03.08 – 04.10.2019
In ‘Parallel’, the stripped grouping of only four works delineates ‘buffer zones’ beyond those drawn by gallery walls, conjoining space and place while charting separateness. Walters proposes playgrounds that could possibly be or become (or perhaps once were) alive and shared meeting places. His parallels fiercely demarcate boundaries, which refuse detachment from purpose or force, rather to shield unbreachable grief. These boundaries seem to claim ownership over a secret knowing not necessarily comfortable with its own exclusivity, proposing conundrums that span the scope of the visible. As such, the show succeeds in locking in parallels between image and life-world that challenge, disturb and entice.
‘Parallel’ deceives the viewer into believing that a sated, safe society could prevail, or (despite all) has once existed, or will, albeit far in the future – certainly always in another time. Such would be a society replete with jest, still echoing as graffiti on the walls of an abandoned building in Greatmore (2019). A lurking bleakness defies the finesse of the muted colour range that marks all the photographs, the chic lines of an old Cadillac (Cadillac 2017/19), and the architectural symmetry of Greatmore (2019). Similarly, the video Fence (2019) suggests buffers that enfold unmistakable abjection. Urban landscapes steeped in the despair of a plight-not-yet-over confront the viewer in unsettling ways. Despite having fought and won a battle for liberty, little has changed for the absent dwellers of these urban landscapes. Contrarily, the photographs are eerily reminiscent of passage, suggesting transit to a life elsewhere – a painted ship (Greatmore 2019), an American car covered in hand-painted flower-like patterns (Cadillac 2017/19), and a traffic-filled highway (Fence 2019). All these vehicles of transition imply upward mobility cruelly at odds with reality.
Fence 2019 challenges the viewers’ perception of the intricacies of visuality, stressing Walters’s breach with verbal articulacy. The video, entailing a two-channelled projection onto two walls sitting at right angles to each other, shows Walters running to and from, scaling and jumping over a vibracrete wall, which is covered with a mural painting of a Capetonian landscape. The projection is in the negative, reflecting all tones in reversed ranges of light. Movement in the video runs in reverse, confounding the viewer’s perception of the direction of Walters’s actions during actual filming. The tone and atmosphere of the video is ghostly, transcendental, triggering a sense of unknown planes existing in an observable world.
These visual densities of Fence help the viewer to understand the potency of sight as a route to insight. Walters asserts an interwoven relationship between the visual and the idea, challenging a prevailing divide between the conceptual and the perceptual. Fence does not propose a bias towards either percept or concept, but rather demonstrates the complex prepotency of both, a synthesis made possible in and through sight and its capacities for bewildering and enchanting the mind.
‘Parallel’ shelters the stilled vulnerability of now-gone inhabitants who figure only as hints of jape and banter, mobility and transition, revelry and play. Strangely, their absence recalls a populace sited by other forces, evermore mislaid from a dream-place elsewhere. Their spirits seem to dance in these cityscapes, their voices floating away into the sparseness of their surroundings. The photographs draw eerie parallels between our unions and fissures, where we are mortally present next to one another, yet immortally absent in the distances we continue to sustain between ourselves. Walters invites the viewer to lean into such vulnerabilities, to recognise the falseness of former social norms so aptly derided by these dreamscapes of exchange.
The beauty of Walters’s photographic art convinces of fluency in dissonance, invoking unease both disturbing and fascinating. Ultimately, ‘Parallel’ begs engagement between artist, the divides of our society and the viewer. Ashley Walters demands a tryst between allure and sorrow, one where we meet our torrid history, ourselves, and the profound vision of a clever artist.