The curatorial and editorial project for systems, non-objective and reductive artists working in the UK

Website: Chestnuts Design

Ben Woodeson | Obstacle

Berloni, 63 Margaret Street, London W1 8SW

A review by Patrick Morrissey, July 2015

©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock  All rights reserved.

If the work in Obstacle is any indication, Ben Woodeson’s twitter handle ‘@benisdangerous’ is aptly coined. The aesthetic of his sculptures is ostensibly minimal, each piece employing an economy of means to brilliant effect. Underpinning the simple elegance and precise execution of his ideas is the experiential impact within the gallery, visitors having to run the gauntlet of works that are menacingly placed across access routes.

I Love You, I Want You, I Need You... (Hot for Carl), Sheet brass,glass and electric fence supply 2015

There is an inherent sense of impermanence, implied geometry, and ultimately, anxiety, in this exhibition. Initially, it would not appear that this work defies the accepted rules of construction; a fleeting assessment suggests a flux between our comprehension of perceived stability, the logical realisation that this work is physically unstable and the implications that has for us, the viewer.  In some instances, Woodeson’s sculptures seem potentially auto-destructive, where sheets of glass or metal hang in tentative suspension.

One example of this is A Little Slice of Loveliness, constructed of a single square sheet of glass suspended  on a metal handrail, compressed against the wall of the gallery. The lighting casts shadows in a multitude of angles against the wall’s surface, suggesting a not-quite-there geometric dynamic. It is striking that the means of support - the handrail - is performing in a structurally perfunctory manner, and that the glass itself is bending under its own weight. This demonstration reinforces the technical expertise with which Woodeson executes his work, and the tense relationship between sculpture and viewer.

A Little Slice of Loveliness, Salvaged rail and sheet glass 2015

Woodeson tests the materials he works with for their mechanical strength and potential failure, employing glass, steel sheeting and other familiar industrial or domestic items. He has controlled the work’s kinetic possibilities, so that to the uninitiated, his sculptures seem tethered by industrially manufactured paraphernalia and in our mind, they appear to be ‘safe’. However, the implied mechanical authenticity of each piece is constantly contested by the dawning realisation that they could in fact lash out at us in mechanical failure to catastrophic effect. Woodeson’s works are conceived and created with a playful and inventive simplicity that belies their conceptual rigour and palpable drama.

In comparison, the neon work, Rat Trap Neon, induces a feeling of enfoldment and eventually claustrophobia. Woodeson has made this installation using lengths of spaghetti-like neon which glow red. The tubes are laid against the floor of the gallery in an arc formation, individually attached to spring-loaded rat traps. It is redolent of standing by 100 electric bar fires with attendant buzzing, melting cables. Feelings of unease are increased when trying to examine the adjacent monumental work, Aberration, which comprises a curved copper sheet that requires you to edge through limited floor space to examine words embossed into the surface. While manoeuvring to read the texts – words of warning such as ‘angst’ and ‘apprehension’ – you are also edging uncomfortably close to the humming neons that threaten to explode should one of the attached rat traps be accidentally released.

Rat Trap Neon Neon lights and rat traps 2013

Stunning Sexy Sculpture, Oh Yes Brass sheet, neon, books 2014

Woodeson’s previous works and exhibitions have included titles such as Health and Safety Violation, and Screaming Ankle Slashing Tension Glass piece (60 second self destructive sculpture) and give a clear indication of what to expect from his sculptures; they are witty and exhilarating but also unexpectedly elegant and restrained.

Obstacle is on until 1st August. Ben Woodeson is also showing in the London Open, Whitechapel Gallery, until 6 September 2015.

Aberration', Agitation, Anger. Hand-stamped copper 2014