Olivia Bax: Roost

Tucked neatly away down a Camberwell backstreet, a welcome wave of familiarity washes over me. I’ve been here before, my memory quick to remind me that this building was previously the home of a friend, a few years ago. Now however, the space has been transformed into a sleek and inviting gallery space. Nestled politely amongst a row of residential houses, Lily Brooke shrugs off any intimidating gallery exterior in favour of something much more amiable.

Inside, is the latest installation from artist Olivia Bax, a direct response to its domestic setting. Made purposefully for the space, it feels like ‘Roost,’ the main sculptural piece has always lived here, slowly expanding and growing in size over time. A skewed judgement of capacity is at play, forcing the viewer to think carefully about each small movement as they examine the work. Bax forces the observer into unavoidable close proximity with her piece, demanding immediate interaction.

 

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Installation view, Olivia Bax, Roost, 2018, at Lily Brooke, London. Images courtesy of the artist & gallery.

 

Constructed using a steel framework as her basis, Bax layers a combination of plaster, chicken wire and papier-mâché over the body, building an impressive structure. Skillfully moulding each part by hand, she leaves a tempting trail of unique impressions to follow. In an enticing display of artistry, the materials have been manipulated to tell a story of their own, concealing hidden elements and exposing others.

Working from an initial, planned sketch, Bax develops each sculptural piece organically, adding each component impulsively during the process. The sheer amount of time and craft evidently poured into  each detail of ‘Roost,’ is both extraordinary and overwhelming. Tiny carved crevices call out for inspection, equally assertive as the protruding metal arms escaping, curving across the surface like crawling vines.

The finished object is both unidentified and alluring, a strange, seductive entity, existing independently from its creator. Personal boundaries quickly disappear and without realising I’m drawn closely into its edges, removing what was left of the remaining space between us. As I inquisitively attempt to peer further into the inner structure, I get a sudden feeling of being watched. Am I still the observer or have I become the observed? A venus fly trap situation, set perfectly for the weakness of my aesthetic curiosity.

 

Boundary_OliviaBax_4Boundary_OliviaBax_5Boundary_OliviaBax_6Installation view, Olivia Bax, Roost, 2018, at Lily Brooke, London. Images courtesy of the artist & gallery.

 

Other works on display include Bax’s ‘Airpockets,’ a peculiar but enjoyable, ongoing series of smaller pieces, each a physical representation of selected emotions. The colours used although varying, work in harmony with each other to a muted palette of greyish blues, purples and yellows.

Without a doubt Bax is a sorceress of surface design, creating a physical visual language full of character and hidden meaning. Through each piece, her remarkable ability to convey life and movement to material matter is oddly thrilling and brilliantly done.

 

‘Roost,’ is showing at Lily Brooke, until 4th November.