Gallery Exit and Experimenta
Until Dec 11
Water as connection, as metaphor and as object, has been an oft-used element in artwork for centuries. For Nadim Abbas' new solo exhibition at both Gallery Exit and Experimenta, two spaces in Sheung Wan, water is at once materially present as well as a multilayered allegory.
The title word, Cataract, suggests a double meaning: a waterfall where movement alters the water's opacity and colour, and as an affliction that occludes the eye's vision. Playing with this doubling of meaning, Abbas' two-part work splits itself between a pristine white-tiled shower installation at Experimenta and a pair of small window-cum-light boxes, with appropriated images of the Victoria Falls, in the claustrophobic first-floor space of Exit.
The waterfall images, contained inside two aluminium frames with moving backgrounds, are intentionally reminiscent of those pseudo-animated, kitschy light-box landscapes found in tourist spots around the world. This suggestion of tourism, of the artificial separation between subject and object at wilfully constructed points of view, is a critical element in Cataract.
The shower installation (above) at Experimenta even contains a stainless steel bar, deliberately limiting your viewing position. With a cycling soundtrack appropriated from a recording of Victoria Falls, the all-white space of the shower running endlessly into a small pool is oddly contemplative and serene.
Here the overt public/private artificiality of a bath as a space for touristic viewing is effective, if a bit reductive. Contrasted to this minimal beauty, the pair of light boxes at Gallery Exit, while wonderfully lo-tech, are out of scale, making this intentionally false vista less evocative.
Therefore, as both spaces present clever variations of artificially created 'cataracts', the less than ideal execution at Exit makes the overall work feel somewhat uneven. Despite these spatial and practical limitations, the conceptual depth of the work shines through.
Abbas seems still to be looking for his voice, tone and level of execution. Yet, the confident conceptualisation and the ways in which he interrogates modes of viewing and representational practices are surprising and engaging.