There's an excitement that comes with discovery. The buzz of being the first to hear a new song or stumble upon an unknown designer at an off-schedule fashion show, or escape to a remote, seemingly untrodden getaway. The excitement comes in two waves: initially in the locating or unearthing of the discovery and subsequently in the sharing of it.
There is a discovery that is arguably greater in excitement, however, than any of the above. It is not the discovery of some previously unknown or unseen thing, but rather the discovery of seeing something habitual- some daily trifle, some recurrent image- in a new way. This discovery is greater than finding something novel because it offers us hope that we can escape from tedium by investing familiar objects and images with new meaning and new insights.
It's a feeling that is very much alive at 'Food for the poor daddy not home from work yet', artist Justin Eagle's current show at Vitrine, Bermondsey Street.
For the crowds that have descended on the south London gallery, the show doesn't mark the discovery of a complete unknown. On the contrary, Eagle, a Royal College of Art graduate and former artist in residence at The Florence Trust, has already held two solo shows in the UK and exhibited alongside the likes of Edwin Burdis and Maurizio Anzeri. The discovery in this case is instead focused on the ability of Eagle's work to offer us new ways of seeing the world.
Eagle is about ideas. He takes the signifiers of visual urban culture- cigarettes, heavy metallic chains, computerized images- and tweaks them, or toys with them, or reappropriates them completely. Eagle is adamant that he imposes no demands or expectations on the viewer, but his work asks us to consider how the products we buy, the images we consume and the way we wear our clothes have become the fabric of our cultural identity.
Whether in the geometrically patterned cigarettes of the 'Private blend' series, the thick chains portrayed in 'Figaro' and 'Curb', the advertisements for kitsch kitchens that feature in 'French ambience in London', or the civic sculptures and Sky television idents that elsewhere inform his work, Eagle looks to the fabric of daily existence and to what Colin Perry terms "symbols whose familiarity grants them a sort of invisibility in everyday life" and in doing so, makes them visible.
In his latest exhibition, Eagle pushes this idea further by presenting a selection of large-scale digitally printed images of objects that have been altered to enable them to contain or hold other practical items. In one image, a dog's spine becomes a vessel for a CD rack, in another a penny-farthing is reimagined as a plant-pot holder. The images are suspended from the ceiling to create an interruption to the gallery's architecture, bearing down like artwork on a billboard.
The mechanics of the exhibition shift the way in which the viewer moves around the space and offers a dual aspect: confronting us with the large images as we enter the gallery and the flat blue visual plane of the blue backed paper as we leave. The way we encounter the work feels odd, as do the illogical pairings portrayed in the images. The objects and images that Eagle presents are strange new versions of themselves. Neurotic, confused, and yet desirable, they call upon the viewer to decipher their new coordinates. Despite their absurdity, Eagle's fashionings have the potential to be realized sculpturally and a 3 dimensional CD dog rack produced on an automated wire bending machine accompanies the show.
The significance of Eagle's work lies in its potential to introduce, in a real and tangible way, new ways of understanding, consuming and enjoying the everyday; a discovery which remains with the viewer long after they have left the gallery.