On ViewBlank Forms
Graham Lambkin: Time Runs Through The Darkest Hour
January 16 – March 22, 2020
I saw Graham Lambkin’s Time Runs Through the Darkest Hour, an inauguration of Blank Forms’s new exhibition space in Clinton Hill, on a stark winter day. Graham Lambkin (b. 1973. Dover, England) is a New York-based multi-disciplinary artist whose practice is comprised of mixed-media works and musical compositions. He rose to prominence in the early ’90s through the formation of The Shadow Ring, his amateur music group which combined a DIY post-punk aesthetic, electronic noise, and surrealist wordplay. Time Runs Through the Darkest Hour is Lambkins’s fifth solo exhibition; he has previously exhibited at Audio Visual Arts (New York, 2014), 356 Mission (Los Angeles, 2015), Künstlerhaus (Stuttgart, 2016), and PiK (Cologne, 2019). Comprised of 14 drawings and an audio collage, Lambkins’s show is both hallucinatory and ethereal. Each artwork hosts an intermediate state where an apocalyptic landscape also appears to be a gentle dream. The stark, empty sheets of paper that ground Lambkins’s drawings undergo a process of distress; they are rubbed with oil, scratched with nails and stones until the paper surface is worn and fibrous patches show like raw wounds. Pencil strokes and colors bleed softly into the afflicted surface.
Each drawing is filled with suggestive abstractions. Biomorphic figures, human bodies, animals, and plants meld with man made objects and spaces, destabilizing pictorial perspective. Though I could see each figure had an outline—a few were clearly person, plant or animal—these figures flowed and melted into each other. Garden of Passing No. 1 (2018) presents what appears to be a misty clearing of dead trees. Strewn about are empty outlines of two horses and the head of an eagle. Above them, caught in the branches of a bare tree, is what appears to be a flying carpet. Within the world of Garden of Passing No. 1, what I think is mist might also be thought of as fungi eating away at everything. Our world is in a constant state of decomposition where what is held to be certain becomes ambiguous and unknown. Decayed bodies become genderless, then formless, until they become part of the landscape and are seen no more.
In every utopia is a little bit of dystopia and there are little utopias hiding inside dystopias1. In Winter Holding Centre (2019), a body is strapped into a sled as a cat-like entity looks on. Both are in a make-shift space ravaged by the elements. A human face appears at the foot of the sled and teeth grow like succulents all over the place. One finds company in slow and cold death. Graham Lambkins’s dystopian dreamscapes are also about soft things prevailing in a hard world. It seems whimsical to think that there is grace in decay yet Silk Lion (2018) is an expression of this phrase. The rotting head of a lion dominates the frame, rendered in fine pink and indigo pencil strokes, a counterpoint to the somber, muted colors from most of the drawings in the show. An invisible wind tears away at the lion’s head, with its peculiar humanoid muzzle, and pieces of its flesh fly away with debris which includes a brilliant indigo leaf and a feather.
Sound adds a sensual dimension to the artworks in Time Runs Through the Darkest Hour. The audio collage, bearing the same title as the exhibit, permeates the exhibition space and lends an aural aspect to the drawings of beauty in detritus. It is both a boundary and gateway into experiencing the spaces within and their dissolution. Each drawing becomes an encounter with a phantasm, with the audio collage’s transmission of rattling strings and hushed voices evoking what it must feel like to stand within Winter Holding Centre or in the middle of Garden of Passing No. 1. Time dissolves into a sensation in a gradual decline. Through the inner world found within Graham Lambkins’s artworks, existence is intermittent and consciousness becomes an intermediate state. Could I imagine being something not-quite or nothing? It appears that these images provide fodder for that kind of thought.
Atwood, Margaret. “Writing Utopia”. Writing with Intent: Essays, Reviews, Personal Prose— 1983 - 2005, Carroll and Graf Publishers, 2005, New York City. ↩