Laura Morrison and Maite Zabala impress and perplex at Void, Derry-Londonderry

By Mark Sheerin | 02 April 2013

Exhibition review: Laura Morrison / Maite Zabala, Void, Derry-Londonderry, until May 3 2013

Colour photo of a monumental plasticine relief showing a beach and a tsunami
Laura Morrison, Anger, Java (2013). Installation view© Culture24
It must be the dream of graduates everywhere. Two friendly students from a 2012 MFA go on to stage a joint show at a notable public space, under the curatorial eye of a third colleague, while a fourth Goldsmiths graduate is commissioned to write an accompanying essay.

The collegiate bond between the team behind the show somewhat raises the stakes.

But what results is of compelling interest, with both artists presenting a monumental and mysterious work, together with a smaller counterpoint piece which thickens the plot.

Ciarán O Dochartaigh, who curates, has taken the bold decision to keep things minimal, while Nina Wakefield, essayist, has done little to elucidate and plenty to further obfuscate with an experimental text about submarines.

Such a vessel might offer some safety in the main scene presented by Morrison. The young artist has enlisted a team of seven to sculpt an imposing relief of a 19th century Tsunami.

The 16ft wide panorama is heavy with two shades of beige plasticine which has been stretched, torn and pummelled into a beach scene complete with towering wave. The playful medium, with which we have all surely worked at some point, is so tactile you can lose yourself for minutes at a time in the detail.

Next door, Zabala gives pride of place to what could almost be a seafaring vessel. But in the dry dock, as it were, her seven-sided sculpture looks more like a pulpit or a debating chamber in which they have circled the wagons.

The craftsmanship is exact. The yellow velvet suggests a level of luxury which remains forever beyond our reach (there is no way in or out of her structure).

As already suggested, the two companion pieces in the current show don’t shed much light on the main attractions.

Morrison has mounted two pairs of A4 C-prints with found imagery from the web. These show Eddie Stobart-branded haulage vehicles which, upon further scrutiny, appear to carry large format appeals for missing schoolgirl Madeleine McCann. It is disquieting, not least because in the gallery, at least, she is nowhere in sight.

Zabala juxtaposes her superstructure with a dry point etching of a huge white diamond, which is set rather grandly in an octagonal frame. It looks to have secret meaning - at least meaning that, like the rest of this show, is mute.

Significance and relevance are still, perhaps, like the artists themselves, emerging. But you cannot fault the ambition of the pair from Goldsmiths, nor the daring of this key Derry gallery during City of Culture.

  • Open Tuesday-Saturday 11am-5pm. Admission free. Follow the gallery on Twitter @VoidDerry.

Visit Mark Sheerin's contemporary art blog and follow him on Twitter.
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