In one corner a yoga mat, rolled, leans against the wall paintings on the interior of Jupiter Woods. Atop the mat is a ceramic bust, in the style of Jaakko Pallasvuo’s objects; rough and readily crafted. Another sits nearby looking toward the center of the room. The whole Songs exhibition –opening July 24 – is inward-looking; a contained record of days spent in the space doing yoga and painting on the walls. Rendering thoughts over the period of a month in a south London room is a resolutely stationary task of the imagination.
There are a handful of paintings on canvas hung on the walls in conversation with the mural. The simplicity of means and method lets the meandering imagery do its thing without anxious affect. Salamis sit in the top left corner of several walls like a letterhead, a bow-tied mouse or hedgehog muses on a painting hung near the floor and the EU circle of stars emblem is contemplated by a couple of wolves. Some rooms, some houses, some meals – an ice-cream sundae and bangers and mash – all painted in simple brush strokes at standing or sitting height around the wall like a notepad-by-the-phone frieze. Proportion and perspective don’t figure.
On one wall a figure lays painting absentmindedly with one hand and texting on a phone with the other. In a comic-style recalling other Pallasvuo drawings, text bubbles are painted onto the nearby wall like a zoom-in view of the phone screen. It is a personal lexicon of imagery that withholds any narrative gifts. A clear criteria isn’t apparent so let’s call it a visual notation. This free-form sketching activity is the pleasure, or the pressure, of an in-gallery-artist residency. Pallasvuo lives upstairs, works in the gallery and does yoga somewhere there too perhaps; all of this living, working, making, human-being is happening under the one roof. The artist residency is an all-consuming role, like the task of self-improvement, like the task of trying to find some peace.
The palette is restricted enough to minimise the amount of decision-making necessary, which is a great stress-relief strategy. The brush marks are x-ray white on midnight blue walls remaining from the previous exhibition at the gallery. ‘Midnight blue’ is a literary flourish I’m allowing myself in the context of a Frank O’Hara poem in the room sheet and the Picasso stylistic inflections that lean Pallasvuo’s show toward the abundance that buoyed those two mid-century practices. In the corner, not discarded but hardly posing, rests a packaging box from Comme Des Garçons 2 Man Eau de Toilette which is marketed to “A worker, a man who loves his work…”; a fitting epithet to accompany a bunch of dying flowers, a charismatic and somehow still upright tribute.
“Craft. No outsourcing”, says one of the few pieces of writing on the walls near a Picasso-like woman’s face. Unlike the classism of her profile, the poet O’Hara’s appearance in the exhibition is more at the fraught end of the modernist spectrum: on the room sheet in the form of his 1960 poem ‘Song’ in which he’s stuck in a taxicab, “which is typical / and not just of modern life”, he writes. “How I hate disease, it’s like worrying / that comes true”. Warding off the ills, and particularly the mental ills, the anxiety, the worriers disease, with various methods including yoga is also typical of modern life. At the time of writing I am trying to convince my partner we should rent a wooden hut with an outdoor bath in Topanga instead of a downtown apartment. The mood of self-reflective, home-based mind/body activities is conspicuously appealing to the freelancer. We know it’s an obvious fix, as compromised as any other and as culturally appropriative as Picasso, but it’s a good way to work(out).
You can make an endless tour of the meditative associative wash of imagery that continues around all four walls of the gallery. In the room sheet Pallasvuo asks, “Is this show ‘about’ something?” and then mentions he is listening to Wilco like it’s 2007. In one of the paintings on canvas someone does a yoga move while two men watch from a nearby doorway, near some fruit. Seductive is the pace and time-spent is the atmosphere.**
Exhibition photos, top right.