Grove Collective is pleased to present the upcoming group exhibition Dream Weaver, featuring artists Seren Metcalfe, Jesse Pollock, Ernesto Renda, and Amba Sayal-Bennett, on view at Grove Collective’s Battersea space from March 10th to April 9th, 2022. This is the first time that Grove Collective has worked with any of these artists, and marks the first time that these artists have shown together.
There is something romantic in the idea of a Dream Weaver. Gary Wright captures the sentiment well enough in the opening verse of his iconic song by the same name, singing “Climbed aboard the Dream Weaver train/Driver, take away my worries of today/And leave tomorrow behind.” Ethereal and care-free, the Dream Weaver, like the dreams they conjure, is a figure of non-earthly delight, unburdened, or indeed spurred on by our daily troubles.
But this conception of dreams feels closer to trope than to reality. Alternative (or contradictory) conceptions of dreaming proliferate throughout popular culture and personal experience, underscoring how linked to our lives our dreams really are. From early psychoanalysis’ insistence on dreams as a site of turned-over trauma, to the nonsensicality and mundanity of what runs through many of our collective heads on a nightly basis, perhaps the real Dream Weavers more closely resemble cynical malefactors, or bored itinerants, weaving nightly as only a way to pass the time.
In this light, the binds that hold together the grouping of Metcalfe, Pollock, Renda, and Sayal-Bennett become clearer. Metcalfe, often working across media to create installation ‘experiences’, relishes half-sense and combined meaning, with crucial pieces of information often being embedded within the absurd. When confronted with her work, one often takes away a sentiment or a feeling, as opposed to a singular, didactic message. Perhaps the viewer will laugh, or cry, or both, with meaning being formed along the way.
In turn, Jesse Pollock’s brusque metal works suggest a bluntness of approach which belies the artist’s insouciant humour. Importantly, Pollock’s (almost) weaponised flowers and dismembered animal parts capture a dystopian vision, reflecting on climate change and our own reticence in the face of ecological disaster. The severed dog’s jaw bleakly questions our value systems, asking who cares until the dogs die? However, Pollock is careful to hide humour away tidily in the joints of his pieces — his flora, despite its appearance, is remarkably supple to the touch, while his dog’s jaw, much like his trademark urns and ladders, hints equally at a kindly conception of use and purpose. Put otherwise, a flower bed’s use value to a dog is its space to dig or roll around; to the dog, this is value enough. Despite its biting commentary, there is a refreshing undertone of simple joy; we must not forget that part of what we must protect is the dogs and their flower beds, even if only so they can wreak more havoc.
Unlike Pollock’s hulking constructions, Ernesto Renda’s paintings, layered with hot glue and fabric, protruding from the wall, draw from more narrative imaginaries. Using a selection of film stills, Renda manifests the jump cut and the close-up, using that which is shown in place of the embodied human subject to create meaning for the viewer. But often, isolated from their initial contexts, these layered images suggest meanings that exist beyond their original intention. The viewer’s imagination is given license to explore, creating images that are at once discrete from and a part of the work. In its most basic sense, is this not how dreaming works — creating images from combined stimuli taken in through the course of our lives? Engaging with Renda’s work thus becomes an active pursuit, with the viewer driven to build onto, instead of simply receive, what the artist has provided.
Finally, Amba Sayal-Bennett’s works take orderly diagrams and visual systems to their logical extremes, abstracting these forms and reordering them into intricate, repetitive systems. Sayal-Bennett’s works have an air of intimidation about them; the look of blueprints one wasn’t given context for. However, mining these works for order brings a sense of clarity, and appreciating the shapes and lines as products in themselves eases any discomfort. Delicately, the artist walks a tightrope between order and chaos. These errant forms are brought into alignment, given purpose and order through repetition and an insistence on structure. Dreams, thus, become an apt comparison; a narrative strung out of loose, disorderly parts.
For Grove Collective, Dream Weaver presents an exciting opportunity to reimagine the relationships between materiality and artistic disciplines, blurring lines between painting, sculpture, and installation. While both Metcalfe and Renda are producing (at least in part) paint-driven, wall-based works, the exhibition is certainly not one of painting as it is traditionally understood. Sculptural elements of Renda’s work extend beyond purely the painterly brush and canvas, while Metcalfe's works exist within a broader cosmos of installation. Likewise, while Sayal-Bennett’s work is more overtly sculptural, its versatility with regard to its exhibition aligns more closely to Renda’s and Metcalfe’s work than to sculpture as we often know it. Even Pollock, whose sculpture is the most traditionally displayed, toys with installation, creating narrative and context through multiple works. With this in mind, Grove Collective will look to extend this investigation into materials and their exhibition moving forward, incorporating these questions into their future programming.