For her show at Art Now, Janice Kerbel presents the full series of prints from the Remarkable series. The earlier pieces in the series were originally commissioned by Freize projects in 2007. The plain, simply set, monochrome appearance of the typographical prints belies the descriptions of fantastical acts and extraordinary human behavior which the phrases and language explore. Each work presents something akin to a circus, fairground, or freak show act, described in a language of showmanship with which we are familiar – “Masterly monarchs of the air – in helical – hairhang and ironjaw – fill the sky with arabesque” and yet there is something rather odd about these texts. Although they seem to be describing the physical and bodily feats we associate with circus acts, many of them are actually pointing towards something more metaphysical. They describe intangible notions such as desire, deception or loss; Faintgirl, for instance can be found “swooning in the face of any untruth” and Iggy Fatuse “this explosive beauty – the human firefly – will transform random energy into invisible light to render herself at once weightless and luminous”.
Kerbel’s language evokes a visual world which seems to demand a pictorial explanation. The images explode off the page despite the complete absence of any pictorial information. These are works which are at once loud and mute, they are a visual cacophony predicated on monochrome simplicity. It is like being serenaded by someone who isn’t in the room.
Kerbel’s work has often takes the form of a study of existing systems or logics which seek to explore the relationship between reality, imagined ideals, and illusions. In this case, the work has somehow managed to perform the trick of pull the rug out from underneath the “spectacle” of modern art whist preserving the images in perfect tact.
-- Mike Tuck
All images courtesy the artist and Tate Britain. Images: Janice Kerbel, Remarkable: Faintgirl, 2007, silkscreen on campaign poster paper, Edition of 5, Courtesy greengrassi, London, © Janice Kerbel; Janice Kerbel, Remarkable: Human Firefly, 2007, silkscreen on campaign poster paper, Edition of 5, Courtesy greengrassi, London, © Janice Kerbel.