Wood works - Angus McCrum: Curated by Kerrin Hille

6 October 2022
With the six wall-based objects in this exhibition, Angus McCrum tells a different story. He made these works using pieces of wood with previous lives. Pieces from broken objects, discarded, forgotten, and deemed unusable. Angus McCrum reclaims their terminal state, showing that even a final existence is always transitory.  And continues the story where it has been declared over, teaching me that wood can be taken for what it is and go beyond its potential to work for you.
Wood “works”. By this, I mean: it breathes, expands and contracts, responding to the humidity around it. Unlike stone or metal, wood will not rest when made into an object, but will behave on its own terms - sometimes in unruly ways, when it warps and makes smooth surfaces uneven. I probably learned this from a grandfather sharing a pearl of random wisdom, but it stayed with me: when processing wood, its changing form can fuse joins to strengthen an object, or even withstand earthquakes, and wood can be made to work for you. 
 
Thinking further, I realise that this potential of wood – the possibility to be used and turned into something – arises early on and will evolve with time: Water a seed to wake it and its underwritten mission to grow into a tree. It will sprout, then shoot upwards, exploring this still precarious capacity. It has to defy the threat of wilting, of being trampled or eaten to reach it. But with steady growth, its vulnerability decreases. Its fate is narrowed down. Finally, as a tree, the former seed can bear fruit and will provide shade, shelter, and oxygen. Used for wood, the tree achieves a different potential. New futures emerge; it can become a pillar or a log cabin, keeping the ascending shape it grew into. The more processed the wood, however, the more determined its future: A board cannot become a figurehead without struggle. Pre-fabricated parts are a map to an object. As such, the future of this piece of wood is finally determined. 
 
But when the object breaks, it can no longer fulfil its potential. It doesn’t matter anymore that its ability to work has been taken into consideration. The uncertainty of its past returns. Certainly, this wood can be salvaged with specialised care, but a terminally broken object - an object in the possession of someone who can’t, or won’t repair it – is doomed. It becomes scraps. Waste. This wood is no longer capable of working for its assigned purpose. 
 
With the six wall-based objects in this exhibition, Angus McCrum tells a different story. He made these works using pieces of wood with previous lives. Pieces from broken objects, discarded, forgotten, and deemed unusable. Angus McCrum reclaims their terminal state, showing that even a final existence is always transitory.  And continues the story where it has been declared over, teaching me that wood can be taken for what it is and go beyond its potential to work for you.
 
This lesson begins with NEST, which contains the legs of a chair, previously broken and abandoned. Now, they frame a small, narrow board that was found covered in nails and paint on the edge of a park. Turned over, there is a drawing on its back in green marker, showing that the board has been considered before for another purpose, but the child who likely started the drawing didn’t go further than that. The drawing remains, a secret on the back.
 
Made from intentionally encountered materials that others have passed by, Angus McCrum considers and respects the history and no longer fulfillable uses anew every time. But he goes further than that, asking what qualities arise beyond their utility value. In quick, but not hurried decisions, he arranges these wooden parts in new constellations with other found, non-wooden parts. Elevating their state altogether. Working with wood allows for different wooden futures and space for new growth. 
 
In EVENING START a sheet of black rubber covers a different wooden board. Its grain is peeking through the cuts and folds, the rectangular holes just like the empty window frames of the factory where the material was found. These pieces are rooted in landscape, reflecting their provenance. They aren’t made to be anything they can‘t.

A clipping from a magazine depicting the hand of a saint catches the gaze in WAX SEAL - a relic extended beyond its catholic meaning. The red dots are reminiscent of the wax seals on letters of indulgence. It remains open what they atone for; nothing is written on the piece of canvas that might be covering something underneath. The oil has now seeped into the wood - or has the wood absorbed it to seal the connection?
 
The pieces in this exhibition stand autonomously but are always related. A working surface for one object becomes another, turning them into a sequence. It is like going on a walk where works emerge along the way, mapping out the path that is being found by revisiting the past of objects. 
 
The religious references in one piece extend to the next. SHEER CLIFF: A soundtrack on CD found on the street. It still works. The inlet of the case is now partially covered by a magazine clipping, giving the image a new, morbid yet funny reading amid brushstrokes and scribbles. They function like a pinboard, a shop window covered in pamphlets where coincidental traces are rearranged, or even a school desk layered with a patina of historic scribbles.
 
HASSOCK is made of another piece of wood covered in Tyvek. Once more, window-like cut-outs allow it to be visible to the viewer. Tyvek is an artificial building material that lets moisture and air out but not in and if you look up, you might be able to see nests, where birds have made use of the unique qualities of the fabric, instinctively recycling in appreciation of the qualities of the scraps they have found. 
 
Using materials from one piece to revive another is a healing gesture. The nails that a board was covered in will be used again. Oil and wood shavings will later dress another board, attached with PVA. And I learn that wood not only can be made to work for you, but also, if you allow yourself to work with the wood, that it will reveal potential beyond its finite assignment. Angus McCrum lets the wood speak for itself. 
 
It ends with a full stop. GREEN DRAUGHT is a point to breathe, and to look, leaning over the concrete balcony railing. It’s spring again. Berlin is most beautiful in summer, they say, but nothing beats this spring view. It is mounted on a structure, lap joints glued to plywood, reminding us that it is not a painting. The wood holds the view, just like the balcony holds the viewer. 
 

Angus McCrum was born in Portsmouth in 1987, studied at Camberwell College of Art and is based in Berlin. Solo and duo-exhibitions include: Bleigießen, 17 Addington Road, Margate, 2019; Fallow (with Emii Alrai), The Rectory Projects, London, 2019; Studio 2 (with Jon Kipps), Assembly Point Studios, London, 2019; and The Sorrows, Intercession Gallery, Northampton, 2017. Group shows include: Wish Lush, Kravitz Contemporary, London, 2022; Watching Weeds, 15-19 Parkhouse street, London, 2022; Bathing Nervous Limbs, Arusha Gallery, Edinburgh, 2021; Off Trail, AIR Gallery, Manchester, 2021; Of Noise, Slow Space, Fieldworks, London, 2020; Used For Glue, Assembly Point Studios, London, 2019; Odds, TOMA Project Space, Southend-on-Sea, 2019; How small a thought, hosted by Anne Ryan & Andrew Child, Margate, 2019; Lunar Gardening, Kingsgate Project Space, London, 2019; Gobbledygook, The Kennington Residency, London, 2019.