Judith Frost

22 05 2024

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Matthew Bown Gallery is proud to present New Dust Works an exhibition of dust tables by Judith Frost.

Frost's interest in dust as a medium goes back to 1992, when as part of an exhibition On Site she made a swept-floor piece, removing the dust from the floor of a derelict industrial building in Bermondsey. She has been making dust tables since 1997.

The dust tables adhere to a single format: a table-top, invariably square, is covered with mounds of stone dust (sourced from the beaches and quarries of Portland in Dorset and further afield in Europe.)

The formally restrained presentation of such raw materials on a cabinet scale is a domestication, as it were, of the land art of Robert Smithson and Richard Long. Frost also references Arte Povera (in 2001 she spent some months on a scholarship in Rome creating works out of marble and tuffa dust.) The dust tables embody natural process: the dust is poured or sieved onto the supporting surface, which creates a drip painting-like tension between the artist's controlling gesture in the air and the random patterning that occurs on impact.

Frost's emphasis is not on any kind of intervention in the real landscape but rather on its re-imagination in interior space. By eschewing figurative references beyond that of the hill, mound or mountain, she creates ambiguities of scale. The tables evoke the surfaces of unvisited worlds, or perhaps that unearthly landscape painted by Douainier Rousseau, in which a sleeping gypsy encounters a lion.

This scalar ambiguity is part of a greater ambivalence. Are we, for example, looking at 'buildings' or 'ruins'? Scarcely buildings, so incipient ruins, perhaps; in which case we are entering the territory explored by the critic Svetlana Boym (1): 'a labyrinth of ambivalent prepositions - "no longer" and "not yet", "nevertheless", "albeit", and "still". Ruins, in Boym's view, are a congeries of conditional past and future tenses. Such fluidity of temporal horizons is implied by the huge life-span of the stone dust itself.

Since the 9/11 attacks the theme of ruination (and even the very stuff of the grey mineral dust that coated Manhattan) has inserted itself into contemporary art. Frost's work pre-dates this interest but her concerns intersect. She emphasises the fragility of states of being. Ruins, in Boym's phrase are a place of 'comforting shadows', but these shadows may be irretrievably reconfigured at any moment.

1. All quotations are from http://svetlanaboym.com.

Matthew Bown 2006

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