Aglaé Bassens paints what isn’t there, defiantly insinuating, insisting on presences indicated by the context or implied scenarios she depicts. Here’s a sofa, unpopulated, but wrinkled and weighed-upon. Why has the occupant left? And how long since they did?
'What You Can't See' at Soho Revue Gallery
Aglaé Bassens paints what isn’t there, defiantly insinuating, insisting on presences indicated by the context or implied scenarios she depicts.
Nestled in Soho's Greek Street, Revue Gallery selects artists who are at a formative stage in their careers, and offer them a beautiful space in one of the most culturally dynamic quarters of central London. 'What You Can’t See' features two non-establishment artists, Aglaé Bassens and Eric Oglander.
Views from coach and aeroplane windows are equally heavy with evocations. Experience tells us that these vehicles are full of strangers, and that we sit there to travel alone-together somewhere new. Where are we going? And where are the other people? You can almost feel them crammed behind, in front, to your side where the window isn’t. The naivete and sincerity in Bassens’ unaffected painting style adds another layer of weight to the experience of viewing these ‘POV’ paintings, and they are imbued with the hyper-significance of childhood experiences.
Because of the framing of Bassens’ pieces, it can be ambiguous whether the people who aren’t featured are significantly absent or just out-of-shot, as it were. A series of paintings of building fronts and their uniform layers of identical windows – a hotel? a block of flats? - imply a myriad of lives being lived just out of sight. The windows are black, but open. People are close but invisible, or have very recently left, and their tangible absence imparts a feeling of loneliness and exclusion.
A series of paintings of building fronts and their uniform layers of identical windows – a hotel? a block of flats? - imply a myriad of lives being lived just out of sight.
The spell is broken, though, by the work’s presentation in a series of what seems to be the same scene depicted in different colours. Whether this is a call to consider the ubiquity of human experiences which seem so subjective, unravelling in stereo in identical pre-fabs with only a different coat of paint to distinguish them, or a deliberate drawing of our attention to artifice by repetition, the conceit becomes more complicated as the viewer absorbs each work in the series.
Displayed alongside Bassens at Revue Gallery is the work of Eric Oglander, specifically his ‘Craigslist mirrors’ project. The collection of photographs is one he has amassed by scouring the website craigslist, where anyone can post an ad for anything – to buy, sell, exchange, meet. In this case, the photos are from entries advertising mirrors for sale, and the images people have used to accompany their posts do indeed reward inspection. Pooled together in the way that Oglander has orchestrated, the mirrors disrupt visual fields in a way that makes their chaos feel designed.
We see all sorts of things about people who have done their very best not to be depicted.
They’re interesting on other levels too – they are images that are not just appropriated but taken from amateur photographers, and for the purpose of selling, rather than making art. People without heads, strange outfits, the intimate and idiosyncratic insides of homes, camera tripods, unexpected vistas and sometimes nothing identifiable at all are reflected, and come to constitute the focal point of the photograph that the mirror was supposed to be. One thing we learn for sure is that it’s very difficult to photograph a mirror, and that this is mainly down to its performing its primary function of reflection. We see all sorts of things about people who have done their very best not to be depicted.
There are lots of old arguments to be rehashed about the philosophical and artistic implications of recycling, re-appropriating, found objects and images. What is especially interesting about Oglander’s project, though, is that he has chosen a medium (photography) which we are used to seeing in galleries, and so the viewer’s first concern is not the origin of the images, but the concept that might unite them. Oglander, then, comes to occupy a space between artist and curator, selecting images from a reserve of millions to place in dialogue with one another, and amount to an interesting conversation about provenance, transaction and ownership.