Circa Review

Overflow, Undercurrent
Model Arts Centre, Sligo

In the late 20th Century we have lost touch with the elemental side of the world we live in, a world where science and technology have distanced us from the systems that underpin our existence. So proposes Remco de Fouw, whose work is an exploration of these systems, how they suffuse our day-to-day existence, how they not only support but find echoes in our everyday lives. His metaphorical use of everyday materials to depict these systems attempts to provoke contemplation of our 20th Century environment, encouraging us to look behind packaging and convenience and reacquaint ourselves with the fundamental realities of natural energies and processes. This de Fouw does with a light touch, presenting models sufficiently open-ended to function as objects of meditation rather than doorways into didacticism.
Level Head comprises two vertically wall-mounted basins holding backlit transparencies of rippling water. The title makes reference to the two lobes of the brain, the vessel of creative energy, the “water” taking on a radiant energy. Additionally the ripples and bubbles hint at the biological potential – growth, evolution – contained in the medium, the two sinks together echoing a single cell in the process of division. Overflow comprises an enamelled cast iron bath broken into pieces and laid out as an exploded view, while on its surface is etched a life-sized depiction of the human circulatory system, similarly fractured. Parallels are drawn between water and blood, both channelled life forces, with the title an allusion to their latent power.
Blow depicts a copious outpouring of deformed, spent lightbulbs from a large valve/tap in the wall, a portrayal of the power of electric current, which serves also, in the grey, flaccid bulbs and source “tap”, to allude to sex and the results of ejaculation. In a similar vein, Unchurning presents a large ceiling-mounted steel cone filled with conch shells, each suspended from bath chain, reflected on the floor below with more shells and chain like some released afterbirth of potential – delicate yet powerful imagery.
In Leap, a multi-stranded copper wire is stretched across a room, one end projecting from a wall-mounted steel water tank, the other apparently piercing the opposite wall some twenty metres away. The glass surface of the tank suggests a dark reservoir within, the wire seems to explode out from it – a metaphorical leap of the imagination from the reservoir of the mind. Feed continues the theme of thought, an arrangement of parallel vertical steel tubes studded with porcelain fuse caps, each housing a small photographic transparency of the top of a person’s head. The spiral whorls of hair suggest flow, and by inference creativity or thought, yet the formal structure seems to allow for little in the way of originality or freedom, each head being “fed” by the and in turn “feeding” the rigid system in which it is contained.
Other pieces include Omniscience, a large mine-shaped object made of copper and fire sprinklers, with its contradictory notions of danger and safety; The Schismatist , a large photograph in negative of a naked prone figure juxtaposed against scientific glassware; and Churn, a large plaster slab indented with holes cast from conch shells, through which light shines.
Provocative and ingenious, a show of inventiveness and variety.

Ian Wieczorek
(visual artist, curator, visual arts commentator)