Large Glass, London, 29 October 2021 – 29 January 2022
A grid of paper sits in the middle of the floor, four squares each made up sheets of A4 paper with a variety of weights sitting on top: an old, mottled cylindrical weight, a smooth shiny silver one, a rock. This temporary sculpture taking up the floor of the front room, 4 carrés sur sol (4 squares on ground), 2021, is the first thing encountered in Jöelle Tuerlinckx’s small, unassumingly packed show ‘PLAN B – série b’ at Large Glass. Tellingly, though, the immediate impact is offset by a constellation of images and clippings that sit on a wall nearby: a sequence of five small images document four pieces of paper laid out on a flat rooftop, starting as a square and progressively moving further away from each other. The image sequence is repeated as a postcard version nearby and in a framed 2008 newspaper article on Tuerlinckx’s work (next to a drawing planning an earlier version of the work), as well as on a piece of paper detailing instructions on how to make the piece. Each is, apparently, a different iteration of Plan B – série b (#1), 2021, carried out, repeated and replicated right in front of us, whilst also trailing off into the past suggesting that it might yet change again.
This refracted remaking of one work is the template for the show. Tuerlinckx is a veteran artist whose deft, side-stepping work has been shown too rarely in the UK (this is the fourth time in 20 years); this seemingly modest exhibition is bursting with several dozen pieces, a set of works ranging from 1999 to the present, with slight sculptural interventions made from bits of paper, string, tape and metal weights, each accompanied by a loose attendant swarm of photographs, drawings and postcards that delay and distort a sense of where we might locate the work, temporally or spatially. In Tuerlinckx’s fragmented world, things don’t happen all at once, and the forming of the artwork and its various encounters, placements and receptions are just different facades of a kaleidoscopic prism.
Another sequence of photos, capturing the criss-crossing pattern of car tyre tracks in the snow, provides the apparent basis for Plan B – série b (#5), 2021. Below them, a print features a thick line of crosshatch shading, while nestled in the corner of the adjacent wall is
Black Corner, 2011–21, where lines echoing the crosshatch have been painted on the wall and then painted over again, leave a faint remnant of the attempt. In the next room, Plan B – série b #6, 2021, is a small frame, within which is held a Polaroid image of someone walking across a marbled floor and a drawing of a short, black straight line, both enigmatically labelled with small letters and numbers, as if mapping an absent equation. Below this is Reduction – serie Taille d’homme/ Taille d’objet, 1981, a thin thread of knotted mohair making a scraggly shadow line across the gallery wall. Each mini-attempt, each cover version and remake feels like a poetic tribute to life’s improvisations, where everything is a plan B.
In the back room of the gallery, two long tables are arranged at a parallel slant, overlooked on one wall by a large X made from the silver foil of chocolate wrapping paper, and on another wall a grid of yellowed cardboard circles, marked with stains from the bakery pies they once carried. On one of the tables is a thick piece of rope, knotted in several places and draped casually across the table, and an open binder filled with more typed instructions. Each page describes steps for making the works featured in the show, and more. (If no chocolate wrappers are available to make an X, it notes, use flattened copper pipe, gold tape or newsprint paper.) These are instructions, recipes and algorithms. Tuerlinckx is not a digital native, but it is clear that she is more than familiar with the digressive babbling of replication and the meme, its heavy flirtation with the absurd. And there are nods aplenty to Marcel Duchamp, Marcel Broodthaers and Lawrence Weiner, but this is a more domestic conceptualism – which is to say: grounded, attentive to the material of the immediate, revelling in the crazy potential and mutable patterns of the sun glinting off the scratches in the window.
Down a set of stairs, in a small office area lined with books, is Wall Text or Mural Drawing-Text after ‘Moment d’espace, p. 103 (Vienna, ed. Sucession 2011), 2015, a large, white piece of paper covered in slanted hand-written letters, where Tuerlinckx pins herself down a bit, spelling out a manifesto of sorts: ‘I held this red string in my hands, I made a knot and put it on the table…The field of art I see exactly as this knotted string put on that table: You could always fasten the knot to make the field smaller or bigger. You can also replace its string, or wind it, even roll it into a ball.’ As in the playful ricocheting that precedes encountering this statement, it is Tuerlinckx’s light shrug and a handing over of the metaphorical string that is what remains so potent here. We stroll back outside into a terrain teeming with editions, renditions, replicas and mini-tests, where art is an infinite set of mundane knots that are always all around us, there to be rearranged and re-knotted any way we see fit, but never fully untangled.
Originally published in Art Monthly, no. 453, February 2022