What is our relationship to the limitations of our bodies, minds and the urban spaces in which we live? This is the key question raised by Saelia Aparicio’s evocative, challenging and occasionally humorous large-scale exhibition, ambiguously titled Your Consequences Have Actions.
Aparicio’s practice was initially based on drawing, she even dabbled with graffiti, so it is no surprise that the centrepiece of the show, indeed the first thing that strikes the viewer upon entering the ‘Leeds Becket Atrium’ space, is the large mural ‘be humble’ (2017) which cuts diagonally across the white wall, its twisting form draping over the limits of the space and continuing downstairs.
Stretched, wrinkled and contorted bodies are interlinked as they cascade around the interior of the building as, at one point (reminiscent of Michelangelo’s fresco painting ‘The Creation of Adam’), two hands almost touch. It is a highly effective device for creating an immersive yet elusive environment, as the gallery itself becomes a canvas, and so, in painting this mural, Aparicio has literally transformed the space from a mundane interior to a multi-faceted aesthetic plane.
Inside the space are a set of twelve hand painted wooden stools representing crouching women which viewers are invited to move around and sit on. Their varied natural shades represent various human skin tones. They could be read either as a comment on the covert systems of exploitation which prop up the so-called first world or, equally, an elaborate joke. Little is explicit here. ‘Irritable Vowel Syndrome’ (2017) is another plywood sculpture which, as the exhibition guide itself states, ‘completes this blackly humorous mise-en-scène of female bodies.’
The plywood figures are representative of Aparicio’s ability to realise drawings in sculpture, which is largely what the show consists of. The form of her drawing is transmitted to other media since the same distinctive style is manifest in her murals, drawings and sculptures alike.
The animated film ‘A Mysterical Journey’ (2017) is another example of this. We are taken on a surreal journey through the digestive system from an unlikely entrance point in the side of the head and then on through the internal organs until the piece ends with intestinal contractions and disintegration. In this work the body remains simultaneously an object of both fascination and disgust.
The work by Aparicio is placed alongside a selection of pieces from the Whitworth’s Musgrave Kinley Outsider Art Collection, many of which were created by artists with mental and physical disabilities. Your Consequences Have Actions features work by six artists from this collection including Judith Scott. These works are carefully juxtaposed with Aparicio’s sculptures and drawings so that a curious dialogue emerges between them.
Many of the sculptures featured in this show were previously exhibited in Peaks & Troughs at Turf Projects in Croydon, an exhibition which focused on the consequences of urban regeneration and the effect that the urban environment has on the human body. Your Consequences Have Actions is in many ways a reimagining of this show but expanded to include more psychological elements.
Aparicio uses found objects in anthropic, but far from human, sculptures. ‘Broken Builder’ (2017) for example is a kind of satirical comment on the existential relation of the human to their work: a builder made from building materials. The artist describes it as a ‘free-standing drawing’ which of course may be equally applicable to any of her sculptural work.
The installation ‘Burning with Joy’ (2017) is another example of the adaptation of her drawing style to sculpture through the use of found objects. Car doors become frames through which to view the mural, heightening the inseparability of drawing and sculpture.
Going through to the Shirley Cooper Gallery, the exhibition almost seems to take a more conventional turn as drawings are hung in frames and set in a row. The content, however, of these drawings appears to be more akin to highly adept graffiti than fine art. In fact, one of these pieces is painted directly onto the wall. The representation of wrinkled human body parts is taken to a daring extreme…
Opposite is an intriguing mixed media piece ‘Stressed Brain’ (2017). A head with a contorted expression that sits behind a two-dimensional plywood and resin diagram of a human brain casting a translucent shadow. The suspended sculpture shows areas of the brain that have been known to shrink during prolonged periods of stress, emphasising the importance of psychology to the work.
Employing an array of heterogeneous media, even exploiting the space itself, Aparicio’s work creates a highly original two and three-dimensional mind-scape flowing consistently through the nine galleries and across the central space. Through use of surrealist imagery and highly inventive sculpture it explores both the consequences and possibilities of decay; whether urban, bodily or mental. And indeed, the interrelation – even inseparability – of these three.
Saelia Aparicio: Your Consequences Have Actions, The Tetley, Leeds, 24 November 2017 – 28 January 2018.
Robbie di Vito is a visual artist and writer based in Lancashire.