In his series, Untitled, Mike Perry continues his interest in minimalism and the found object as a source of aesthetic contemplation and contemporary narrative. The source of his material, however, is no longer the beaches of West Wales where he collected and photographed toxic pieces of plastic for his series Môr Plastig (Plastic Sea). The environmental narrative is replaced by a sense of introspection as the viewer is invited to respond to highly detailed surfaces of seemingly mundane surfaces he finds around his home and studio. Plastic pollution is replaced by pieces of cardboard and packing foam (materials given a new lease of life by the world of online shopping and home deliveries) and the surfaces of sketch book paper and backs. In these works the soft monochrome surfaces appear to float in the space they occupy giving them a strong sculptural presence. Perry is clearly interested in ideas relating to the hierarchy of materials and re-exploring the medium of photography in it’s relation to sculpture and drawing. Using very large digital files for extreme detail, Perry is creating images that were not feasible with the traditional film negative, although his focus is less on the layering potential of Photoshop and more on revisiting the qualities of reflective light.
White Cardboard Box, 2018
Art Made Now, Gallery VIII, Royal Academy of Arts, 12 June – 19 August 2018
Perry’s one to one photogragh taken with soft ‘neutral’ daylight focuses our attention on the surface of cardboard and the subtle markings made by the pressing machines that turn out these boxes by the thousands. In White Cardboard Box, 2018, the vertical shadow line, created by the gap in the carboard flaps, entices the viewer to a glimpse of an empty interior and in some way echos the ideas developed by Lucio Fontana in the 1950’s. In his series Concetto Spaziale, Fontana made vertical cuts in white canvases in order to explore the relationship between surface and dimensionality. By slashing the canvas, Fontana re-energised a flat painted surface turning it into something sculptural. But in Perry’s case, the art is not gestural but in his choice of subject and the forensic way in which he takes the photograph. His approach remains resolutely open and ambiguous allowing the viewer to either feel a sense of the sublime or be left staring into a black void wondering what all the fuss is about.