Los Angeles

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 February, 2008, 12:00am
 

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An unmade bed might not seem the most obvious inspiration for an artist. But to Brooklyn-based Chris Doyle, staying at numerous hotels across the US got him thinking about the status of the bed and provided the impetus behind a solo exhibition in Los Angeles.

Still & Still Moving, at the Sam Lee Gallery in Chinatown, is compact and full of surprises. The title of the show comes from a line in the T.S. Eliot poem, Four Quartets. And the set-up couldn't be simpler: five large watercolours along the white walls of the gallery, and a pair of videos. At the heart of all of them: unmade double beds.

As with anything artistic, it's all in the interpretation. Doyle didn't stint on size, using 120cm x 170cm canvases to tell his story of the bed which, according to the press notes, is 'a place of passion and a port of refuge'. Colours are soft and painterly: one sheet seems awash in light blues and greens, another in creams and whites tinged with the palest yellow. A third is darker, bringing in shades of violet. Doyle uses the chiaroscuro technique, shadowing light and dark, to bring a hyper-realistic feel to the works; they could almost be photographs.

Doyle infuses these works with great detail; every tiny crease and wrinkle is painstakingly etched in. The crumpled pillows are a facet of the bed, almost a character. And the viewer feels like he or she is standing above the bed, or sitting close to its edge.

One of the highlights of the collection is the video aspect of it. Doyle uses stop-motion techniques to portray a bed making and unmaking itself. The sheets are pewter grey satin, lending a tactile feel to the whole piece. And there is something compelling about watching sheets sliding off a bed as if being pulled down by a ghostly, invisible figure. Pillows are scrunched together then pulled apart again, like a couple fighting. There's the same attention to detail; the silvery satin sheets give way to something pure and white underneath, as if another personality has been revealed.

The pillows inch across the bed and then the once flat and smooth sheets start to come to life again, first looking as if a small furry animal has been set loose just beneath the surface. Then the fabric twists itself up in the centre, becoming a rich spiral, before unravelling again.

It's like watching an animated movie. And it's to Doyle's credit that he can produce something so oddly entertaining that is soundless, has no other peripheral characters and, on the face of it at least, doesn't appear to have a story.

Doyle has said of his work that he investigates 'the way an image or an action is both itself, a particle, and has a place in a larger wave'.

And to think that it can all start with something as basic as an unmade bed.

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