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The personal. It’s a territory artists are generally encouraged to avoid and yet the tone of Matthew Sawyer’s sculptures, photo-works and paintings is one of a day spent in the life of another person’s head, as he grapples with the point of existence and documents it as art. While there is always the suspicion of a ruse to Sawyer’s interventions, he uses the umbrella title ‘documentary’ to describe the different series here, a word that could apply as much to the idea of observing life as it does to the formal frameworks of other makers. Each piece is designed with an iconic mode of presentation in mind, recalling such antecedents as John Baldessari, Chris Burden and Sophie Calle.
The gallery appears the site of a mini art-historical rebellion, littered with a cast of porcelain period figures whose decorative wellbeing has been compromised by fleshy clay adornments. The tragi-comic worlds of Fischli and Weiss, David Shrigley, and Ansel Krut are all present, but in a mercurial sense.
Examples of Sawyer taking this road-less-logical include a celebration of his birthday that involved posting a pingpong ball, covered in key words of particular significance, through a random letterbox, or else making a lunchtime pal of a blackbird, as well as returning a hoodie to Gap with added woolly mammoth hair hand-stitched inside. Yet, however elegant or clever these works might appear, the real gem here is Sawyer’s rich interior world, which, at its best, simply, brilliantly, does not fit.