The Mask

February 27 - March 31 2016

Private view: February 26 2016

All humanity wears or has worn a mask… There is not a tool, an invention, a belief, a custom, or an institution which brings about the unity of humanity to the same degree accomplished by the wearing of the mask.

From The Mask, by Roger Callois. (Tr. Jeffrey Stuker)

Hunter / Whitfield is pleased to present The Mask, a group exhibition which brings together artists whose diverse work explores and engages with masks both literal and metaphorical. 

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the mask is surely the purest expression of desire: for both similarity and difference, acceptance and separateness, anonymity and solidarity. The mask comes to symbolize the paradox that runs to the core of us all: to be both one thing and another. Be they worn for Halloween or at a political protest, masks allow us to blend in where we do not belong, to stand out when our individuality is under threat and permit us to perform identities we might otherwise suppress. 

To the right as you enter the gallery, Thomas Hutton’s drawing, Zebrias fasciatus (Thaumoctopus mimicus) (2016), depicts a mimic octopus. This extraordinary animal exists in a mimetic limbo whereby it can imitate a wide variety of other sea life so convincingly that it was not discovered until 1998. In the centre of the right-hand wall, Tereza Buskova’s Beauty for One Day (2008) draws on traditional Czech folk customs and symbols to create a darkly mysterious portrait which brings to mind the role that disguise, costume and ritual continue to play in our lives.

In the corner, Tom Worsfold’s #2 (From ‘Men’ Series) (2015), displays the removal of a mask – perhaps after a night out? – and conveys an accompanying sense of relief pointing to the strain that can sometimes arise from being someone (or something) else, however briefly. In the opposite corner, Gabriella Boyd’s Two Attending (2014), evokes humanity’s propensity to don disguises. The painting depicts a naked figure striding forward carrying a mask, indicative, perhaps of the multiple identities we all carry within us. 

In the middle of the gallery, Andrew Gillespie’s concrete floor works display a fractured iconography of logos, calling into question the proliferation of these images and the identities and associations that they conjure in those who wear them. Above the mantelpiece, David Noonan’s screen-print, Untitled (2010), features a young boy dressed as if in preparation for a theatrical performance, awaiting his cue. The stark monochromatic image conjures associations with cinema, too, and the latticework structure is suggestive of the intricate emotional scaffolding that goes into the creation of character, both real and imagined. 

In the alcove, Gery Georgieva’s video work, Getaway (2015-16), disquiets and fascinates in equal measure. In footage of the artist dancing in a hotel room – awkwardly, gracefully – she seems at first to be wearing some kind of traditional ethnic costume. Closer inspection, however, reveals the dress to be made from the wooden car seat covers commonly associated with taxis. Likewise, background images of Water Lily leaves that might ordinarily remind one of Monet shimmer with footage of chainmail curtains; fleeting images of holiday advertisements on the sides of buses flash past like the vehicles themselves; and golden elevator doors open to reveal a drab interior. In this way, the exotic is conflated with the prosaic and the performative exteriors of everyday life are revealed as mere trickery.

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