Exhibition: Susan Collis – Since I Fell For You, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, until May 16 2010
There are 25 pieces in this show by Susan Collis, but if it wasn’t for a gallery handout and some helpful attendants, you could easily miss the lot of them.
The walls do not look ready for art. Nails stick out, Rawlplugs stick in, and specks of paint sully the whiteness.
So it is with some wonder you realise the nails are made of gold, the rawl plugs solid turquoise and the paint specks black diamonds.
Cuts of MDF on the floor now seem to bear closer inspection. These are inlaid with silver and mother of pearl. The wood itself is cedar of Lebanon, walnut and holly.
The full list of components is dizzying. A rough wall houses amethysts and sapphires, jet and coral, ebony and lapis lazuli. The handout reads like a shopping channel script.
It is not just the value of these materials which seems at odds with their unlovely context – in truth Collis uses relatively poor grade precious stones and metals. More amazing is the workmanship has transformed the gallery into a work in progress
Paint splatters on an overall and dust sheet turn out to be finely embroidered. A bent rail is coated in gold leaf. The boxy checked laundry bag has been coloured in with pencil and biro.
In one sense the artist bestows amazing value on this detritus as she touches it all with art. But in another she is undermining the very worth of her own labour and expensive materials.
From beginning to end, the work effaces itself. The first piece is a discarded screw made from silver and white gold. The last features discreet staples in the wall made from platinum.
Perhaps the show stopper is a bucket which collects drops from a leak in the ceiling, by means of a hidden water pumping system. As with all work by Collis, you need to look twice. Even then, you may not quite believe your eyes.
Written for Culture24.