Featuring shiny balls and woven twigs covered in hanging, coloured fronds, this new exhibition of sculptures by Scottish-born artist Mhairi Vari has more than a hint of Christmas about it. That may be more by coincidence than by design, however, as the unifying theme behind these four sculptural arrangements is that they all relate to the complex ways in which data and statistics are collected and connected. Like her previous works, which have featured substances including tea, food dye and nail varnish, Vari’s choice of materials also adheres to a theme, in that they all have, or once had, a non-art purpose. It’s a strategy that could tip into folk art territory but Vari stays on the right side of the fine art/folk art divide.
Gazing balls (those mirrored spheres used as garden ornaments) and coloured, hot-melt glue (used to fix flowers in wreaths) are employed in two works. For ‘Repeater’, Vari has stuck together an abstract arrangement of shiny spheres (from ball bearing up to beach ball size), which rests on the floor in a hardened pool of marbled green, red and blue adhesive. The work’s title refers to a mechanism that amplifies internet signals, a function which is simply but effectively reflected – in all senses of the word – as one walks round it, looking at different scaled versions of one’s own image.
In ‘Hub (John Street)’, a 78cm-high gazing ball sits in the centre of a closed, nest-like arrangement of small branches, again held together by hot blobs of coloured glue, each of which has drooped down and spooled on the floor in thin strings as it cools. Colonising the old desk on which it sits, ‘Hub’ might be perceived as a slightly unsettling variation on the Christmas tree, or more appropriately an analogue representation of the tangled strands of digital information that ping around the internet.