Flim Flam

26 June - 30 July 2004

Building on nothing, exaggerating a truth, a con; a trick, nonsense, humbug. 'Flim Flam' has often been used to describe political double speaking, swindles or scams but the tactic of elaboration has long been used by artists in the production of their work, often starting from a vague and indistinguishable centre point. This is what united the artists in this exhibition; their beginnings are in the micro, from cell structures and pixels to dubious classification systems and word play. But these are not simply con-tricks or jokes, but questions about language and understanding, fiction and reality, intent and accident.

Dorrit Nebe trained in Germany as a micro biologist. During her study she used countless notebooks to scribble diagrams of cell structure, bacteria and organisms. She became interested in her studies of these tiny worlds and the act of drawing as a record soon took over her research. She took these notebooks on cell structure to an interview at the arts academy and secured her role as an artist. These microstructures re-emerge in her work now, tiny worlds that don’t seem to make sense. Her inspiration is stained and blotted, somewhere between the microbial level of her training and the absent-minded scribbling following the automatism of movement. She manages to transform them into small floating worlds, creating interrelationship and narratives from nothing.

Anna Ellis also creates narratives from humble beginnings. Looking closely at ideas of archival and stardom, Ellis’ work reveals the iconic status that objects inherit when they have been endorsed or used by a ‘celebrity’. The details of what we are looking at are disclosed with a museum-like authority so that it becomes unimportant whether or not they are true. An ordinary stamp claims to have been licked by Sean Connery, but whether this is true does not matter to the viewer who is used to such labelling in a world where celebrity is accorded so many, our minds have already made the leap to give the object added value.

Simon Holly takes another approach to making and presenting work. With a track record of taking and using found imagery, Holly presents us a sticker book image of a footballer. It’s slightly blurred and we can distinguish neither the face nor the name underneath. We know it is a Cardiff City player because the shirt is still visible. Simon has taken all 24 of the players and merged them. But this is not simple Photoshop trickery. Like moving grains of sand, Holly has painstakingly moved the first pixel from player one, the second from player two etcetera into a new document. Over 46,000 pixels have been individually transported into this document to present us with an everyman player, a composite a John Doe.

In the collaborative piece bound by Dawn Culbert and Lis Dimond-Jones, the artists present us with sculptures that outwardly suggest functional ergonomic objects that, through the process of binding and wrapping, have become amorphous and soft; their edges are not angular or sharp but organic and uncertain. If this is the exterior of the object then it leads the viewer to question what, if anything is at the core. Is this an elaboration on a solid object or is this an elaboration on itself? Has string been bound to string to create these objects, and if the unravelling process began where would it end? For the artists, this repetitive action of binding describes a shared hysteria and it is perhaps this hysteria that lies at the core of these objects.

Barrie J Davies presents his work in the post-modern guise of a challenge to our understanding of what it is that we are looking at. He cleverly deploys text within his objects to subvert their meaning and understanding. In his piece entitled betting slip we are already implicated in confirming its status just by looking at it. The slip bets that it is a piece of art and here we are in a gallery looking at it. It is what it says it is because we have already afforded it that value. We’ve been had. Davies describes his work as somewhere between object and process, with humour as part of his process. He aims to use wit and entertainment to turn the world inside out, questioning what we look for in art and galleries.

The artists in Flim Flam take us into a floating world where pixels collide to make images, sculptures threaten to disintegrate and words detach themselves from their meanings.