Eric Brown describes the Binary system as “a double star, the component parts of which revolve around their centre of gravity” in his book, Binary System. It is around from concept that The Binary exhibition at Partisan Collective aimed to underline the duality of the subject through language, dialect, and how we are often torn between the sight of two realities.
The eclectic exhibition displayed works by a large group of artists: Hayley Harman, Andrea Christodoulides, Ella Squirrell, George Coldwell, Candice Dehnavi, Spencer Roe-Ely, Martha Horn, Michelle Oliver, Oli Jessop, Madeleine Ismael, Pippa El-Kadhi-Brown, and Megan Cowley. From cold glass works, playful paintings on silk, oil canvases paintings or a performing arts video; The Binary exhibition embraced an enormous diversity in techniques and foci.
In the underground partisan collective exhibition room, the atmosphere was exquisite. Alongside free booze and harmonious tunes, every art piece was accompanied by a detailed explanation in a little leaflet. Whilst the show was full of intriguing works, I was astonished by three in particular, Ella Squirrell’s ‘Grey Faced & Pride’, Hayley Harman’s ‘Fresh Eyes to See My Worm’, and ‘Caterpillar God Shit Me Money & Run! Run! Run!’ by Andrea Christodoulides.
Squirrell’s work was made up of two portraits; one representing a man, the other a woman. The pair symbolised the duality of sexuality, gender, and mixed race identity. Influenced by her own experience, Squirrell’s artwork draws a line between the sense of belonging and not belonging. Her portraits which blur time and context, dramatise movement and perspectives.
The portrait portraying a man was captivating; his figure seemed to have been accomplished by simple continuous grey strokes. However, one notes that small aspects of colour were added to evoke the exploration of his inner self sexuality. The various hints of colour seemed to relate to his possible diversity of expressions.
On the contrary, Harman’s work was entirely an exploration of colour. Paired with a piece of her own poetry, the painting captured the essence of her writing, leading to the visual outcome of her playful and colourful canvases. A sense of duality can be perceived though the combination of language and painting; this pairing questions her identity as an author and a translator.
Harman’s playful poetry is inspired by the banal, as can be read in an extract of her work: “that is the most luxurious toilet roll I’ve ever wiped on my arse smelling eyelashes…” The translation of this banality into such vibrant painting, therefore, creates a curious pairing.
From the light-hearted, we then move onto an exploration of the difficulties of student life. Christodoulides’ large paintings on silk address the struggles a student (specifically an art student), may face to support their artwork and themselves once they leave university and enter the adult world.
Christodoulides’ work raises salient questions; how is it possible to adjust to have a healthy happy lifestyle and combine it with a hard work while still inevitably stressing about the future? The importance of money and the fast pace of our generation adds on to the anxiety Andrea shares with her observers.
I still feel the exhibition deeply, and reflect on the questions it has put through my mind. It has pushed me to consider on my own experiences and personal understanding of binary systems and dualism. This thought-provoking exhibition has encouraged me to look for illustrations of the binary in my own surroundings and everyday life.