Exercise demands motivation, labour and effort, notions that are contrary to the idea of easy sophistication. And yet, Utopian Slumps has good reason to bring them both together in new show Exercise in Sophistication, courtesy of artists Thomas Jeppe and Caleb Shea.
Opening tonight, it is curated by gallery director Melissa Loughnan, who believes in a less rigid definition of art. Perhaps this explains the choice of a pun-filled title for the show, which, on the one hand, suggests the need for hard work in attaining refinement, or quite perversely, conjures the image of someone exercising in a polished environment such as a gallery space. The title is flippant and playful, encouraging us to view at least some of these sculptural works, with a pinch of salt.
This kind of humour falls in line with Thomas Jeppe's sculptural and two-dimensional practice. He engages in wordplays and visual twists, with works often forging a dialogue with each other. For example, a full-scale door – meticulously crafted and covered in parquetry copied from the flooring of a historic house – is presented, but rendered useless by the fact that it is unattached to anything. This object is contextualised by the nearby paintings, which feature graphic slogans revealing the in-joke. It is work that demands a little bit of exercise on our part, intellectually that is.
Caleb Shea's sculptural practice looks more closely at the object. Large-scale geometric shapes in concrete, wood and metal are scattered about the space, almost haphazardly. Some surfaces are painted, while others are left raw, their purpose most definitely aesthetic rather than utilitarian. Their arrangement seems unfixed and their installation random, as though someone was merely experimenting with form. This free sensibility allows us return to a more traditional, some might even say romantic, understanding of sculpture.