MAstars 2009: Ally Mellor, MA Sculpture

MAstars 2009: Ally Mellor, MA Sculpture Ally Mellor, Spectre, 2009, 100+pinhole cameras, steel, wood, mirror, door, Variable dimensions. Credit: Angus Mills Photography

Ambrosine Allen selects Ally Mellor from the Royal College of Art for MAstars

Ally Mellor's section at the Royal College of Art Sculpture show seemed crowded at first: the space was tight and separated into different rooms and corners where four pieces were displayed, a mixture of large scale installation and small sculptures.

'Untitled (Mood Trigger)' (2009) was the first piece of Mellor's that I came to. A photograph of dark foreboding woodland is placed next to a small sculpture: a pin-cushion/rock, part exotic jewel and part geological find. The pieces are presented on a shelf placed just low enough so that you have to stoop down to inspect them. There is a story here, this is an altar to something, a gateway into another place and the ‘pin-rock’ (perhaps an object of voo-doo or worship) marks the point where this space blurs with the other. The pairing, as Mellor puts it, is ‘incongruous and creepy’.

The installation 'Spectre' (2009) replicates the night sky. A totally darkened room plays host to streams of stars as hundreds of small holes in the ceiling allow light through. Mellor adds new dimensions with a mirror box placed centrally in the space; the dark becomes inverted into light, the light is concentrated into small orbs and the room disintegrates as the reflections disrupt the blank spaces of the wall and floor. The effect is mesmerising. How can such a simple act create such a striking effect? When alone in the space this feeling was enforced and my fear confirmed; this was eerie.

Two other pieces were displayed. 'Gloaming' (2009) invites you to peer through a magnifying glass at formations of iron powder that seem to peak and trough like mountains and caverns. 'Signs' (2009) is a display of corn dollies intricately made and painted black. Folklore, science, religion, all these explanations seem too easy. This is art about ‘thresholds’ made to shift precariously from a world in which objects sit in their natural place to one where they become something else - the macabre behind the familiar. Playing on scale, light, stillness and lack of human presence, Mellor shows us the exact moment when the edges begin to blur.

What strikes me as I leave is that nothing ‘bad’ has happened, my unease is only based on references to things and feelings that we cannot pinpoint, things that only exist, as Mellor says, ‘…in the diminishing light at dusk before the onset of darkness’. I think it affects us all the more because our access to these moments is vanishing, twilight is diffused by electric lights, there is constant noise and convenience even in the rural idyll and we have to creep further into the margins to find the moments when the world seeps away from the theories and texts we have been taught and understand.

Selected by Ambrosine Allen
Published August, 2009

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