The exhibition what the point is: the end of the line by the British artist Tamarin Norwood functions as a spatial essay composed of drawing, video and assembled objects. Her work makes use of the process of mirroring by deflecting and deferring meaning from one object to another. This is attempted by linking chains of different signification, or by making pairs that, while similar, never quite match. The artist thus destabilizes the relationship between comparable objects, whilst questioning the principle of linkage. In this game of substitution she likens the touch of the pencil tip on paper to the tapping of a blind man’s white cane on the pavement; both are extensions of the hand, productive apparatuses that employ repetitive strokes and taps to trace and give shape to world of things and spaces around us. By contrast, touching something with one’s fingers implies the slowness of inquiry, an inquisitive caress, and bodily contamination.
In the artist’s work, drawing and writing intersect. Objects are portrayed diagrammatically and calligrammatically; she blindly draws around a number of objects for possible inclusion in the exhibition; the results are at once works in their own right, as well as maps of something not-as-yet or no-longer present.
The artist also records the process of drawing; these recordings are turned into a vinyl record spinning on a turntable in the gallery. A diagram is after all either propositional or mnemonic – it foretells or recalls. The artist describes the hopes for her project of half-blind drawing, using only touch, suggesting that ‘the surface of the drawing and the surface of the object are finally more of a mutual absorption than an encounter.’ As the artist’s hand fingers the object, the other draws the resulting sensation; and yet, the loss of contact between pencil and paper entirely collapses this tenuous system, requiring an entirely new start.
Correspondingly the artist’s simple drawings and constructions belie the patient nature of a phenomenological enquiry into how things are. Her work does not strive for closure; rather, the homophones and puns, both visual and textual that abound throughout the exhibition at once underline the links between things, as well as their differences. Indeed, such differences are exacerbated when similar or identical words and objects are forced up against one another: an I-beam becomes a flashing cursor, which may be turned into a beacon; verbal paradigms beacon, beak, beckon, beaker and so on; these are all links in a chain of signification, yet remain essentially separate, even dissonant objects.
Similarly, the works in the exhibition propose familial connections between different objects that operate as chains of analogies. Long glass tubes with plastic funnels taped to their ends project blue circles of light onto a wall; the tubes, suspended horizontally from the ceiling sway in the gentle breeze from a desk fan, making the light circles move about the surface.
The drawings and objects share a home-made appearance, makeshift and temporary, often held together precariously. But this modest aesthetic should not take away from the deliberateness of the display. The momentary, shaky accommodation of things in a shared, overlapping space serves to remind us of the precarious tenancy of art in the world.
This text is an excerpt from The Tip of the Eye by Nicolas de Oliveira and Nicola Oxley published as part of the vinyl record accompanying the exhibition.
Tamarin Norwood: what the point is: the end of the line, 26 September – 31 October 2015