Walter Price, Pearl Lines @ Camden Art Centre
Emoji summary: 🦷 💐 🌀
It’s Sunday and I am ready for life. I cherish my moments outside; it makes me feel like the rest of my time has just been on mute or underwater. I went to Camden Art Centre with my friends last Sunday. That feels so emotional to write and say. I love my friends! I nearly cried when I heard my friends’ voices in person around me, rather than flattened through headphones on Facetime. Friendly intimate contact: an arm around my shoulders, or tapping my hand with urgency, as punctuation for a story. I! Love! My! Friends!
So, through the rain. Upstairs in the main space at Camden Art, is Pearl Lines by Walter Price. I think the Camden Art building, from the inside, has the same vibes as the house in Parasite. Sleek and boujie, too quiet; the main gallery space can feel like a minimalist cave sometimes. The work was a series of paintings and drawings; all neat regimented sizes, with colour and mark throbbing out off their stark white backgrounds. According to the wall text, the main body of the work came out of Price’s residency at Camden Art back in early 2020. The residency was a lil incubator space for experimentation and expansion, and the work that popped out of it is sat happily alongside other works made in New York against the backdrop of the first wave COVID lockdown.
When you first walk in, there are these big drawings on paper, all neatly hung up in their white frames. They sketch out the idea of objects, landscapes, people and things. None of them feel committal; I’d like to think they’ve got this nervous and excited energy, like they are vessels holding onto image-making that moves too quick for the speed of a body. Maybe they outrun themselves a bit, and then the drawings are like the lag in between. These big drawings have got a happy, spacious sensibility that I want to shrink down to the size of my hands and carry back to my bedroom. I want to wear these drawings on enormous billowing silk - as a scarf, as a big dress, as palazzo pants. On the side walls are drawings at a smaller scale. They feel even hastier; like practice or warming up. I am glad they sit next to the big ones though, because maybe I can warm up too. In the room to the side, there’s Actual Paintings. These are small and laptop-screen-sized, so they don’t intimidate me as much as the Big Boys in the other room. But they have this commanding kinda colour that feels alien, that pinches. The bigger paper works are spacious and they yell a response that echoes back into the minimalist cave of the gallery space; these little paintings are tight and full, they pucker against the space like a bellybutton or a ripple, drawing it in.
Honestly, I’m gona cut to the chase. I liked the work, but I didn’t like this show entirely. Something about it tripped me up, and I don’t know what it was exactly. Maybe it was the circumstances, and this was just bad event planning on my end. This wasn’t a Sunday-with-the-gals kinda show, it was too empty to facilitate the sociability of that as a mood. This show is a weekday morning, when you don’t take out your headphones. It’s a stop, an interlude on your way somewhere else. Maybe I am also too brand new for a show that operates this formally? After a year just sliding down the instagram explore page, I am probably not emotionally equipped for colour and form that’s not backlit or handheld. Maybe I’m at image capacity, and I just want to Experience Something. Or maybe I just hate art now and I’ve got the Ick - that’s always a strong possibility. I just don’t know what to do with myself: I’m a critic that likes the content, but hates the casing, and I’ve got to somehow articulate the complexity of that feeling in ~1000 words.
I wish art was sugar coated, but instead it increasingly feels like this collection of fun things in weirdly formal, sour spaces. It makes me think about how for almost all of lockdown, these big empty minimalist caves have been entirely empty. While we have all been through the turbulence of grief and mayhem, these spaces have just been on pause, still. We have returned, flush with exertion. We’ve changed, but the galleries haven’t - and that’s JARRING. ye. YE… that’s it, isn’t it? It’s jarring. The way I relate to Space, what I expect from Space is on its head. I have been enclosed and at home, or in the park or Asda FOR SO LONG. Empty cavernous paused space just feels morally decadent in a really clean and clammy way.
I want more complicity from my relationships to these spaces, I want some fucking sympathy or kinship in knowing that we’ve all just participated in this turbulence together. It is emotional and sticky to make art in, about, or because of this pandemic. Walter Price, these works sing with understanding. They were made with the limits of lockdown around them, they understand what I’m saying when I ask for a response. I want to fold up the distance and sweep this art into my embrace. I think back to my impulse to wear these drawings; and yes. I want to wear them. Not because they are beautiful, or because they need to be turned into Objects; but because I think they would feel better against the warmth of skin.