The Shadow of A Doubt
Curated by Peter Richards, featuring artist: Sandra Johnston
In law, the term “the shadow of a doubt” relates to the act of judgement. The vagueness of this definition renders it uncommonly used, since it has come to be regarded as an impossibly nuanced degree beyond which guilt or innocence can be established. The term also suggests certain spatial properties in the mind’s eye: that an ethical question could be sufficiently tangible to exist in three dimensions, and traceable from different perspectives.
The Shadow of a Doubt is an installation made from a collection of gathered fragments, in the form of objects, texts, videos and performance gestures, which have been re-enacted as both drawn marks and filmed documentation of actions. A few years ago Johnston acquired nine chairs from a scrap yard that had been salvaged from the Maze prison. These chairs form the centre of an extended dialogue about retracing pivotal moments of the 1980’s through recollecting the mediatised versions of events and paralleling them with memories of a protected home life.
Since graduating in 1992, Sandra Johnston has worked in a variety of art forms, most notably in performance art, which has been the cornerstone of her practice. For this exhibition at the Golden Thread Gallery, she will be assembling a new installation reflecting the breadth of artistic processes that underpin her practice. It will also explore some of the more hidden aspects of the inherent performative nature of the work.
Activities such as drawing, writing and filming video have, on an ongoing basis, enriched the performance works by offering diverse means of observing, reflecting and responding to the specifics of place and circumstances. Drawing in particular is used by the artist as a means to work at the physical limits of the body. It is a way to concentrate and animate inner intimate spaces: the barely perceptible distances and mechanisms through which the body notates its ongoing present state. Grasping these inner changes relates to processes of developing meaningful movement and gesture in performative actions, conveying outwardly a truth found in the body, accessible only through concentrated distillation.
Johnston’s artworks have consistently explored strategies of ambiguity, counter narratives and marginality, through actions that entail a restrained questioning of the place of objects and the place of a person in the world. Her artworks aim to navigate the permeable, the concrete, the defined and the spectral. How one becomes used to gathering seemingly peripheral evidences of our place among other beings and structures.
A consistent feature of Johnston’s performance work has been the use of available or discarded materials found directly in the location of the actions. The appropriation of everyday and often abject objects involves a degree of transformation. There is also a respect for their particularity: how the touch of an object emits numerous responses in the nervous system, evoking sensations and memories.