Hobson’s Choice: Catherine Yass at Alison Jacques

2 February 2012 By
Hobson's Choice: Catherine Yass

Paul Hobson, Director of the Contemporary Art Society, recommends his favourite exhibition of the week.

13 January – 11 February 2012

Alison Jacques Gallery

16-18 Berners Street, London W1T 3LN

Tuesday – Saturday 10-6pm or by appointment


Internationally acclaimed British artist Catherine Yass was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2002 for her highly distinctive practice in which she explores the psychological and formal properties of architecture and built environments. Interested in the materiality of lens-based media, in particular the possibilities of film and photography to record and explore time and space, she typically employs strategies of reversal and inversion: overlaying a negative transparency with a positive transparency of the same image taken moments later, and realising the resultant images as lightboxes, prints and films.  A strong new body of work – commissioned by De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea and focusing on the Royal Sovereign Lighthouse set five miles out at sea off England’s south coast – is currently on show at Alison Jacques Gallery. The exhibition brings together a film, which is installed in the blacked-out space of the main gallery at a scale that fills the viewer’s optical range, and new lightboxes, which illuminate the small back gallery with an eerie deep-blue aura.  Yass’s film interrogates this remarkable maritime structure from a range of different vantage points, making for a dizzying, vertiginous experience.  You are taken on a journey high above the tower, circling the vast and eerie structure, left dangling upside-down before being plunged into the waves and floating to a watery grave only to rise again to the sunlight-speckled surface.  It is a strangely powerful and unsettling experience, borne of a disembodied, spectral viewing, and one of the artist’s best works to date.

Image: © Catherine Yass, Lighthouse (North north north west) (extract), 2011, duratrans transparency, lightbox, 129 x 103.5 x 16.5cm. Image courtesy the artist and Alison Jacques Gallery