Susan Collis – It’s lighter than you think

PV Thursday 23rd February 6pm
23rd February – 1st April 2023


It’s lighter than you think is Susan Collis’ sixth solo exhibition at the gallery, her first since 2018. 

The show is comprised of a series of drawings, grey rectangles that are positioned on the floor leaning against the walls of the gallery. Coloured gestural marks pass impatiently over and through vertical columns of neatly laid out graphite. The drawings are copies of packing blankets, drawn from life in coloured pencils and inks, the paper then folded around a wooden support. The appearance of these drawings implies a wrapped artwork awaiting installation, the viewer has perhaps disturbed the early stages of hanging an exhibition. Objects whose weight and currency are at present obscured, waiting to be revealed shortly.

Adjacent to the paper constructions, a flat, grey piece of fabric is folded on the floor. From a distance this work, Glory Days (2015), is almost indistinguishable from the others. It predates the drawings by some years, a precursory experiment that lead to the drawings perhaps? This work is a hand-woven tapestry, which also alludes to the form of a packing blanket. Here Collis has used the home tapestry process specifically as it is seen as a craft or hobbyist pastime, the misuse of materials being a persistent theme for her, though in this case not in a cool detached way, more akin to your favourite elderly relative making an NFT. 

The two strategies both result in works that display a faithful rendering, realistic representations of objects we are familiar with. While trompe-l’œil has historically been predominately about deceiving the viewer with drawings of perspective, these works use loose marks alluding to abstract painting, a series of colourful gestures splayed across a grey gridded substrate. Flatness animated by the gestural. As a textile the blankets themselves have a degree of chance inherent in their making, as recycled scraps of clothing are pressed together. Collis is making figurative drawings of unconsidered tangles of fabric.

After 20 years of producing works that play games with perception, the viewer could rightly expect objects by Collis to put up some resistance to being read, or employ some perceptual gambit to wrong foot the viewer. This exhibition text, however,  gives the game away long before the works are encountered. Vraisemblance or fooling the eye cannot then be the priority here.