At Anderson O'Day, 5 St Quintin Avenue, London W10 until 12 November (Weds-Fri 11.00-18.00) and then by appointment until 17 December (Tel: 0181 969 8085)
In the early 1990s Tessa Robins made small wall-mounted sculptures whose glamorous veneers (Macassar Ebony, for instance) masked a humble mdf shell, writes Andrew Mead. They looked like cryptic commentaries on the world of interior design. Her new show at Anderson O'Day brings into the gallery a reminder of a very different aesthetic - that of heavy-duty construction at the height of the Industrial Revolution.
In Remake (1999), a thick square timber column has been cut in half and the two parts placed close together in the centre of one room (see above). We aren't told their former function but - scuffed, fissured, knotted and pierced with holes - they obviously have a history. They could be rough-hewn pedestals awaiting a Brancusi bird, if their personality was less pronounced - and if Robins had not already intervened to turn them into sculpture.
In the top of each one she has carved a gently sloping square, whose precision accentuates the more approximate geometry of the wooden block. There is both kinship and contrast between the two adjacent parts because one square has been given a smooth black skin of bitumen while the other, left untreated, reveals the concentric circles of the natural grain. So the tree, shaped first for its industrial use, is further refined by Robins but its organic origin is not in doubt.
A related work, Standing (1999), pursues this dialogue between the rudimentary and the refined by placing carved Bath stone on another fractured block of pine. Sophisticated though her veneered pieces were, Robins' new emphasis on the nature-culture continuum gives extra resonance to sculptures whose presence far exceeds their size.