Sarah Lowndes, 'Review' (Art on Paper, 11/2008)

In the four years since the New Zealand – born artist Kate Davis presented her first solo exhibition, “Participation,” at this gallery, her position has changed. She wrote in a text produced for her second exhibition there that “the beckoning hand that invited an audience to ‘participate’ (or at least, entertain that notion) becomes a closed palm; an open platform is now a barrier.” For “Participant,” she exhibited a fleshy pink stage and eerie surrealist drawings and collages of bottles and glasses. Now Davis, who studied at Glasgow School of Art and afterward served on the committee of the artist-led Transmission Gallery, is moving away. For this show, entitled “Outsider,” the two open-ended boxes that had formed the stage (now black) are set on end like cabinets or trunks. Each has a glass front through which her stored possessions can be seen – a bright-blue padded coat, three wine glasses, a transistor radio, Wellington boots, a duvet, a fork and books including Albert Camus’ The Outsider (1942) and L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between (1953).

The four meticulous and photorealistic pencil drawings included are based on staged photographs, taken from the artist’s point of view, of her interacting with reproductions of 1970s- and 1980s- era portraits by the Swiss artist Franz Gertsch. In one she uses the reproduction as a plate, and in another her hands can be seen washing a photograph in the sink. There is a drawing of the artist’s jeans-clad leg pausing beside a Gertsch image half-buried in gravel, and a fourth in which a portrait of a man rests on a tangled heap of her clothes. Each drawing is overlaid with a phrase in mirror writing, which, when viewed together, spell out in reverse Yvonne Rainer’s dictum “I want” / “everything I make” / “to reflect my” / “whole life”. The difficulty of achieving this is emphasized by the inclusion of a digital print of a handwritten list made by the artist, delineating various tasks and things to buy. The list, like the discarded objects and the drawings, belongs to a past that is already foreign.