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Photograph courtesy of the author. 

Charlotte Thrane, Big Body (London), 2024, Mattresses, cushions, pigments and supports, Di

12 March 2024

A Walk Through Cob Gallery's Construct With Curator Brooke Wilson  


“I’ve always had a profound interest in space”, curator and writer Brooke Wilson tells me. “I’m not entirely sure where this fascination stems from, but it’s something I’m constantly returning to.” The interplay between object and environment runs throughout her latest curatorial project, Construct, a group exhibition currently on show at Camden’s Cob Gallery. The seven participating artists interrogate the value of material, examining how an object’s meaning can change depending on the setting in which it is placed.

Charlotte Thrane, Big Body (London), 2024, Mattresses, cushions, pigments and supports, Di

Brooke’s curatorial vision is clear, and Cob Gallery lends itself to it. “In a white cube, you can do a lot with the space”, she tells me as we look at Charlotte Thrane’s Big Body, which is made up of thirty-odd mattresses pushed into a hollow beneath a skylight and against a wall. She explains that “a lot of Charlotte’s practice is about pressure, really soft material that has been crammed into a defined space.” The work challenges the viewer’s predetermined notion of where a mattress should be and why. It is also site-specific, I’m told, and whilst the piece has previously been exhibited in various galleries, “the layout changes depending on the space offered.” Adjacent to Big Body is Sylvie-Hayes Wallace’s Cage (Head) #1, in which the artist has stuffed personal receipts, emails, and notes into a glass cage the size of her head. In both pieces the sight of malleable material being boxed in is jarring, with the works denied a fluidity we might expect.


Standing outside Cob Gallery, you’re usually able to peer down through the skylight into one of the rooms. For this show, the glass is entirely blocked by Thrane’s work. “I love exhibitions where the gallery space is challenged”, Brooke shares, “and this can be with very drastic or very subtle interventions.” Pushed up against the window, the mattresses convey a taunting message of domestic comfort to the passerby who, on the evening the exhibition opens, is getting soaked by February rain. 

Emma Adler, Construct, 2024, Installation view © the artist courtesy of Cob Gallery .jpg

This theme of the domestic, and in turn a dialogue between interior and exterior, seeps through the exhibition. Brooke tells me that as the show has come together, she’s started to realise in just how many ways the works can be grouped thematically. We look at Softshell by conceptual artist Emma Adler, which is composed of two sets of facing bathroom sinks displayed on the wall. Making “reference to art historical ideas of the readymade”, the artist has recontextualised the domestic object as art by placing it within the white cube. Indeed, wrapped in reflective vinyl, the bathroom sinks somehow manage to obtain a painterly quality. Opposite, Bobby Dowler combines accumulated fabric offcuts of other artists’ works, forming new compositions that immediately become artworks in their own right. He resists confining them to this prescribed notion, however, instead choosing to name them the very literal Painting-Object_01. 

Dux Pacifico, Metropolitics, 2022, Felt and rebar, 238 x 130 x 103 cm © the artist courte

I ask Brooke how the show came about. “It’s been a collaborative process”, she tells me. “It was originally informed by an interview I did with Anne [Tallentire, one of the participating artists], combined with a blend of research into the new artists I wished to work with and prior knowledge of those I had previously collaborated with.” I’m interested, as she says this, by the alignment between her writing and her curation, given that similar concepts seem to underpin both disciplines. Brooke completed a Postgraduate degree in writing at the Royal College of Art last year. Prior to this- she studied Fine Art, gaining a “great affinity to minimalism and conceptual art.”


“With both writing and curation- there is a translation of ideas involved. I think in this show, both elements came together quite organically.” Brooke continues, “In this exhibition, I’d actually say it was the artists that informed its central concepts. I feel very lucky to have spent so much time with them, the whole show stemmed from the ideas they continue to interrogate within their practices.” 

Protection, I learn, forms one of these central concepts. As we head downstairs, Brooke points me to the work of Dux Pacifico, whose pieces started out as found urban objects which have seen minor intervention since. Painted roller shutters in No Ones Business are to “stop people from coming in when a shop is closed”, and the adjacent Metropolis, “is a transport blanket, its purpose is to take the brunt of its surroundings.”

The show includes a number of works that incorporate objects initially designed for protection. Parallel themes run through Anne Tallentire’s art; she uses pallets as canvases, originally found on London streets and similarly intended for the transportation of goods. I’m also reminded of Charlotte Thrane’s mattresses in the corner, intended for comfort and now stuffed into an alcove as art. “The show has quite a material quality, these works are all very tactile.” Brooke later considers, “In many ways, the space has become a material in its own right, and one I work with actively throughout the exhibition.”

Ali Glover, Construct, 2024, Installation view © the artist courtesy of Cob Gallery (1).jp

The final room we enter considers the exhibition’s overarching themes before turning them on their head. I suddenly find myself assuming the role of the displaced object, looking down at square ceiling panels that I feel I should be gazing up at. Held up by exposed suspension cables, yet only just raised above the floor, Ali Glover’s When the Seeping Starts (II) renders the viewer a voyeur as they look down at what can only be described as the wrong side of the ceiling. This is a brilliant end to a highly thought-provoking exhibition: Brooke and I have spent the last thirty minutes delving into the relationship between object, material and space, and we’re now asked to consider our own role in the equation.

Construct is on at Cob Gallery until 23 March.

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