Darren Wardle's new series of abandoned mattress paintings challenge us to consider these abject objects, often seen randomly discarded in awkward and contorted arrangements, as somehow noble and monumental. Cumbersome yet essential items normally con ned to the domestic realm, they take on ungainly characteristics once unceremoniously cast out into the public sphere for all to see. Mattresses are evocative objects: repositories of dreams, rest and sites of intimacy. They relate to the body, to architecture and reveal very personal histories as they circulate through urban space on their way to the dump. And, like the stretched canvas' they're painted on, once out on the street they can also serve as temporary supports for expressive painterly intervention. He's drawn to the idea that paint is a protagonist in the process of ruination and decay that these works address. By conflating the Romantic tropes of 19th Century ruin specialists, like Casper David Friedrich, with poured paint, smooth gradient blends and gritty Realism, Wardle's mattresses idealize these wasted monolithic forms elevating them to the sublime.
The rectangular format of the canvas formally corresponds to the dimensions of the mattress and the architectural spaces they were designed to fit within. The dimensions of Monument 2017 were based on the measurements of the IKEA bed in Wardle's residential studio in Leipzig so that the mattress depicted approximates the actual size of a mattress leaning against a wall.Some resemble landscapes or natural forms, almost human in some instances, as if these mattresses were still imprinted with a type of memory of the bodies they were once supporting. Whilst ostensibly representational, these works incorporate more abstracted qualities of form, pattern and repetition and colour as much as they depend upon elaborate articulations of space.
All of these paintings are based on digital collages of mattresses I've photographed in Melbourne, New York, Berlin and Leipzig. An unexpected result for me since commencing this new series of work has been the enthusiastic input of others aware of what I'm doing. I'm regularly sent smart-phone photographs of discarded mattresses in strange arrangements and surprising places, along with details of where they were seen and what they looked like indicating spontaneous personal connections between the object and viewer. Once the eyes are attuned suddenly they're all around us!
Continuing his Mattress his interest in ruins, Wardle's mattress series present us with what has been disgorged into the open by the decaying architectural interiors of his previous work.
We are enveloped in ruination. Empires decline, structures decay and landscapes fall into ruin, along with our bodies. Decay and ruination are inexorable and undaunted by the technological obstacles of humankind; they make no distinction between humankind and nature. Humans are united with the natural law of ruin. It is hubris to deny this and yet so much time and effort is spent doing just that. The technology designed to slow the process of decay makes us prone to technologically aided destruction and so reassures nature that things are as they should be. The great fortress of civilization longs for nothing more than to be destroyed, to become ruins.
(Wardle, MFA Thesis excerpt, 2014)
Press release courtesy This Is No Fantasy dianne tanzer + nicola stein.