“I’m trying to be a realist but it’s unrealistic,” Coleman muses before considering the turn of phrase. She and I laugh, but the quote brings to mind an earlier theme of our discussion, the minimalist sculptors of the mid-to-late twentieth century, and specifically Carl Andre. “They’ve had their time,” she twinkles, and though I agree, I cannot help but to define her work with some opposition to theirs.
To Andre, his brick sculptures are matter for their own sake. Decrying conceptual art he believes that “a work of art is out in the world, is a tangible reality.” While Coleman’s exhibition Flawed is indeed comprised of patterned building materials, like Andre’s Equivalent series, it mimics the latter only in its tangible reality. “It’s loaded, it’s really loaded,” she admits. Thinking this might be a pun, I inquire after the exhibition title, Flawed. This too is a pun, I am told—one an American accent wouldn’t cater for—and one that is a signpost to the deeper conceptual and process-based aspects to the work: the components standing outside its tangible reality.
Conceptually, the installation is about humans. But it neither specifically represents humans nor wishes to integrate them into its composition as an aspect to the work. The installation is about psychology and emotion, but none in particular, rather, the tension, instability, and flux that are common to human activity. The installation is about imperfection, but as a gestalt is closer to perfect than its parts. Its materials are interdependent; they support or repel each other, in a variety of directions and to differing degrees. In their resting state their tension lies in their gravitational potential, tension that describes human behaviour, interrelation, and flaw. Patterns emerge from human behaviour despite the number and scale of the variables at play, and it is these patterns and the acceptance of the flawed nature of their constituents represented in the work.
The use of the concrete paver, a sleeker, more formally mundane building material, discourages the audience from becoming distracted by the mottled appearance of clay bricks, Coleman tells me. Compositionally, the pavers create different planes to negotiate, varied, tectonic, and cyclical. Their wave formation speaks of the underlying harmony in acknowledged imperfection and creates a calm and considered mass of stability that recognizes the instability of its components.
Coleman insists that she doesn’t like making ‘art’ and impresses upon me her interest in the process of making. Of converse importance, she considers her materials temporary and disposable. The Gumtree ad for her pavers is still live at the time of writing, and is perhaps her greatest distinction from the objectivist American sculptors, who exhibited examples of industrial material form, but were pleased to consider their compositions art objects. For Coleman this installation is a moment of a labour process, the tension and imperfection of which is yet another way to access the ideas to which it refers. She ends a page of notes, “Nothing is permanent. Art is not a precious personal commodity.”
Despite the serious nature and stern tone of this aphorism, Coleman’s attitude is upbeat as she describes to me “the crookedness of being not perfect.” At the crux of her exploration is an ephemeron: the impermanence of comfort in imperfection. Wild variables force new decisions, patterns of behaviour are repeated or newly established, human interaction is nigh inescapable, and therefore these patterns are confluent, but at all times there is beauty in the ability to know yourself and operate in an aware state. This is the beauty apparent in this configuration of tangible materials that is Flawed, and it is a separate beauty to that of purely formal sculpture.
Written by Alexander Kucharski
Image: Jasmin Coleman, flawed, 2016 (installation documentation)