“In the calmest sea, in the stillest waters, there is always movement.”
In this new collection from Simon Harsent there are faint echoes of past work. His preoccupation with the role of what he refers to as ‘the agents of change’, elements that disrupt otherwise similar images, can be traced right back through his career to form what feels, in retrospect, like a connecting narrative thread. From 2000’s Untitled Nudes through to 2005’s Salt Moon and, more recently, It’s Not Me That’s Changed, It’s You, a work he produced for the POOL Collective’s Private View show, one can see Harsent’s fascination with the big impact of small-scale change. In his own words: “I’m interested in how, by keeping a camera in a locked position, a single element in a photograph can change perception, ideas and assumptions.”
In White Cube, he distills this idea further, focusing our thought through the use of austere and deceptively simple surroundings. The titular object – the cube, becomes a plinth, used as is. A lack, rather than a lick, of paint lends an air of spontaneity to these exquisitely studied images which toy with our assumptions about permanence and change.
The objects were chosen not solely on their aesthetic qualities, but also for their narrative potential – the hidden stories that the audience can project on to them. In doing so, Harsent has created a rhythm to the work that guides us through without spoon-feeding meaning. To get the most out of this collection, we are required – compelled – to engage.
While it is tempting to look to visual artists for comparative purposes, it is perhaps more fruitful to consider composers such as Philip Glass, whose use of repetition superimposed with shallow, shifting change disorientates and challenges the listener in similar ways, demanding and holding the attention, but always with the promise of a big reward.