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Art in America

October 1st, 2006
Siobhan Liddell at CRG

By ANNA BLUME

“Liminal,” the title of Siobhan Liddell’s recent one-person exhibition, is a quality that describes both the works and the experience one had walking through this thoughtfully conceived installation. To the right of the entrance was a two-paneled collage painting titled Array (50 by 145 inches; all works 2005-06). The ground of the left panel is painted a light, almost imperceptible blue, the right ivory. Clustered at the center of each panel and radiating out over their surfaces are hundreds of small, roughly triangular, slightly bent pieces of white paper. These are painted on their obverse sides in shades of blue or, occasionally, magenta, green or yellow. Casting colored shadows onto the neutral canvases, they evoke a field of stalks or the surface of water pushed and shoved by wind.

The light tonality of this piece was countered by the darkness of the dominant work in the show, Pitch Black Ignorance, located on the back wall. This 96-by-72-inch work is covered edge-to-edge with pieces of black paper shaped similarly to those in Array. Instead of being cast with colorful shadows, however, the luscious surface reads like velvet or the scales of an amphibious skin swirling clockwise and counter-clockwise. Both works present abstraction as a process of making and seeing.

Across from Array, but more texturally linked to its black counterpart, was a series of nine smaller bisque-fired, circular, uncolored clay sculptures placed on the wall at varying heights. These mandalalike pieces, with enigmatic invented titles such as States oru or States uxa, have surfaces articulated like those of the paintings, but are in contrast more about stable form than transient light.

Somewhat apart from the rest of the work, in a corner of the gallery, Liddell constructed the nearly invisible phrase “False Sense of Security” out of 253 clear plastic pushpins. The word “false” sits at the end of one wall, with “sense of security” continuing on the wall adjacent, a placement that suggested an ambiguity of meaning, and imparted an edge–and warning–to the words. A freestanding clay sculpture, 12 inches high, placed on a nearby pedestal, shows a unicorn calmly nestled on the precipitous top of a craggy cliff, as if to embody the dual nature of the phrase. From light to dark, and safety to danger, Liddell stirs our senses in a space that she marks temporarily as secure for reflection.