The Tangental Zigzag at Kunstraum, London is the first solo-show in the UK of Brussels-based Canadian artist Zin Taylor. In a new series of works on paper Taylor’s thick marker zigzag lines are cut with drawings, photographs from the artist’s archive, and shapes cut from rolls of cured snake skin; a group of lamps occupy the exhibition space, their twisting forms borrowed from the coiled movement of snakes; and Taylor re-conceives Kunstraum’s front desk in plywood and paint as articulated zones of work and hospitality.
Zin Taylor: The Tangental Zigzag is the first part of Morphologies, a season of exhibitions and events themed around the artistic imagination of the foundations of language – in reference to spoken, written and visual language. Morphologies is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
Taylor sees written language as a visual form – the horizontal movement of words to produce narrative and the vertical gestures to form the letters. Taylor’s title for the show touches on the visual relationship between the movement of a snake and the letter ‘s’, which when strung together is used to represent the snake’s hiss. The zigzag – like the snake – progresses forwards through narrative space but only by a series of tangental bounds not quite directed towards its final destination.
Taylor’s works often function as thoughts or proposals, for instance speculating on the organic origin of a form (perhaps stripes and dots emerged from the earth like different species?), or trying out all the possibilities of a given object (how many forms could represent a knife, spectacles, a hand?). Each of the ‘gangs’ in The Tangental Zigzag is a proposition on an unspoken subject. Interrupting their patterned surfaces are groups of photographic images – a face which is all beard (held tightly in with a woollen hat) with only a nose pocking out; an image of a wooden zigzag which terminates in a single plastic ear. Shapes are cut out of the backing and rotated, pieces of cured snake skin are cut and pasted on the surface.
In Taylor’s works, abstract ideas take on formal qualities, an overgrown path is re-trod between object and concept. In Taylor’s ongoing project ‘The Story of Stripes and Dots’, the point and the line become stand- ins for human interactions or conceptual thought: the dot could be proposed as a point in a conversation, with the stripe as it’s narrative. The zigzag here takes on a similar status, columns of tangental movements form the narrative ground on which a series of moments of thought begin to crystallise.
Just as Taylor gives form to abstract notions, he also seeks to give voice to forms. He appears to operates as a figure in the background – directing objects, forms and words as though they have their own agency. The snake is imagined through the line which its body draws and the visualisation of its hiss moving through sound space. Similarly in The Tangental Zigzag a series of lamps take on the form of snakes, or perhaps snakes take on the form of lamps. In turn the lamps look like letters, rearing and with tongues of light, but straight backed and clearly articulated.
Courtesy Zin Taylor; Supportico Lopez, Berlin; and Jessica Bradley Gallery, Toronto. Photography by Sam Drake.