Matt Golden: House of Nguyen

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Matt Golden: House of Nguyen
Installation view of 'House of Nguyen', 2012. Courtesy the artist and Limoncello

It's ever so slightly stressful to walk amongst Matt Golden's precariously poised display of 'House of Nguyen' sculptures – three scaled-up replicas of Vietnamese balancing dragonfly toys, whose interlocking bodies form a maze of wooden tails and wings. Traditionally these are tiny, simple novelties made of bamboo, but each of Golden's insects is about the length of a car. Hovering at waist height, their noses rest on the corners of plinths, while their wings thrust forward and downwards, and their long elegant tails stretch back.

It's impossible not to imagine the crippling embarrassment of accidentally brushing the tip of a wing, most likely causing a devastating slo-mo domino effect and toppling all three dragonflies off their perches. For whilst almost brash in their rude scale, these sculptures celebrate the fine poetry of harmonious balance – the weight forward of their noses matching exactly that found in their long tails. In effect, their finesse makes the viewer feel clumsy.

In contrast to the cheap knick-knacks they mimic, Golden's sculptures have wooden veneers of cherry, white ash and walnut, gifting them a decorative antique feel and announcing their elevated status as art. The artist is well known for investigating the processes by which things – found photos, picture frames or children's trinkets – become aesthetic objects.

Here, it's the plinth, that age-old agent of artistic hierarchy that comes under scrutiny. Balancing perfectly on the edge of their pristine white columns, these works pose questions of value and worth. As visitors are forced to manoeuvre around them, objects that were originally designed for play, quickly come to intimidate, and perhaps most interestingly, arouse the overwhelmingly human desire not to lose face.


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