C I T H R A is the first solo exhibition in London by Glasgow-based artist Lauren Gault. Experimenting with unorthodox techniques and manufacturing processes, her work explores the often imperceptible changes that occur all around us, from microscopic events to geological time-scales, and confronts the ethical, political and emotional implications of human interactions with the environment.
In Gault’s sculptures, materials as diverse as polished horn, blown glass, pumped air, light, water, synthetic polymers or agricultural milk powder are transformed through processes that involve pressure, tension and release. Her work evokes fleeting encounters between radically different materialities and opens up a space for objects to communicate and resonate with one another.
The exhibition follows on from Gault’s residency at Gasworks during the spring of 2019, in which the artist researched the writings of Irish-born female explorer, inventor and self-educated scientist Martha Craig (born 1866), digging into the manuscripts and rare editions of her visionary lectures on physics.
A relative of the artist, Martha Craig published a forgotten science-fiction novel, The Men of Mars in 1907, under a mysterious pen name, ‘Mithra’. This became the point of departure for Gault’s exhibition, C I T H R A —its title an allusion to the early Zoroastrian term for ‘seed’, ‘species’ and ‘livestock’.
Intimately bound to the artist’s rural upbringing in Northern Ireland, Gault’s new body of work reflects on the changing shape of agriculture, considering the close interdependencies between wildness and domestication. In the main gallery, two leaping dog sculptures turn their backs to the viewer. A closer examination of the two reveal that one is approximately 20% smaller than the other, a size reduction that corresponds to the anatomical change experienced by canines as they shift from wild to domesticated species.
Behind these sculptures, a large-scale installation references Mithras, an ancient god most often depicted cutting a bull’s throat and feeding its blood to a dog —an image evoked by Martha Craig’s pen name, whose powerful symbolism reverberates across the exhibition.
Made from Lycra fabric, the translucent membrane of Gault’s installation stretches over a series of unidentified objects that appear to emerge from inside a womb perforated by a bolus gun, a husbandry tool designed for the oral administration of slow-release mineral supplements to sheep and cattle.
An amber-tinged halo is projected onto the adjacent wall, resulting from a light intervention in which Gault fitted four spotlights with thin polished horn, one of the earliest technologies for the fabrication of lanterns. On the gallery floor, the artist has created a miniature dreamscape that suggests a world after devastation in which sinking cattle and architectural ruins drift in a wasteland of agricultural products.
In the second gallery, a cast hoof-print of an auroch, an extinct species of wild cattle, emerges from the wall. Above, a series of crystal-clear acrylic water tanks have been vacuum-formed into enigmatic shapes and refract the gallery’s lighting, employing a mass-production technology to recreate a natural occurrence in the space.
An ambient soundscape developed together with composer Richy Carey emanates from the gallery’s ventilation system, inducing an eerie mood that weaves together the different components of C I T H R A. It features field recordings of human and animal interventions in the environment, including piezoelectric crystal ignitions, scrimshaws, bull growls and the movement of water.
C I T H R A is commissioned and produced by Gasworks. Lauren Gault is the fourth artist to take part in the Freelands Gasworks Partnership, a programme for emerging artists based outside of London. Made possible thanks to the Freelands Foundation, the programme combines a three-month residency with a solo exhibition at Gasworks. In late 2020, the exhibition will travel to The Tetley in Leeds.The previous participants were Jamie Crewe, Rachal Bradley and Libita Sibungu.
Gasworks commissions are supported by Catherine Petitgas and Gasworks Exhibitions Supporters.
Lauren Gault is a Glasgow-based artist born in Belfast. She graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee. Recent solo exhibitions include: Kantine, Brussels; The Workbench, Milan; Grand Union, Birmingham (all 2019); CCA Derry~Londonderry (2018); Prairie Underground, Seattle (2017); Rinomina, Paris (2016). Her work has been featured at Glasgow International (with Sarah Rose, 2018); ØY Festival, Papa Westray, Orkney; Baltic 39, Newcastle (all 2017); Glasgow International (2016); Frutta, Rome; Jupiter Artland, Edinburgh; CCA Glasgow (all 2015); SALTS, Basel (2014).