Andrew Gannon’s Impressions consists of a series of sculptures made from plaster-bandage casts of the artist’s left arm, which stops just below the elbow. These have been bound together while the artist is still wearing one of the casts to create reef-like clusters of tubes or mouths, seven or so per construction. Most have the kind of rough, webbed texture and off-white colouring that we might recall from childhood treatments for broken limbs, but others are done up in hot pink or metallic baby blue, like tropical fish or polyps.
The title of Gannon’s show alludes to the casts (“impressions”) that must be taken to fit prosthetic limbs, while simultaneously gesturing towards traditions of modern art that have often side-lined, exoticised, or even eroticised disability. As this opening out of contexts might suggest, although these works are rooted in the artist’s lived experience of disability, their formal and thematic range extends further to ask questions about the role of the organic, of spontaneity and pre-determined pattern, in the history of modern art. It’s interesting to consider, for example, how much Impressions implies forms of natural, non-human growth while stopping short of clear figurative suggestion, and how this kind of meta-pictorial quality has underpinned the development of abstraction in painting and sculpture.
That said, we can certainly bring some specific illustrative associations to these pieces, perhaps especially certain forms of marine life: corals, anemones, and other invertebrates whose material embodiment seems to waver at the threshold between flora and fauna, unimaginably different from our own in spite of residual similarities. From here, of course, it’s easy to infer things about how we conceptualise bodily difference in relation to societally imposed norms, the ignorance and wonder we bring to encounters with difference, and the burden these encounters can place upon the othered. Although this is not a show about disability per se, then, that theme never seems far from the surface.
Gannon’s spontaneous composition method, with the partially formed artworks still attached to his body as they are added to, reflects a wider interest in sculpture as performance, particularly in types of performance that foreground audience reactions to disability. Over the course of this show, the artist is giving weekly performances called ‘Drawing Limbs’, using a cast like those included in the sculptures attached to his left arm to hold a long bamboo pole, with a charcoal stick at the tip. With this sinuous and flexible instrument, he is drawing the other objects in the exhibition. Dispensing with the idea of prosthesis as correction of difference or the perfection of a standard, Gannon’s wonderfully absurd, long drawing limb emphasises instead the aesthetic possibilities of difference in the spirit of the show as a whole.