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Olivia Bax

Off Grid

Mark Tanner Sculpture Award Show:

Exhibition: 10 September – 24 October 2020

Standpoint presented a solo exhibition of new work by Olivia Bax, winner of the Mark Tanner Sculpture Award 2019/20.

Bax is known for using materials such as steel, chicken wire and a generated paper pulp, consisting of discarded newspapers and castaway household paint. She is guided by an interest in the process and physicality of construction. This is evident in the material she employs and the visual language and form of her sculptures. The texture speaks of the work’s history, revealing the process of forming the works.

‘Off Grid’ consists of large-scale floor, hanging and wall-based sculptures. Each individual section has been drawn, formed and dressed in order to play a unique part in the series.

On entry to Standpoint, Kingpin, Bax’s largest and most ambitious sculpture to date, confronts the viewer. A horizontal plane is pitted with holes, which dissolve into generous cavities or erupt into funnels. An irregular bulbous shape appears to be mutating. Bars feed into tubes, parts pivot, and fragments rest. Handles have been added for assistance and bright yellow vertical stands offer needed reinforcement. Traversing the varying levels of the gallery, Kingpin challenges the idea of a self-contained, free standing sculpture. Its limits have been considered. Its boundaries tested.

The yellow supports resonate with the sturdy yellow Rollers. Unlike Kingpin, these works are fluid, independent and self-sufficient. Fabricated at a time when the world was at a standstill - in a quiet, unhurried environment, a single person cut, rolled and welded the aluminium into place. Rollers also have a functional role within the exhibition; they offer a chance to sit, contemplate and look.

Portal takes advantage by finding a place out of reach. Unconstrained, it hangs confidently on oversized brackets, occupying an in-between space. Evoking ideas on dependence and balance, all functional parts are displayed unequivocally - a process characteristic of the artist.

Grille (landscape) and Grille (portrait) occupy the far end of the gallery. Their framework is reminiscent of ornamental European architecture. However instead of opulent decorative features, there is an emergence of awkward growths, pockets and tunnels woven in between the grid. Bax considers grilles as a non-space, a window to somewhere else, which becomes defined when filled. From the outside the grille is defensive. From inside it is generous. This year we have a new understanding of containment.

Contemplating the exhibition’s title, Bax explains, “It is a treat to go off grid. There is no phone signal. Incoming calls are diverted to an auto-response. When signal returns and auto-response is switched off, expectations rise. Off grid is uncompromising and unfamiliar but carries a sense of optimism.”

The MTSA is one of the most significant awards for emerging UK artists working in the field of sculpture. It seeks to reward outstanding and innovative practice, with a particular interest in work that demonstrates a commitment to process, or sensitivity to material. Bax was selected from 240 applicants from across the UK, by a panel comprising: Simon Wallis OBE, Director, The Hepworth Wakefield; Rebecca Scott, artist and Mark Tanner Trust; Emma Kelly, Standpoint; and Anna Reading, winner of the MTSA 2018/19.

‘Off Grid’ will travel the UK as part of the MTSA’s National Touring Programme. The exhibition will tour to Cross Lane Projects, Kendal from 31 October -12 December 2020, and Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens, Penzance, in Spring 2021.

Olivia Bax (b. 1988, Singapore) lives and works in London. She studied BA Fine Art at Byam Shaw School of Art, London (2007-2010) and MFA Sculpture at Slade School of Fine Art, London (2014-2016). Recent solo exhibitions include: Chute, Ribot Gallery, Milan (2019/20); Roost, Lily Brooke Gallery, London (2018); at large, VO Curations, 93 Baker Street, London (2018); and Zest, Fold Gallery, London (2016/17). Recent group exhibitions include: Adieu to Old England, The Kids are Alright, Choi & Lager, Cologne (2019/20); PUNCH: Olivia Bax & Dominic Beattie, Linden Hall Studio, Deal, UK (2019); Harder Edge, Saatchi Gallery, London (2019); Olivia Bax | Milly Peck | Rafal Zajko, Three Works, Scarborough (2018) and A Motley Crew, Larsen Warner Gallery, Stockholm (2017).