Blurred boundaries between the arts
One Room and Correspondences At The Factory, Shepherdess Walk, London N1 until 25 July Jane Bustin At the Eagle Gallery, 159 Farringdon Road, London EC1 until 18 July
With the now-pronounced tendency to seek out spaces whose character is less neutral than the gallery's 'white cube', artists (and curators) have seized on buildings various both in type and condition - the derelict factory or pumping station, the pristine office block awaiting occupation. One Room and Correspondences are being held in a turn-of-the-century warehouse that is now surrounded by scaffolding, as Buschow Henley makes it into 50 empty shells for Manhattan Lofts.
The exhibitions occupy two adjacent ground-floor areas, each with a dominant row of cast-iron columns near its centre, but the second (the setting for One Room) rather rawer than the first. It has bare brick walls (bare concrete block at one point) and the floor is stripped away, its herring- bone imprint still discernible. One of the three artists showing here, Terry Smith, has made work entirely from materials found on site - for instance, wood blocks from the former floor rearranged in a Carl Andre- like configuration of squares.
The six Correspondences artists in the adjoining space respond less to an architectural context than to a musical one. Each was asked to engage with a particular piece by the composer John Woolrich (and a tape of these pieces can be heard). As it happens, though, there is an architectural flavour to several of their works. Harriet Mena Hill's shallow table-top vitrine is full of architectural images - sketches of stripped Classical arcades, battered fortress-like walls, depopulated stages with a hint of De Chirico. Is she indulging, or attempting to exorcise, an obsession? Richard Evans shows a carefully arranged cluster of steps, plinths and tall irregular 'spires'; the steps and plinths are of mdf, the spires of rigid polyurethane foam (which almost resembles stone). This sculpture looks to be part made by man, part shaped by natural forces. Evans could be modelling a temple complex of some obscure sect.
The two exhibitions have been mounted by the nearby Eagle Gallery, and one artist in Correspondences, Jane Bustin, has her own show in the gallery itself. Her works are all diptychs: one series juxtaposing squares of brushed stainless steel with squares of painted linen; the other, juxtaposing vertical oblongs - for example, a panel of oil on wood beside one of oil on silk. (This latter series was prompted by five fifteenth-century portraits of women in the National Gallery, but the resulting paintings are entirely self-sufficient.)
These seemingly simple pieces, with such basic geometry and near-monochrome colour, prove less straightforward on inspection. There is the play of reflective and absorptive surfaces: stainless steel or the immaculate skin of oil on wood on the one hand, with their blurred reminders of the viewer's presence; paint-stained linen on the other. And colour is less monochrome than it first appears: the linen panels are part-bleached by a pale pervading light. Elsewhere a blue is so dark that it is almost black; throughout, there is the sense that effects in these works have been arrived at slowly, that every centimetre is considered. The smallest of the diptychs, only 36 x 27cm, has a wall to itself at the Eagle yet it doesn't look lost. Modest in size, it is compellingly serene.