Cathy Wilkes

Stag and Mister Komplex

2000

Not on display

Artist
Cathy Wilkes born 1966
Medium
Shop display case, wooden folding table, textile and paint
Dimensions
Overall display dimensions variable
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Charles Asprey, London 2013
Reference
T14087

Summary

Stag and Mister Komplex 2000 is a two-part installation by the Northern Irish artist Cathy Wilkes. On the left is a folding card table, while on the right is a readymade shop display case. The two elements were first shown together (albeit in a different form and configuration) in Wilkes’s 2001 exhibition So and So, Cathy Wilkes at the Galerie Giti Nourbakhsch in Berlin, and separately titled as Stag (the display case) and Mister Komplex (the folding table). The top of the folding card table, covered in vinyl with a patinated wood print design, acts as a found canvas for a fabric collage depicting an abstract still-life portrait. In the collage, a red-dotted fabric bears the suggestion of a face, with one eye clearly delineated, and features the title of that part of the work (Mister Komplex) written in capital letters above. The inside of the metal and wood-framed glass display case, which is glazed on the top and the front, is covered with red and white horizontally striped paper. The case, the left side of which is open, is illuminated by two shaded strip lights. Like the card table, the display case retains the appearance of its previous use as a functional object. Although the two parts of the installation were first conceived separately, they are now only intended to be shown together.

Stag was Wilkes’s first use of a readymade object, an aspect of her constructive process which has become central to her work. She has developed a sculptural vocabulary in which commonplace objects and materials are combined in minimal yet highly charged assemblages that often touch on issues of femininity and sexuality. While each element is chosen by her for its subjective significance, the work characteristically appears as a constellation of objects, as fragments in a complex web of relationships. Wilkes’s installations resist easy reading or breaking down into decipherable parts. Rather, they function as suggestive provocations of thought in which personal experience is inseparable from the process of construction.

Both Stag and Mister Komplex retain their general appearance as functional items, yet Wilkes’s alterations transform them from inanimate objects collected from the outside world into forms inhabiting several roles at once. The suggestion of a face on the table-top vinyl of Mister Komplex pushes the work towards figuration, and the delineation of an eye gives the arrangement a gaze of its own, looking back at the viewer as if the table-top was a reflection or mirage. The work thus seems to exemplify an instability or tension between different states of being and visual perception.

Further reading
Will Bradley, ‘Quiet Radical’, Untitled, Summer 2001, pp.4–6.
Cathy Wilkes, exhibition catalogue, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh 2011.

Andrew Wilson
September 2013
Arthur Goodwin
September 2018

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