25 October – 7 December 1996
White Cube Duke Street
For his show, Angus Fairhurst exhibited four paintings from three related but distinct series: Low Expectations (1996), Lower Expectations (1996), and Lowest Expectations (1996). All of the works in these series started as visuals for the CDs with the same title; each CD comprises ten three-minute ‘songs’, made up of short, looped samples. Similarly, the paintings each constitute ten blocks of simple repeat patterns that were created on an AppleMac computer, then lovingly painted onto aluminium. They recall the way Frank Stella made paintings in the 1960s, in which form and pattern were largely predetermined. In both Stella and Fairhurst’s work, the systematic nature of the creation of their images only serves to heighten the particular and personal idiosyncrasies revealed through the hand-painting process.
The Low Expectations series features black-on-white paintings, Lower Expectations, black, blue and red, and Lowest Expectations, red, blue, yellow and green. For the second painting in each series, Fairhurst laid new patterns over a copy of those in the first, and so on, until his images became increasingly complex, random and perverse configurations of diagrammatic layers, laid one over the other without concern for compatibility. The result is both beautiful and frustrating.
These paintings all relate to a short animated video, Strange Loops – Dissecting (1996), which featured Fairhurt’s surrogate—an undemonstrative gorilla. The film shows a figure in an ill-fitting gorilla suit, facing forwards and tentatively swinging its arms and flexing its muscles, before ‘breaking into five rotating cross-sections that reveal diagrammatic flesh and bones.’ The shapes of these elements are held in position for a moment, before being stretched across the screen into horizontal patterns that then echo those of the Expectations paintings. At the end of this short sequence, these patterns then morph, appearing finally to reconstitute the gorilla and thus, setting the cycle in motion again. Though visually continuous, this transformation of the gorilla into a diagrammatic visual language constitutes a displacement of one representational system by another—of figuration by code.