A small big thing, Nav Haq
Damien Roach’s work is immediately unassuming yet reveals itself as curiously inventive. Possessing a formal simplicity and playfulness, Roach’s work scrutinises the value systems that we use to make sense of the world around us. To date, these investigations have centred on the mutability of perception within commonplace experiences, which are normally considered devoid of any revelatory potential. More than just the act of finding the poetic in the mundane, in Roach’s works there is the sense of being transported from the everyday through the everyday, proposing a latent escapism through the most economical of means. The expression of these moments forms his continuing research project in various media incorporating video, drawing, sculpture, installation, painting and audio works.
Much of the work involves the manipulation of found images and objects, situating a counter-cultural sensibility alongside a more traditionally orientated one. His painted objects, for example, initially appear to be discarded or reclaimed board or furniture, weathered and worn by time. However, on closer inspection the scratches and scrapes of the seemingly random markings reveal delicate and intricate vistas of nature – birds, trees and flowers.
These readymade objects have been used, discarded, found and then reused, and with his intervention are renewed in their value. All the work shares the sense of a casual approach, harbouring a lightness of touch and an apparent ease of production. Roach’s discreet interventions possess a particular visual typology that allows the viewer to invest in another plane of discovery towards a modest epiphany. There is a rupture of established value systems through his mechanisms for investigating various physical and ideological inversions. Often there is a particular interface with visual perception that unassumingly offers the suggestion of alternative modes of worldly perception, such as with his occasional use of anamorphic imagery that requires you to look at an image from a predetermined point of view in order to see it without distortion. The works can be taken on formal level as poetic, but they are intended to be more un-resolvable somehow, due to the breakage in object status that occurs with his curious form of illusionism.
A Small Big Thing (2003) is configured intelligibly using a slide projector, a video camera, a sheet of black card and a monitor. On the monitor appears a nighttime snowstorm – snowflakes fall illuminated by an unseen light-source in the darkness of night. Yet, after a little investigation it becomes evident that this is a constructed apparition. The image we are viewing is live streaming from the video camera positioned to film the sheet of black card, and the snow is actually dust floating by in the atmosphere, lit up by projected light from the slide projector. What is omni-presence, mere dust, is re-presented to us through simple means as opulent natural phenomenon. Modestly arranged with its ‘thriftstore-Caspar David Friedrich’ aesthetic, the work declares its own manufacture as it happens, revealing a fabricated rendition of the sublime.
The fine line between figuration and abstraction in Roach’s practice enters into a realm that invites a form of perceptual apparition. There is a double-take required to consider whether what you are seeing is a genuine encounter through the inversion of the familiar and the strange, or the large and the miniature. These slights of precisely visible imagery amongst the unspectacular, question our own cognition, in presence of what can be alluded to as the manifestation of hallucination. Referencing a range of sources including 60s psychedelia, and cognitive psychology, Roach looks towards these distinctive outlooks to determine ways of unlocking unseen potential for our comprehension of the world.