Double Exit is a diptych comprising two screenprints on paper. Each of them features the word ‘EXIT’ in bright, almost fluorescent orange against a black background, which is framed by a white margin. Despite being very similar in appearance, the two parts of the work are not identical. Although they look like standard industrially-produced signs, on close inspection the prints reveal an almost hand-painted quality. The letters of the word ‘EXIT’ seem to have been applied using overlapping layers of paint with a rough finish, while the orange colour seeps out of their borders. The white margins are also uneven and, in places, smudged over the black background of the signs. The two screenprints appear to have been drawn in a hasty manner, which further enhances their handmade appearance. This was done deliberately by the artist who, as in all his text-based screenprints, drew out the letters using a computer programme. He then screenprinted the fluorescent orange and black EXIT template. The appearance resulting from the screenprinting process is very different from the clean-cut aesthetic produced by digital or industrial printing. Myles explains that like other works of his on paper, such as David Standing 4th May 2004 and David Sitting 4th May 2004 2004 (P79061), Double Exit is deliberately over-printed and mis-registered. In this way, he takes control of the imagery, as the prints become pictures and cease being functional instructional signs (email to the author, 3 August 2010). When installed, the two prints are hung side by side. The artist has specified that they should never be exhibited above a doorway. The work should never function as an EXIT sign. It should be exhibited on a wall at usual picture height, or up high, or in a corner (email to the author, 3 August 2010).
The two prints recall signs that are found in public spaces and point to the exit or escape routes, but are considerably larger in size. Double Exit is one of several works by Myles that involve standardised signage. He often appropriates public and commonly-seen signs, which he then renders handmade, in the form of posters. As he says:
The screenprinted works on paper have become a kind of handmade series of mass-produced signage ... The prints have a handmade quality, and hover outside the realm of mass production. Their fixed meanings become more open and ambiguous due to my reprinting and their repetition. I think of them as ‘pictures’ as opposed to ‘signs’, and I’m interested in this subtle shift in meaning.
(Quoted in Rob Tufnell, ‘Rob Tufnell in conversation with Scott Myles’, in Ruf 2007, p.55.)
The artist’s disruption of the established and standardised codes of signage can be seen as a symbolic act of translation from the public into the personal. In this particular work, the repeated word ‘exit’ may suggest a personal desire to escape rather than a neutral indication of the route by which a body should leave a space. Myles’s interest in appropriation, both of other artists’ works and of standardised signs, and his transformation of them into artworks with a handcrafted aesthetic, emphasise the complex meanings that these artworks and signs may carry. His use of public signs draws our attention to what the curator Beatrix Ruf has called, ‘the inherently unfixed and unstable nature of most, if not all, signs’ (Ruf 2007, p.13).
Myles’s work covers a wide spectrum of media, including photographs, serigraphs, objects, sculptural installations, painting and performance-based projects. By reusing already established aesthetic codes, the artist reactivates ideas relevant to the valuation of art, and to social reality. Myles also often appropriates well-known artworks, which he then re-elaborates and turns into his own. His recurring themes are communication, the involvement of the subject in his or her environment and the rules that govern economic exchange. The artist’s own experience, as well as that of the viewer, are central in Myles’s work, which often demonstrates a romantic and poetic edge through the use of fragile or delicate materials, a call to courageous and generous actions and an evocation of nostalgia for non-industrial methods of production.
Myles’s work shares common ground with that of another Scottish artist from a slightly earlier generation, Martin Boyce (born 1967). In particular, Boyce’s works Our Love 2002 (T12132) and Gate (We don’t meet here. We are always together first) 2004 (T11905), possess a poetic urban aesthetic similar to that of Myles’s works. Although there is no human presence in Boyce’s sculptural installations, both artists isolate objects of the urban environment, which they render the silent protagonists of simultaneously nostalgic and haunting reverie-like scenes that can be said to oscillate between the public and the private, the intimate and the alienating. Myles’s work has also been linked to minimalist art, in particular the work of Donald Judd (1928–94), such as Untitled 1980 (T03087) and Untitled [no title]
1988 (P77499). However, Myles makes a clear departure from the impersonal character of the minimalist aesthetic with his more subjective and allusive approaches.
Presence: New Works of Contemporary Art from Scotland, exhibition catalogue, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh 2002, pp.40–5.
Katharine Stout, ‘Scott Myles’ in Beatrix Ruf and Clarrie Wallis (eds.), Tate Triennial 2006: New British Art, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2006, pp.104–7.
Beatrix Ruf (ed.), Scott Myles, solo exhibition catalogue, Kunsthalle Zürich, 2007.