MAstars 2011: Alex Impey, MFA

MAstars 2011: Alex Impey, MFA Alex Impey, All ways tunnel, 2011. Restored brickwork, powder-coated steel, pigmented silicone. Variable dimensions. Credit: Song-yun Kim

Kitty Anderson selects Alex Impey from Glasgow School of Art for MAstars

Alex Impey’s work for The Glasgow School of Art MFA degree show was almost invisible yet glaringly obvious: an unpainted brick wall amongst an otherwise white washed building.

Hanging off the bare terracotta brick was a small, similarly coloured board with a handful of pegs driven into it. From the board hung a number of identically shaped plastic hoops, draped over the pegs as if the plastic had formed around them.

Less than the size of an adult hand, the strange object resembled something between a child’s toy and a piece of industrial equipment, but appeared to have no obvious use or function. The board, stand or possible mould could apparently be used in any number of ways, but was perhaps part of the process of making the deformed objects that hung from it.

Although it was not immediately obvious whether the wall had been entirely rebuilt or simply revealed, there were visible signs of activity of some kind having taken place. The accompanying label described the work as 'restored brickwork, powder-coated steel and pigmented silicone', explaining something of the work’s making and simultaneously suggesting a relationship between wall, the stand and the objects that hung from it.

Impey’s sculptural works regularly comprise a combination of ready-made and hand-made components. From the conjoined handle of a two-headed broom to the double-necked bin bag, Impey often amends or adapts existing objects to ‘thwart’ their original function.

Taking advantage of the viewer’s knowledge of an object’s use or operation, and the intrinsic qualities of the material it is made from, he purposefully impedes its operation so that the resulting object works against itself. In an untitled work from 2010, two spray cans are suspended from the ceiling with the canister cut open and the nozzle carefully tied.

As well as clarifying exactly what the work consists of, the labels and titles point to writing as a key part of Impey’s practice. From collections of words that become works in themselves to essays that contextualise his practice, writing and individual words help explain Impey’s interest in the connection between form and function.

A downloadable document (presented in place of images on the MFA website) reads 'Those parts of everything to which you have access while reading this.', recalling Robert Barry’s early works such as 'The Space Between Pages 29 & 30' (1969), which prompts the reader to think of the actual thickness of a page as well as the more conceptual space that it refers to.

For a publication co-produced by David Dale Gallery and Rhubaba, Impey contributed a double page spread of carefully worded phrases under the four headings 'tire is tier', 'tear is tear', 'or is oar' and 'weave is we’ve'. Forming a list somewhere between the didactic and the exploratory, he gently pulls words and phrases apart, highlighting their similarities and differences. Always carefully footnoted and impeccably presented, his writing slips into the reader’s subconscious as if it was always there.

Selected by Kitty Anderson
Published August, 2011

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