Uncaptioned image from Traces of Make Up by Anthony Wilson at Matt’s Gallery
Uncaptioned image from Traces of Make Up by Anthony Wilson at Matt’s Gallery
Uncaptioned image from Traces of Make Up by Anthony Wilson at Matt’s Gallery

Anthony Wilson

Traces of Make Up

16 – 24 July 1983

Martello Street

A figure looms towards us in a dark corridor; another watches the street from behind curtained windows; a grenade rolls and darts in and out of focus. A succession of barely perceptible forms pass at a staccato pace against the sound of a pulsating rhythm. We glimpse a face, a word, a gun - fragments, repetitions, from which we must strive to build a whole picture, a sense.

These are slide images, presented as quasi-narrative 'events', whose scale is as hypnotic as the cinema screen, and whose contents are as condensed and economical as the TV ad. Like the constructed mise-en-scene of the fashion photograph, the film still, these images are contrived, framed and edited with the utmost precision to render up the moment of greatest drama, to make evident those familiar, cliched signs embedded in culture's representations that yield immediate recognition and meaning. Traces of Make Up parodies media's representations and its modes of transmitting information, so our response becomes an exaggeration of the process of reception: the glance that short-circuits reflection in preference to instant consumption.

This is the urban glance by day that strays and shifts across the constantly changing scene; the gaze which momentarily catches the casual gesture, a news-stand headline, a detail from an exotic billboard image, before each successive fragment slips out of the periphery of vision into memory.

The B-movie is the urban night of menacing shadows, of the barely discernible, the voluptuous and the violent. The glance, now the bearer of repressed fears and anxieties, becomes sidelong, furtive. Scanning, restless and alert, it is assailed by doubts and deceptions. The commonplace becomes charged with the significances of phantasy: fact dissolves into fiction.

Are we not seduced by the spectacle of our own representations; that cinematic montage of transient, larger-than-life images - glamorous, powerful, erotic, perverse - other identities through which we may project the fiction of our choice? Can we say, then, whether Anthony Wilson's works are a parody of 'fiction', or the irony of present 'reality'?

-Jean Fisher

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