Friday, August 10, 2007

Terrain

Inside the White Cube I am faced by a scattered soundscape, on nine screens lined along the walls of the gallery are a series simple films inspired by Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’, differing linear combinations of bricks click and clunk together as they move across a series of desolate, derelict, mini landscapes, their domino effect movements march them forward to their goal. Damian Ortega takes Tzu’s ‘Art Of War’, the strategic detailing of use of troops within different ground and terrain, these territorial conditions have been reinterpreted for Ortega’s 16mm films and using the simple unitary element of bricks they are collected into a strategic means of investigating and navigating movements through different ground conditions. Like a faceless advancing army they make their advances across a variety of terrain, the looped films create a ceaseless movement, the territory and placement of the bricks alters the speed and direction but as one pushes to the next the lines of bricks make their inevitable journey. With the backdrop of a derelict site, grubby brick walls and industrial grime the army presses forward, down, into and then ascending the slopes of a crator, around mounds of earth and through scrubby bushes and trees stripped by winter and cast aside by time and the march of the faceless troops. Spearheading towards a wall, snaking down a small hill and splashing into puddles, the lines reach out like advancing spurs, reaching like fingers across the depleted earth, slaloming around boulders from grass to concrete and back again they make their movements unhindered by the variety of ground cover. The images and sounds are ordered, strangely subtle but relentless, we feel the actions of destruction and renewal, the progress of time with the echoes of history.

In the first floor gallery are a construction of five brick built columns, from floor to ceiling these simple brick constructions are shaped to reveal their true forms. The hollowed spaces within the bricks are revealed, these objects so redolent of solidity are shown as somewhat fragile by the revealing of their internal construction, light can be seen at some points through the bricks, cemented together and laid into a load bearing form they still retain a familiar comforting strength but by the action of chipping and shaping the external faces of the bricks into a rounded, seemingly weathered form shows an integrity and honesty in an overlooked dry building material. Ortega has titled these sculptures ‘Project For Social Housing’, from a small cast and fired clay block made to the specifications of the human hand to a simple construction collecting these elements then stripped and shaped to reveal inner complexities, Damian Ortega’s art takes the familiar and mundane world around us and creates echoes of humanity in the simplest forms, shapes and actions.

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