When faced with a room full of Adam McGowan’s work, one cant help but wonder ‘How can this be mine to use?’ The urge to hold these objects is perverse. At the same time, you find yourself kneeling under the weight of their unadulterated humility. He alludes to architectural structures that sit in an anonymous place in time and space, an ambiguous void that the viewer can´t resist slotting themselves into.
McGowan’s works are composed forms fabricated from wood, glue, screws and gouache that begin as simple preparatory drawings in a squared notebook. As well as a clear innate urge to satisfy a personal definition of visual harmony, he acknowledges that various periods and styles from Japan, Europe, and the United States have informed his approach to composition and use of materials, techniques, and ornamentation. There is a nurtured inwardness to the works that suggests an earned familiarity with the history of their medium. They are modest and plainspoken, yet their scale has an arresting quality that dramatically punctuates the wall. They are durable and vulnerable, covered and exposed, full of contradictions that play a part in manipulating the attention of the viewer.
Colour plays a significant role in McGowan’s practice. He uses it as tool in manipulating the relationship between light and space, and shows that a singular colour can be the dominating or the only activating the element of an object. It can change the nature of the object as a sculpture. There are so many factors at play when colour is introduced into a three dimensional realm; A shadow can be wiped off with the stroke of a brush, a quiet crevice can cry out in liberation and It takes one band of cadmium orange light to turn a whole structure inside out. The artist fully respects his role as colour wielder. His entire process gives itself up as a host to this bewildering phenomenon. A single colour
is laid over carefully chosen panels gently but confidently, as if it was the inspiration for the structure before even entering the workshop.
At a glance, the viewer might suspect the works were crafted by
machines or designed on CAD and 3D printed. They could also be parts of the machinery itself, tiny and unassuming, but removing them would invalidate the rest of the production. They evoke memories of childhood, where keepsakes and domestic objects are driven with a heightened emotional and physical significance that leave deep grooves in our psyche. The work brings to mind the remnants of a Lego building after being smashed into abstract shards at the end of playtime. This type of feeling is inexplicable and almost hard to bear, fuelled by a complex kind of sensory experience that goes beyond form and function. There is a slippage here, between the properties of the objects usefulness, and the obscurity of comprehending its existence in an aesthetic field. In the post-industrial age of mass production, this relationship between an object’s practicality and its visual identity takes on a new guise. Modern concepts of beauty in relation to an objects capacity to retain its individual autonomy and ‘style’ are increasingly complex.
McGowan’s work allows us to consider these problems as we
question what it is we like so much about a countersunk screw head.
The physical bearing of each work, whether they protrude from a
cantilever bracket or sit solidly against the wall, the viewer becomes acutely aware of their own physicality in space. The works exude a certain familiarity, an invitation to explore an unidentified dwelling. Where would I sleep? How could I get into that room if there isn´t a door? Another sensation that may be reminiscent of childhood, when the urge to inhabit/climb/hide in unusual spaces was just as strong. Despite their toy-like scale, the monumentality of these works is hard to ignore. Their abject beauty is reminiscent of 1960s London council housing, where the architect's role was, in part, to satisfy the demand for post-war reconstruction, an authoritative mass-produced solution with its roots sunken in modernist ideology. They unpicked the traditional‘home’ model, sitting rooms were now upstairs and windows spanning an entire floor, why can’t I have it like this? A question we might ask ourselves when playing with a doll’s house, or staring longingly at these painted sculptures. Just as you begin to find comfort in looking you are faced with the reality of what you see; a skirting board made of dust, a nail offset in comparison to it’s neighbour, a rogue fleck of paint that clashes with the perfectly balanced area of colour that it sits on. Pencil marks, glue stains, frayed edges, alas! This is the work of a human.
Adam Mc Gowan (b.1991)