words Emily King
Daniel Eatock is not coy about his sources. The memorable list of thanks for his exhibition Editions & Originals takes in the twin pillars of contemporary art Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol, by way of Edward Ruscha, Yoko Ono, Paul Auster, Richard Wentworth, Damien Hirst and many others, as well as the less likely inclusions of comedian Steven Wright and brand consultancy Wolff Olins. As this roll-call suggests, the show is a dense affair. The compact space of east London’s Kemistry Gallery is lined with images, objects and constructions. Materials and dimensions are variable, but common to everything is the playful application of an idea.
Eatock’s method breaks down into roughly three strands. Loosely described, these are: noticing random things; creating things at random; and creating things methodically out of random materials.
In the first of these categories are several photographs, including one of a misguided street lamp blazing away in full daylight (why is meaningless mechanical malfunction a trigger for poignancy?) and a pretty pile of confetti shaken from a hole punch. Various subsets of this group include the noticed and slightly altered, such as an image of a felled tree restored by a twist from landscape to portrait.
In the “creating things at random” branch is an ink stain leaked from a single biro, a series of prints of the seepage of coloured pens and sculptures made of complete rolls of tape, variously scrunched, wound tight or unwound to full length. The forms of the pieces are apparently predetermined by the limits of the material; schemes are set off and allowed to run.
These first two categories posit chance above design, and it is only in the third element of the show that Eatock shrugs off the pose of authorial passivity. Constructing sculptures from stones that weigh one stone and resting them on metric scales, and making Mail and Femail envelopes by flashing blue or pink through their transparent windows, he makes things happen with material he has happened upon. This last category could also be stretched to include Eatock’s professional design work, most notably the logo of the Channel 4 series Big Brother. Represented here through its appearance on tabloid pages, this logo is a clever take on the uncertain and uncomfortable science of surveillance. Eatock has also included a proposal for an alternative identity for the Olympic Games: the rings rescaled and composed into a target. This is an elegant representation of the focused hostility underlying competitive sport, the aggression that the Olympic myth struggles to conceal.
Alternative Olympic 2012 Logo
Eatock runs the obvious risk of being cast as a poor man’s version of his illustrious influences, but that judgement does not do him justice. His singular skill is to take high cultural sources and rework them into intense but everyday curiosities. Perhaps he should add Alan Fletcher to his “thanks-owing” list as his light-touch interrogation of ordinary materials has much in common with the late designer’s long-term relationship with the written word. Both share a fascination with the connection between system and error, and both have made work that rests ever so lightly on the intersection between discovery and invention.
Daniel Eatock: Editions & Originals, Kemistry Gallery, London,
16 November – 12 January
Vandalised Tree Reoriented