Tarpaulins


Tarpaulins veil the perimeter of a construction site. While simple, the act of masking off a space has an interesting artistic and psychological effect. Surrealist Man Ray wrapped objects to instil a sense of mystery. Later, Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude wrapped urban and organic landscapes with huge swaths of material. On his monumentally sheeted spaces, Christo once said "we borrow space and create gentle disturbances for a few days. We inherit everything that is inherent in the space to become part of the work of art. All of our projects are like fabulous expeditions...the hardest part of each project is to obtain the permits. Afterwards, it's pleasure".


Blanketed objects and scenes balance curiosity and separation, suggesting preservation, worth, change and significance. Onlookers are starved of critical visual information, yet the perception of space and geometric characteristics are heightened. We look for clues as to what endures behind the curtain, scouring our memories for similar shapes or scenarios that fit. The wrapping becomes a device of both intensity and denial.


In the photographs, the responsive folds of construction-site tarpaulins are reminiscent of the luxuriant drapery found in classical art forms, the silvery weave of the material responding to light with honesty and complexity. Like much of the urban landscape, a familiarity with tarpaulin materials means that they are often unnoticed - yet their tremulous visual response maps the rich narrative of the surrounding environment and, by extension, the nature of seeing and sight.

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Megan Kennedy
Artist