A programme of films by Melanie Counsell
28 March – 5 April 1998
In March Artangel and Matt’s Gallery will publish a major project by the British artist Melanie Counsell comprising of a bookwork entitled Annette and a separate catalogue of her work to date that will be published and sold together:
Annette is both a documentation of Melanie Counsell’s work over the past 7 years and very much a work in its own right. Composed of images taken from the many Super 8 films Counsell makes as part of her conceptual process, as well as from documentation of works in situ, the book presents a flood of black and white images, not unlike a fragmented film. Reproduced on transparent paper similar to tracing paper, the grainy images overlap and repeat, sometimes evolving in succession, at others jumping between frames of film, works and places.
Amongst images as diverse as clouds, drain pipes, buildings and wine glasses, fragmented sections of Counsell’s own descriptions of her work will appear, giving the reader a further insight into her work, complementing the images. Together the images and fractured texts form a fabric of thoughts encapsulating her work.
Counsell has described the book as “A thick book, a flick book. A book without text...[with] a narrative that strays through the volume, appearing at intervals or has to be searched for....A volume of images in filmic succession but with no beginning and no end. A passage of time, memory and forgetting.” Unlike a traditional publication Annette is mute, like a film without a script, devoid of the voice which normally leads the reader.
The publication has a particularly sculptural sense - a thick tome of images, approximately 200 pages long, sitting on a heavy card base, the book has both weight and presence. Counsell has described the images sitting on the grey board base, as a work on a plinth. In its conception, materials and physicality Annette's presence as an object is as important as its traditional function as a book, as a source of information.
In keeping with Counsell’s singular approach to sculpture, where work is only made for the place at which it is shown and where the site is rigorously absorbed before the work is made, the artist has approached the book form with a similar intensity of focus, producing a considered, original object, that is both book and sculpture.
Melanie Counsell is at a stage in her career when a publication focused specifically on her work is long overdue. Counsell has been presenting solo exhibitions since 1989 and has featured in a number of major survey exhibitions in Britain and throughout the world, including The British Art Show 3, 1990, and The Sydney Biennale, Australia, 1992, but is yet to have a catalogue of her work published.
Published as a companion volume to Annette, the artist’s ambitious bookwork, the catalogue will present the first published survey of the artist's work. As the majority of Counsell’s work only ever exists for the limited period of an exhibition documentation is the only record of her work once its exhibition is over, which makes the producing of a document of the artist’s work even more important. Counsell’s work never tours, rather it issues from a rare conjunction of place and process, being experimental in a very specific way. Although site-specific work has now become common artistic currency, work of the focus and intensity of Melanie Counsell’s is not.
Structured around approximately a dozen ‘chapters’, each consisting of documentation of a particular work and the artist’s statement about it, the catalogue will encompass the development of Counsell’s work over 8 years, ranging through her work made for both galleries (including Matt’s Gallery and Galerie Jennifer Flay, Paris) and more unorthodox venues (including projects organised by Artangel and TSWA), and concluding with the concurrent project, the bookwork Annette. Referencing the specific places for which the pieces were made as well as the pieces themselves, the book will explore the essential relationship between location and creation in Counsell’s practice.
As well as the artist’s own statements on her work, the catalogue will include a major essay exploring Counsell’s work by the French Philosopher Patricia Falguieres, whose essay on Melanie Counsell will be her first major text published in this country.
There will be a week-long installation of the artist’s films at Matt’s Gallery, held specially to coincide with the book’s publication.
Counsell has produced a considerable body of films, on Super 8, 16mm and video, over her exhibiting career. Although never exhibited before, the films form an indispensable part of her working process, as Counsell explores space and tests her sculptural responses with the camera.
Increasingly, Counsell’s films have moved from being personal explorations to resolved pieces in their own right, firmly situated within her artistic output. Counsell has only exhibited one of these films previously. The publication of Annette, a bookwork which is so closely linked to this aspect of Counsell’s practice, seems the ideal time for Counsell to publicly present a body of this work to the visual arts public.