"Shawn Camp: Equivocation" at Northern-Southern
In this three-part installation, the artist plays with light to creates work that is atmospheric and at times beautifully contemplative
Reviewed by Melany Jean, Fri., Oct. 5, 2018
Picture the inside of a large white cube, traversed by an equatorial crack. This is the first room of Shawn Camp's solo show "Equivocation" at Northern-Southern Gallery. The front room is cordoned off, its white walls marked by a meandering blue line, like a river cutting through a glacier. This entrance is a teasing introduction but positions the viewer well for the rest of the show, serving as an introduction to the scale and perspective of the remaining pieces and previewing visual themes.
Equivocation is an installation consisting of three parts, each in its own room. At the beginning, glacial white. Beyond the black curtain, though, it is dark, shrouded. The remaining areas are sparingly lit, most of the light coming from the works themselves.
To the immediate left of the dividing curtain is a claustrophobic room, the width of an average woman's wingspan. A TV screen plays a video piece composed in accompaniment to the original soundtrack playing overhead. The work runs 34 minutes long and is a series of short, edited segments split by the accompanying tracks, like a visual album. Here, the music is contemplative and slow, and the videos likewise ruminative and Zen. At times, the videos contribute to the effect provided by the music, such as the ominous and rhythmic track "Incident at Graves Mountain," whose minimalist sound is paired with a piercing pair of headlights winding down a forebodingly dark road at night. Other times, the video segments seem an incongruous or trite afterthought, an arrangement of footage from a diner or a compilation of breaking waves.
In the culminating piece, Camp presents a backlit painting. Six spotlights illuminate the piece, but the light from the panels themselves does most of the legwork here. The tones shift from buttery yellow to tempestuous storms of blue and purple beneath the cloudlike oil paint. The texture crumbles in places, like the detritus of a hastily done scratch-off. Camp, whose work often refers to topography, moves here from the ground to the sky. The work is atmospheric, in that it sets a vibe, establishes a mood, but also atmospheric in that the viewer feels somehow injected into the atmosphere. Camp channels the wonder of a window seat on a first plane ride that just happens to take off at sunset. We are transported, but the trip is disrupted. The shape of the light panels echoes the zigs and zags of the river-line that cuts through this piece as well as the introductory wall painting, but it disrupts the softness of the painting itself. It is like seeing the sky through shards of glass on the ground, removed and evasive. Maybe this is the titular equivocation.
The slow-changing colors prompt consideration of the slow-changing realities of existence, how the mind and body shift in temperament and temperature over time. This contemplation is beautiful, as is its prompt. After 20 minutes, I assess my own temperament and temperature to be shifting from calm and content to restless and warm, so I head out.