Suddenly After a Long Silence by Elisabeth Mahoney

Suddenly After a Long Silence by Elisabeth Mahoney
The Guardian, Thursday 13 September 2007


Artist Anthony Shapland is a terrific people-watcher. The most affecting material in this solo exhibition of video works comes when he turns his gaze to individuals in odd nooks and crannies of life. While bigger ideas hover - there is a recurrent interest in pitting real scenarios against restagings, for example - the pleasure here is in seeing the artist as a quirky anthropologist.
This is most obviously the case in Nocturne ii, in which footage from a CCTV camera over a city-centre doorway records how passersby use the space during the night. Mostly, men urinate while we hear intriguing snippets of conversations (`I`m not a prude, but the last thing I want... `). We also see a man begging rather ineffectively, stopping to blow raspberries at his dog when he thinks nobody is looking. It is a nocturnal world of small, repeated, and quickly forgotten actions. A seagull pecks at a discarded chip carton. Another man unzips his fly.
Similarly in A Setting, the night is Shapland`s starting point. Here, though, it is the transition from dusk to darkness that he explores, as seen by an elderly lone figure in a caravan. It is a slow, meditative film, whose pace you have to adjust to as if readying yourself, on the beanbags on the gallery floor, for the still of night. Again, it is the human story as much as the imaginative possibilities of dusk that draws you in: who is this figure, you wonder, alone in the darkness in the twilight of his life? Throughout the exhibition, Shapland is attracted to the poetic spaces that exist between night and day, light and dark, real and fake. His strength, though, is giving these ideas an engrossingly human dimension.