Dave Pollock, 'Review' (The List, 21/08/2008)

This is the first time that New Zealand-born, Glasgow-educated artist Kate Davis has returned for a second exhibition within the same gallery space, and she’s eager that her latest show takes advantage of the fact. Where the original show with Sorcha Dallas, 2004’s Participant, sought to include the viewer within the work itself, Outsider is designed to turn them into passive observers.

‘Often, I like to create a response to a space and a context,’ says Davis. ‘I also like to respond to works from throughout the history of art, so I was glad that this gave me a chance to at last reply to my own body of work. When I was here four years ago, I presented a large stage in the centre of the gallery which created quite an awkward space to walk round and view the works. So the invitation was that the viewer would stand on the stage to look at the objects I had placed on another similar plinth. The idea was that they would then become an object themselves, because I’m very interested in the idea that the viewer’s relationship with the work is an act of experience.’

The stage is back in this show, but Davis says she has foregone what she calls the ‘beckoning hand’ approach of Participant. ‘I’m still looking for an act of experience,’ she says, ‘but I don’t want to entice the viewer in, I want to make it quite tough. So part of the stage stands on end like a wall, like a barrier, and the other part juts out from the actual wall.’

It’s not only the stage which excludes the viewer from the show here, or at least presents an obstacle to their engagement. Even the press release, which was sent out to accompany the show, was written as a letter from Davis to the gallery’s curator, Sorcha Dallas. This isn’t a public piece of work, but it mirrors the overall theme of the show – that the viewer, again, is not a participant in the typed conversation, but an outsider looking in.

Davis engages not just with her own past work here, but also with the hyperrealist paintings of Swiss artist Franz Gertch. Across four pencil drawings, which are in turn duplicated from photorealist images. Gertsch talks of liberating himself from emotionalism, as Davis points out, and she has placed his portraits in among her own settings. For instance, one picture lies by a car tyre, and we can also see Davis’ foot in the drawing. In this manner, she seeks to appropriate these images and infuse them with emotion once more.

And there’s one final exclusion for the outside participant in this show. Across the centre of these four Gertsch drawings runs a few words of text, which are back to front ad shown in reverse order: ‘I want everything I make to reflect my whole life’ (a quote from the artist and dancer Yvonne Rainer). ‘That’s not a statement for the audience,’ says Davis, ‘as much as it is a question to myself.’