George Henry Longly‘s solo show The smile of a snake ran at Paris’ Galerie Valentin between January 21 and March 21, 2016. The exhibition by the London-based artist calls upon the problem of the physical materialisation of language.
It takes its title from a language tutorial emphasising the pronunciation of the letter ‘s’. A phonetic exercise for learning English as a foreign language, it also highlights the difficulty in the translation of language into its material value and properties. Curator, Clara Guislain wrote a text to accompany the show, delving into thinking about speech as a way for the body to form sounds and test boundaries both in pronunciation and mispronunciation.
Guislain continues, “‘S’ is also the shape of the serpent. A liminal motif in Longly’s work, the snake is a communication tool used in humanity’s most ancient rituals.” Semiotically ambivalent, and a pharmakon that represents purity and corruption, and flexibility and immobility, the snake and its shape align with Longly’s plastic research, according to the text.
Built as an immersive environment, The smile of the snake plays between the physical and semiotic materialisation of language, as well as the “plastic shaping process” that occurs between meaning and sensation afforded to a viewer in the internal and external experience of something immersive and affective.**
George Henry Longly’s The Smile of a Snake was on at Galerie Valentin, Paris running January 21 – March 21, 2016.