Damián Ortega at Fruitmarket Gallery

States of Time

Installation view of  Altocumulus , Fruitmarket Gallery upstairs, 2016

Installation view of Altocumulus, Fruitmarket Gallery upstairs, 2016

Amid the bustle and chaos, flyering and performance of the Edinburgh Festival, its Fringe and the accompanying circus. The Fruitmarket Gallery is exhibiting a modest and rather quiet exhibition of recent and purpose made work by Mexican artist Damián Ortega. When I first came across him, Ortega had split a Citroën 2CV in three lengthways, removing the middle third and rejoining the two remaining halves together - what with that and confusing him with his friend and fellow countryman Gabriel Orozco and his suspended 14m replica whale skeleton, I came to this exhibition expecting something as varied and exciting as the festival outside.

However for this exhibition in Scotland the work is far more domestic and immediate in scale. In fact, instead of complex resin based materials and industrialised ingredients, here the artist has returned to one of the simplest and most basic of artistic mediums: clay. Across a series of vitrines upstairs there are a collection of tools and household items; a TV remote, a cassette, pliers, a saw, various DIY and leisure materials drawing all the way back to the Stone Age and including arrowheads and simple corn grinders. All sculpted life size in clay, fired unglazed, naturally off-white; perhaps unwittingly, very close to bone.

Abrasive Objects , 2016 (detail)

Abrasive Objects, 2016 (detail)

Elsewhere crevices and shapes depicting erosion caused by geographical processes are laid out, like giant three-dimensional geological diagrams. Made of stacked bricks a 'V' is cut (formed?) and expands. That it has been chipped away by a grinder, another tool, is reference to the extension of our abilities through manipulated materials. The earthen and orange vibrancy of the series makes a connection with terracotta and by extension, to the Terracotta Army, its power more implicit than the dead skeletal white hinted of above.

Eroded Valley, 2016 (detail) and Atmospheric Pressure, 2016 installation view

Ortega has also, as so often is his want, suspended a number of works from the ceiling. Where as in previous works these have been every last chrome element of a giant truck, all hung in precise location - or the implication of presence of a VW Beetle - in this case the artist has pursed and kneaded unfired clay into imperfect spheres. Blobs of raw malleable earth, attached to string, visible string not invisible fishing wire, hung like notes of music above the stairs. A darker version, more random, hangs in another small room allowing one to walk fully around the mobiles as they flit between flat and having depth. 

From  Lava Waves , 2016

From Lava Waves, 2016

A further sequence of works display ceramic waves. Detailed study of wave photography has allowed the artist to capture the breaking of white horses, to bring permanence to the least permanent of things. One wave is followed by a second similar wave, and that by another into infinity but to harness the form as something sculptural is a tricky task - restricted perhaps by the size of the kiln, these waves, like the display cases behind them of everyday items, are uniquely domesticated despite the threat and power of the water they are based on.

http://www.fruitmarket.co.uk/whats-on/current/ until October 23rd