The 11 artworks here all began life as everyday objects and materials – hired wooden catering tables, woolly knitwear, lengths of water-resistant fabric, slabs of Terrazzo tile. Owens has then used the tools of the artist to act on them in some way. But rather than be forever transformed by her interventions, these objects instead carry the artist’s marks while still never totally losing their original function.
Thus the two jumpers on which the individual bobbles on the wool have been painted with enamel paint, have been decorated but are still wearable (‘Portrait I’ and ‘II’, both 2011). The three catering tables (entitled ‘Mean’), each of which has been covered with lines of chalk, have become both sculpture and drawing, but at the end of the show the chalk can be washed off and the tables returned to the hire shop. The waterproof fabric has had watercolour paint applied to it, but its repellent properties have caused the paint to bead on the fabric’s surface, like a painted abstract or a representation of raindrops on a window.
The resulting works – neither pure readymades nor pure, original artworks – pleasingly push the authority of the artist’s mark and the artwork itself up against the properties and function of the materials. Owens’s interest seems to be at the tipping point between these two things, an interest that is also reflected in her choice of accompanying work for the basement space. In this short video by Kim Coleman and Jenny Hogarth, titled ‘Act Natural (Mineral Water)’, the water of the title is the subject of the film but at the same time its properties are also used to create it.