Haunting Displacement: Conceptual Art by David Rushton

I’m generally not a big fan of Modernist art, myself, but every once in a while I happen to stumble upon a an expressive little exhibition that leaves a mark upon my consciousness and of which I find myself thinking for days afterwards. So now please let me urge you, if you happen to be living in West Midlands (or if you get a chance to visit the area), do drop by the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum in Coventry, which is hosting, up until the 3rd January, David Rushton’s exhibition of Conceptual art, Models and Metaphors, Concepts and Conceits.


[image via the Models and Metaphors exhibition webpage]

Well, I’ve never claimed to be anything close to an art critic, and if you’ll have the “in the know” description and explanation of Rushton’s works, then you’d better go visit the Herbert Museum page or the official exhibition link. All I can give you is the heartfelt opinion of one who enjoys visual art and is especially taken with its darker side, the one that appeals to the more shady corners of the human consciousness. That being said, I’ll go ahead and admit that I’ve got an ongoing fascination with peepshows (of which I’m most fond of Samuel van Hoogstraten’s): they’re just these perfect microcosms where you can project any number of stories, while you’re completely engulfed in the illusion of a painted box. When I entered Rushton’s exhibition at the Herbert earlier today, I was struck by the uncanniness of a shady room wherein a number of black boxes were neatly arranged and the visitors were warmly encouraged to take a seat and peep inside these framed pieces of displaced reality. When I gave free reign to my “Peeping Tom syndrome” I was almost paralysed by these intricately detailed miniatures, showing series of rooms, all with a 70’s – 80’s feel to them, all completely devoid of any signifier of human activity. Rushton plays with light, sound and general atmosphere within these microcosms, creating (or perhaps recreating from memory) a world which, to me, is eerily reminiscent of Thomas Ligotti’s own spectral cities. These uninhabited/abandoned in-spaces gave me a feeling of anxiety and even paranoia, a sense of unfulfilled expectancy with some rooms, and of subtle displacement with others. For me, Rushton’s peepshows were a perfect echo of Ligotti’s concept of “fake memories”:

Having a head full of false memories and delusions is a condition of being human. One travels down an old road and finds that things are not the way they were remembered to be. How could they have been so reconfigured? The answer, of course, is that they have not changed a bit. The only rearranging that ever takes place is in one’s head, where plenty of peculiar things conspire to change our perceptions all the time.
~ from Thomas Ligotti’s “Introduction” to “Gas Station Carnivals” in the graphic novel version of his weird stories, “The Nightmare Factory (volume 2)”

The link between David Rushton’s exhibition and Thomas Ligotti’s words may not be apparent to everyone, but to my mind it’s like this: Rushton’s miniature rooms, where the existence or lack of light, sound, and human signifiers makes one feel trapped in an uncomfortable past or a dream that’s crossing the line into the nightmare realm, are, in fact, fake memories appropriated by the viewer, assimilated in their own head and recreated into fragments of personal stories with a haunting quality.

Mr David Rushton, I’m sure I’ve completely thwarted your original meaning, but I guess you won’t mind if some chance visitor of this neglected blog happens to feel persuaded by my clumsy attempt at talking about visual art!

Another completely unrelated P.S.: My book review (about Mathias Malzieu’s wonderful novel, “The Boy with the Cuckoo Clock Heart”) was published by the alt webzine for ladies Mookychick! Their mantra is: Mookychick believes that climbing trees and riding giant turtles is more fun and girly than worrying about make-up. But if you want to worry about make-up instead of turtles? Fine by us. Be you feminist, riot grrrl, kitten, punk, emo, indie, goth, witch, harajuku, vegan, horror junky, intellectual, corset queen, geek, unicorn, burlesque, gothic lolita, sea monkey… be you into gothic clothing, holistic health, wicca, paganasim, xtianity, comics, anime, j-pop, harajuku or jock culture… we will always love you. The webzine is cool and so is my (shamelessly advertised) book review, so you should go ahead and check them both out! xD

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