There are several moments in Ben Moor’s latest play, Each of Us, in which the nameless narrator turns his back on the audience and sits, quietly contemplating an image on the back wall. Coupled with a cool sliver of midnight post-rock courtesy of Sons of the Tundra, they’re reflective caesuras in the key of insomnia, with the image in question being a blurred image of figures and lights, like the view through a car window dense in condensation. It’s a backdrop which works beautifully in the context of the show, and unusually, in a one-off showing last week, the show got an opportunity to be considered in the context of its backdrop.
The image Moor performs Each of Us in front of is a reproduction of a painting titled ‘Beehive’ by London-based Kerry Brewer. Her latest exhibition Have Love (Whoa Baby) Will Travel is currently running at the promising new Unity Gallery in Farringdon, and in a gesture of artistic reciprocity, Moor reinterpreted his show as a slightly rough and ready promenade. Broken more definitively into three sections and punctuated by a break to top up wine glasses and a number of cameo appearances by Brewer’s colossal dog Otto, in many ways it was an informal performance, however the impact of its reconfiguration was surprisingly pronounced.
Audiences are accustomed to a certain degree of introduction to a theatrical space or environment before a performance begins. There may be an opportunity to see the set, or it may remain coyly concealed behind a curtain. There may be an opportunity to potter around a site before its specificity is actualised. But the experience of walking through a gallery and considering the works of art before viewing a performance that obliquely references or seems to reference the atmospheres or themes contained within them is very different.
Brewer’s paintings are mysterious beasts. They’re also quite, quite wonderful. They’re built from deep darks and strange chemical glows, as if they’re emerging from deadly developing fluids or luminescing in the depths of the ocean. There’s a city-at-night romanticism and sexuality to them too, with limbs emerging in tumults and muscles moving under skin moving under streetlights. That movement is one of Brewer’s goals, and the paintings do seem to undulate and adjust themselves as you watch them. It may be a product of their indefinable depths of focus, the blurring, hazing and haloing that surrounds the fragments of figures and objects.
Moor begins after an hour spent with Brewer, and as Each of Us picks between the paintings and recaptures the space, the worlds of these two artists can’t help but swim into alignment. The chemiluminescence that bleeds out of the dark in Brewer’s paintings casts a glow on Moor’s own story of a broken romance with a woman named Radium in a semi-dystopia that’s barely a quantum leap away from our world. The slight queering of concepts in Moor’s monologue begins to resemble the blurring and half-lights of Brewer’s canvases. The play and the room of works alternately lighten and darken one another, subtly but persuasively re-interpreting themselves relatively.
It is a cliché to suggest that certain paintings are ‘dramatic’, and perhaps means very little. In a sense, there’s a greater drama in a hoary old battlefield painting replete with cannons and sabres than in the abstract works Brewer creates, but watching this moving closing of a collaborative circle, a dramatic unity between the paintings in this exhibition and the play that’s threaded between them becomes briefly palpable.
Main image: Garret by Kerry Brewer. ‘Have Love (Whoa Baby) Will Travel’ is at the Unity Gallery until 28th September 2013.