Art review: Toby Paterson|Alex Dordoy|Scott Rogers

Toby Paterson - Soft Boundary. Picture: Contributed
Toby Paterson - Soft Boundary. Picture: Contributed
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What begins with a sunny urban scene moves to a brutal urban demolition

Toby Paterson: Soft Boundary

Modern Institute, Glasgow

Rating: * * * *

The painter Toby Paterson has often set his paintings in elaborate environments. Painted wooden structures, wall drawings, suspended panels or dark cell-like settings have been designed to make his art extend beyond the edge of the paper or the Perspex panels on which he sometimes works.

Nevertheless, it’s quite arresting to go into Glasgow’s Modern Institute and find yourself face to face with high palisade fencing made of galvanized steel. Palisade is a modern urban staple, impenetrable and intimidating, designed to keep people out. While one section of the fence is untreated, there are two coloured sections painted a queasy coral pink and scuffed black. They are not a fancy framework to hang paintings on, but three parts of Soft Boundary – a single, and singly uneasy, sculpture in its own right.

If Paterson’s work has long been focused on the urban environment and our ideas and ideals when it comes to architecture, then this show marks his growing interest in the actual and at times downright ugly world of the urban periphery.

Soft Boundary is focused around a real bit of land at the edge of Glasgow’s Red Road housing scheme. It marks a growing shift in Paterson’s approach, from his early work, which managed to reinvest the concrete brutalism of post-war architecture with the story of it’s idealistic origins or his bodies of work that reflected his passionate investment in the work of post war architects like Denys Lasdun or Glasgow practice Gillepsie, Kidd and Coia. If there are fewer ideas in this show, there is more quiet observation, less talking and more listening.

A painting entitled The Red Tavern is at the centre of the exhibition. A post-war pub, half boarded up and surrounded by ochre scrub and high fences, is portrayed from a number of viewpoints simultaneously. You can look at it lots of ways and never quite get your head round the perspectival conundrum. The artist seems to be thinking aloud. Upstairs this shift in Paterson’s own perspective can be seen in what almost amounts to a short essay. What begins with a slick and sunny urban scene moves through a screenprint of a brutal urban demolition. Finally Vermilion Remnant is a tiny collage of red acrylic paint and wood on a piece of torn board. In the place of the sharp lines of idealised architecture is the ragged red line of human touch.

Alex Dordoy: persistencebeatsresistance

Inverleith House, Edinburgh

Rating: * * * *

At Inverleith House another Glasgow-trained painter Alex Dordoy has a major show of new work, his most significant in the UK to date. Dordoy, who now lives in London, is a highly accomplished artist – a painter whose radical technical innovations, including complex transfer prints, the use of digital images, and a complicated relationship between two and three-dimensional forms match a sophisticated exploration of the role of the image in the virtual age.

For a century now there’s been a debate about what it means to make an original artwork in the age of easy reproduction. Dordoy plays with this persistent problem by taking it apart. A number of works in the show have their origins in the corpse of an ordinary commercial photocopier. The artist has disassembled it, cast its entrails in silicone rubber, or embedded its body parts in plinths with elaborately decorated surfaces. In one of a series of works entitled Congsumer the copier’s glass copyboard is wedged into a plinth like a sundial and is echoed by a real burnt-out laptop, an Apple MacBook Pro, embedded in a similar work in an adjacent room. Are these screens completely empty or might they be imprinted with the thousands of images they have processed during their useful lives? Do images have a soul or can they preserve our own? There is a huge amount of complexity in Dordoy’s work, including his use of elaborate print techniques, where every contact leaves a trace.

Upstairs, gallery walls are lined with the kind of corrugated polycarbonate used as lightweight building material. You can see where all this is coming from. Despite it’s translucence it has a strong physical presence. It is both two and three-dimensional, and it relates to recent bodies of work where the artist has shaped images in the form of a concertina or paper plane in evocation of the way that digitisation compresses images. But you can’t help but wish Dordoy had been able to present some of his signature large-scale paintings or a wall drawing. It’s unfortunate that something – whether time scales, exhibition budgets or just bad luck –- means that while this exhibition has absolutely thrilling passages, its overall framing falters a little.

Scott Rogers: Negative Miracle

Glasgow Sculpture Studios

Rating: * * *

There’s a line that can be drawn between Dordoy and new work by Scott Rogers, a recent graduate form Glasgow School of Art’s MFA course who is showing at Glasgow Sculpture Studios as the culmination of his recent graduate fellowship. Rogers has cast a digital camera for his show and embedded it in the sculpture studios’ wall. Made from resin that has been mixed with glow-in-the-dark pigment, it should come to life by night. Rogers plays around with questions of labour, decay, surface and patina in objects and film.

It’s a far more scattered set of interests than his exciting and dynamic degree show at the Glue Factory last year, but I loved his bronze-painted ginger roots. Despite being clad in metal they just keep growing. The work is bound together by a soundtrack of Alexander Scriabin’s unfinished and doom-laden symphony Mysterium interspersed with a soundtrack of heavy rain. It wasn’t necessary when I visited. The Glasgow weather was doing a fine impression of the apocalypse all by itself.

Toby Paterson runs until 22 February; Alex Dordoy until 23 March; Scott Rogers until 1 March