March saw the final showing of Birmingham-born contemporary artist Roger Hiorn’s three month exhibition at the Ikon Gallery.
Featuring some of Hiorn’s most notable work, the show focused primarily on his exploration of modern life in relation to found objects and materials.
His installation Untitled (2014) was a clear focal point for the gallery’s viewers who were confronted with Hiorn’s preoccupation with change, transformation and decay.
Engine parts and plastics sat suspended from the ceiling, almost human-like in their structure, whilst some of them oozed with foam fed through silicon tubes. When the viewer looked past this art piece as merely an assemblage of objects, they bore witness to something grotesque. Subtle movements and transformations took place as a compressor pushed air through the human-like vessels, some of them completely overflowing and depositing foam onto the ground, providing images reminiscent of human bodily fluids and illness.
Whilst observing the subtle changes taking place in Untitled (2014) voices from BBC Radio Four’s series Inside the Ethics Committee echoed throughout the room from a speaker as they discussed the health system with regards to the ethics of life support machines. This recording provided a contextual backdrop to Hiorn’s scene of human-like assemblages. Parallels were drawn between his use of engine parts and the discussion of life support machines with regards to their functionality.
Beyond his references to the health system, the symmetry that Hiorn’s creates and the attention that he draws to the functionality of the objects in his art provide a clever commentary on the notion of power and the de-establishment of authority. Through dismantling these everyday objects, he challenges their origins: at once ending their purpose, but also reinventing them with a new purpose by perpetuating them into an art form.
This technique could be seen further throughout the exhibition in his art works A Retrospective View of the Pathway (2016) and Untitled (2008) as the remains of a pulverised aircraft and an altar stone were heaped onto the floor in separate areas of the exhibition. Standing over these piles of ash-like remains from objects that were once symbols of strength could not be more evident of Hiorn’s preoccupation with the power of change and transformation, death and rebirth.
This is where the greatness in his work can be found – in duality. His art alludes to ideas of decay and preservation, life and death, stillness and movement, inanimate objects and the living. All the while, there are sexual undertones and sometimes overtly sexual images that run throughout his work that almost serve to ground the flightiness of his ideas, cementing his art with something that is instinctive and fundamentally human.
Find out more about this exhibition and the artist here.