy: Studio_Leigh, London

The rose petals are fake, for want of a better word – made from pewter, veiny and overdone in their attempt to appear like their organic counterparts. Some are pinned to the wall with their hyper-pink painted side facing outwards; others are pewter side up, glinting like mother-of-pearl. These assemblages of unevenly spread petals, branches, makeshift crowbars and dysfunctional wall sockets are apparently separate works, various gatherings of Facelift numbered 128 (all 2016). They create a kind of 3D wallpaper whose most fascinating detail is the variation in the means used to fix the curled petals to the wall: some are set with screws, nails or bolts (all golden-coloured), while a few are caught with a thin rod of shiny (yes, pink) metal that has been curled back, as if those specimens were proving particularly troublesome to pin down. They are reminiscent of a butterfly collection, a thought that comes with attendant tensions: a desire for preserving beauty that destroys the very beauty you’re trying to preserve.

nathalie_dray_facelift_2016_installation_view

Nathalie Dray, ‘Facelift’, 2016, installation view

Natalie Dray, ‘Facelift’, 2016, installation view

Studio_Leigh is a commercial space that invites guest artists on a project- by-project basis to ‘explore the space between use-value and art for art’s sake’ which, to date, has resulted in wayward versions of chairs, gates and wallpaper. This directive is already a given for Dray, whose work comprises bespoke versions of manufactured objects. Her show at Cell Project Space early last year was a sparse set-up of hanging fluorescent lights, space heaters and ventilation fans done up in eye-popping purples, reds and oranges: more Pimp My Patio than your usual appliances. The lists of materials accompanying her work are minutely detailed and always revealing, a sort of hardware shop haiku: the set of ornate power sockets at Cell, Face-Lift Contactum V1 (2015), included ‘brass, steel, powder coat + 2 pole and thermoset + 25 year guarantee’. Here, at Studio_Leigh, there is ‘1k solvent-base paint, brass, aluminium’ and the pewter that makes up the majority of the show is listed with an aside that gives the alloy’s composition (tin, bismuth, copper and silver). There isn’t such an overt lean towards functionality in ‘Facelift’ but, rather, an insistence on the materiality behind these dainty pink petals: the graft that goes into making things look ‘nice’. The material list provides a subtext that emphasizes production; as a consequence, the gallery feels like a vacated stage on which the action has already taken place.

nathalie_dray_facelift_2016_installation_view

Nathalie Dray, ‘Facelift’, 2016, installation view

Natalie Dray, ‘Facelift’, 2016, installation view

The minute uniformity of this empty set does make certain things stand out, such as a stray screw on the wooden parquet flooring or the harsh silver square of a functioning electrical socket in the downstairs gallery. But, mostly, you feel stuck, as though you were standing in an immersive version of a computer screensaver, surrounded by unreal floating objects. ‘Facelift’ is an attempt to stop time; but, if you stop time, nothing happens. 

Chris Fite-Wassilak is a writer who lives in London, UK. His new book of essays, Ha-Ha Crystal (2016), is published by Copy Press.

Issue 181

First published in Issue 181

September 2016

Most Read

Trump’s trashing of the Paris Climate Accord makes it clear: we can't be satisfied with art about the political, art...
Q: What do you like the look of? A: Someone who knows who they are
With a strong surrealist strain, and including a welcome number of female artists, highlights from the 48th edition of...
A guide to the best of the summer shows
Agnes Gund awards USD$500,000 to New York’s Parrish Art Museum; Istanbul’s Rampa gallery closes; Gwangju Biennale...
Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco, USA
With our increasingly porous objects, ubiquitous networks and ambivalent organisms, why artists are drawing inspiration...
From contemporary ink to counter-cultural histories, what to see across the Taiwanese capital
Nicholas Serota calls for freedom of movement to be protected after Brexit; Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi resigns from DiEM25;...
On the anniversary of the 2016 Orlando massacre, Brendan Fernandes reclaims the dancefloor as a site of resistance
A walk through London gives presence to those the current government would rather render invisible
Who is Françoise Nyssen?
Protests against housing inequality, tourism and a colonialist past have been roiling across the Catalan capital
In a city of maddening contradictions, artists have learned to adapt in manifold ways
The winner of the British Journal of Photography International Photography Award 2017 talks about the ethics of...
Does an automaton-filled future spell the end of work, of life? A report from the future-focused Vienna Biennale 2017
What might the late Mark Fisher have made of the UK’s General Election? Suddenly the end of ‘capitalist realism’ feels...
Highlights from the first edition of Condo New York, a collaborative exhibition by 36 galleries across 16 city-wide...
Reconsidering the ethics and efficacy of ‘strategic essentialism’ via Adrian Piper, ‘We Wanted a Revolution’ and...
In Twin Peaks: The Return, David Lynch’s bone-dry humour rises to the surface, and his lush visuals float free above...
What the Pride flag says about the gentrification of queer politics 
The arrival of the Centro Botín in Santander prompts a reassessment of the ‘Bilbao effect’, and a journey across the...
A guide to the best current shows across the German capital

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2017

frieze magazine

May 2017

frieze magazine

June – August 2017