22.04 - 29.05.2021
I’ve always found Kyle Morland’s work to be immensely appealing. Unpretentious, yet steadfastly self-assured, there’s something endearing about his ongoing fascination with industrial processes and their potential for play. To a certain extent, that appeal surely lies in Morland’s sincerity. As an artist, he has no qualms about saying ‘this is a pipe’ and then dutifully listing said pipe’s precise specifications, materials, and permutations.
‘variations on a lofted bend’, Morland’s sixth exhibition with blank projects, continues the investigations into the artistic possibilities offered by Computer –Aided Design program SolidWorks that have pervaded his work over the last few years. 2016’s ‘Assemble’ looked at the sculptural opportunities presented by SolidWorks glitches, while his untitled 2018 exhibition moved into the realm of large-scale architectural works in space. Both shows had a low-key absurdist humour about them. The new one is a bit different, trading quirkiness for an understated whimsy. Consequently, the exhibition becomes an unexpectedly affecting experience.
As the title suggests, ‘variations on a lofted bend’ is centred on the lofted bend, a feature of SolidWorks that fashions a single sheet metal part with all the necessary bends and facets to join two other, separate parts. Where this process previously formed only a small aspect of the construction of Morland’s sculptures, a means to an end, it has now been honed in on, serving as the entire area of inquiry. This bestowed significance to a humble process is a wonderful gesture, and accounts for the sense of whimsy that I alluded to earlier. It takes something beautifully efficient yet persistently overlooked due to its supplementary structural role and deems it worthy of recognition.
The exhibition is cleverly split between two separate spaces, facilitating a cyclical dialogue between the rooms. The gallery’s initial room is inhabited by three large, seemingly amorphous sculptures, their aesthetic slipperiness charmingly encapsulating the Deleuzian idea of ‘becoming’; which is to say a state of perpetual change and potentiality.1In an earlier review for ArtThrob, Vusumzi Nkomo related this quality in Morland’s new sculptures to Homi Bhabha’s notion of a ‘place of hybridity’. The works feel animated, caught in the throes of an initial testing of the capacity of stubby limbs for movement. Despite their solid steel construction, the sleek polyurethane paint finish bestows a sense of fluidity to the works, becoming almost amniotic in their protrusions and stretches. Encountered physically, they are confounding and perpetually shifting ‘liquid architectures’ (to borrow a term from architect Marcos Novak). For whatever reason, they exude beguiling warmth and I was moved to give Fresh to death a sneaky hug, gallery etiquette be damned.
Things become a bit more Platonic and Borgesian in the second space, where one encounters Morland’s extensive ‘library of forms’: an assortment of various aluminium lofted bends exquisitely arranged on meranti shelves. Here Morland gets a bit jazzy, adopting the music theory idea of theme and variation, wherein a particular theme is stated (the lofted bend in this case), and then developed through a series of modifications and elaborations. Where the larger sculptures were continuous and uniform, here each particular form is given a numerical designation, allowing one to trace the subtle shifts in form through each of its variations.
If the larger sculptures feel as though they are becoming, it is because of the sprawling possibilities of their connective tissue; the seemingly endless potential for variation, diversity, and creativity within even the most limited of constraints. Avoiding the pitfall of disappearing down a Borgesian rabbit hole, Morland wisely keeps his library truncated and playful.
As a result of spending time in Morland’s library of forms, the viewer’s relationship to the initial three sculptures shifts quite drastically when they return to the first room, hyper-aware of the underlying composite parts. No longer seen purely as homogenous entities, there is a heightened awareness of the particular bends and facets working together in tandem to facilitate the exterior’s seamlessness. Traits such as the immensely satisfying way that light catches the triangular facets of each lofted bend become far more prevalent, without detracting from their overall convivial nature.
This revised impression serves to highlight what gives ‘variations on a lofted bend’ its poignancy: it is fundamentally a show about connection. The sculptures’ unassuming formal simplicity belies a heartening and affirmative experience of forms in space, one that develops the usual charm of Kyle Morland’s sculptures by having them warmly return something to the viewer. It’s entirely possible that this impression is purely my own projected longing for human connection in the throes of a pandemic frustratingly prolonged by South Africa’s glacial vaccine rollout. But at the least, the continuous influx of Insta-stories seems to suggest that Morland’s show has indeed struck a broader, resonant chord in this trying moment.