Doug Jones: Cessante Causa at Solihull Gallery

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Some time ago I posted about an interesting-sounding show I planned to visit at Ceri Hand Gallery in Liverpool: Lares et Penates by Doug Jones is showing until 14 March. I still plan to go, but was pleased in the meantime to discover he was exhibiting in the G1 gallery adjacent to my current exhibition space at Solihull arts complex.

Cessante Causa (When the Cause is Removed) at first sight comes across as an eclectic mix of witty and thought-provoking works, primarily textile-based and ranging from the attention-grabbing (Latin title unknown) Bull in a China Shop through to a tiny sculpted ‘bronze’ figurine: his muse, imprisoned, restrained, but destined through its title of Resurgum to re-emerge. The artist is fond of Latin titles; it has become his signature, and there is admittedly always something intriguing about Latin. To anyone with at least a bit of languages education, even if not a degree in classics, and a willingness to have a guess, it poses a challenging line of enquiry into a show which may or may not be validated once the translation is available! In this case, Cessante Causa refers to the ultimate meaningless of items collected or made during a lifetime once the owner is departed.

Doug Jones is an engaging artist happy to chat to his audience and provide fascinating little insights into the making of his work from inception to curation. A clearly significant residency in the Staffordshire potteries has informed much of the work in this show, with the plight of the UK pottery industry at the heart of some of the key pieces. Bull in a China Shop is the focus of the first room: a warm, inviting soft chocolate “hide” lies, slashed picador-style and ultimately pierced and defeated by victorious china cups in ironic commentary. The health and safety ropes encircling the piece serendipitously serve as an encircling plaza de toros within the space.

In the primary gallery area, the centrepiece is Utrumque Paratus, a perfect facsimile WWII parachute meticulously created by Jones with carefully painted Wedgwood blue willow pattern panels. Gracefully draped and flowing across the floor, it positions itself as the unblemished antithesis of cracked, sharp, fragmented broken china. Yet the chute has descended, fallen, with no hope of regaining height in the absence of help.

Stuffed oversized textile pieces based on the AIGA universal symbol signs for men’s and women’s toilets made me smile.  The AIGA’s system of 50 symbol signs was designed for use at the crossroads of modern life: in airports and other transportation hubs and at large international events. They are meant to communicate clearly the range of complex messages to be addressed to people of different ages and cultures. Doug Jones’ travellers, with their battered suitcase and air of resigned despondency, communicate the universal bleak travel experience we are all so familiar with. I would have liked to know the title. I love the paradoxical idea of a Latin title for a universal global symbol. Latin, once an international means of communication, eventually displaced by an internationally designed newspeak: yet the initially unintelligible finds its place in drawing out layers of meaning from within the superficially unambiguous and clear.

My only real gripe about the show is that I would have appreciated titles and dates within the vicinity of the works. Maybe I didn’t look around carefully enough. A short hand-out provided some information, but I suspect to the casual yet interested visitor it would be somewhat inaccessible as an introduction to the artist’s work.

Cessante Causa is on until 19 March 2011 at Solihull Gallery. Lares et Panates is on at Ceri Hand Gallery in Liverpool until the same date, and Alieni Luris will be at MAC, Birmingham, from 19 March-15 May 2011.


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