Saturday, May 01, 2004

Art review: Juliana Capes, 'Pavement Astronomer'

The moon casts a silver orange light over the gnarled wood as it reaches out across the fields. Leaves reach down, touching the grass with a soft light, glinting in yesterdays rain. Such is the evening as it rests here, leaving in me a feeling of puzzlement that the world should cast such uncertain beauties when you open your eyes to see it.

As Juliana Capes braves the Glasgow elements, she too is asking us to open our eyes to something that is intangible and unsure, but if we wish to see, something else may be opened for us, an ability to question and appraise the world, and the belief systems, which are constructed around it.

Chalking irregular, often crude forms, in the shape of familiar animals, logos or abstract entities on the pavement by joining up discarded chewing gum blobs, may not be an equivalent, in most peoples view, to the light of the moon or the stars on a clear rural evening. But take some time to observe the faces of the passers by and one begins to see something else emerge out of this apparently simple and repetitive act. Curiosity, bemusement and delight at such an interaction with the city’s streets are compounded by the umpteen conversations Juliana is having daily. As people search her out, or simply stop by as they pass through elsewhere, she is greeted by smiles, thumbs up signs and the words people want to give her are informative to the effect of this work – it is making people see their space in a new way and what previously was an unsightly mess has been turned in to a work of art.

The question arises as to where the art resides in this work. Is it in the action of the chalking itself, or in the forms left behind to wash off the pavement in the rain, or in the dialogue that exists between Juliana and the public, or in the documentation of the chalking and the forms, or in the outcome of the research as it becomes a ‘Pavement Astrology’ and belief system? It appears to weave in and out of all these facets, perhaps existing fleeting in one and then the other, as it passes through the consciousness of the audience at varying levels. With a work that is led so much by process and dialogue it is perhaps impossible to pin down what an individual may take from the work, and it is precisely this which animates the work and makes it successful in reaching a wide audience.

'Pavement Astronomer' was a site specific performance as part
of the E m e r g e D presentation at Glasgow Art Fair, Friday 15th - Sunday 18th April 2004, for more information visit or Juliana's web site

This review was commissioned by the artist.


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