A Deixis in Folds

Solo Exhibition
9 December - 20 January 2024

Exhibition Opening: Saturday 9 December 2023
Exhibition Closure: Saturday 20 January 2024

WHATIFTHEWORLD is pleased to present A Deixis in Folds, a solo exhibition by Rowan Smith.

For this new body of work, Rowan Smith co-opts the operational logic of the linguistic concept ‘deixis’ in the realisation of a series of hand-carved and cast sculptures. From a distance, these renderings of contemporary cloth resemble classical sculpture in a non-specific, generalised sense- largely because they are white. Deictic words or phrases are generalisations that require contextual information in order to be understood.

Generalisations are also part of how history is often retold, one of these is that classical, greco-roman sculptures were pristinely white. This assumption has been instrumental in the propagation of western-european aesthetic value systems and the idealisation of whiteness as beauty.

A similar chromatic misinterpretation was made by William Gladstone (1809-1898), author and British prime minister, when he incorrectly assumed that the ancient Greeks could not see the colour blue. No longer taken seriously, this nineteenth century misreading was largely due to equivocal language. To this day, more than half the parthenon sculptures are still kept at The British Museum. Greece has repeatedly called for their return. Using advanced, non-invasive, imaging techniques, traces of blue where recently found on 11 of the parthenon figures. Blue is also the first known artificially produced pigment.

In the United States, Styrofoam has become a proprietary eponym used colloquially to refer to expanded foam products. Styrofoam is actually an insulation material patented and manufactured by multinational chemical company DuPont; and styrofoam is blue, not white, as is often assumed in the west.

It is no coincidence that artifice, assumption, misreading and generalisation are recurrent themes in the above lingua- material and chromatic narrative. Like our relationship to language, which is often characterised by volatility, so is our relationship to polystyrene, which we seldom encounter with any sense of permanence. Mimicking idealplastik through the exploration of drapery, these sculptures barely exist; and are only justified, as objects, as they partially transition from polystyrene into cement and marble dust.

– Text by Rowan Smith