Symbols were initially produced in 2008 as laser-jet prints on 80gsm copier paper, 42x59.4cm. A collection of Symbols were shown as as part of the work Cabin Tactics a commission for North Cabin, a temporary off-site space curated by Katherine Daley-Yates in Bristol. Please see below for a review by Colin Glen for a-n September 2008.
In 2011 Symbols was re-produced as archival giclée prints on paper, editions of 5, framed in Oak for The Potential for Windows and Scale as part of Contemporary Art Society’s Rotate programme.
Sovay Berriman Cabin Tactics, northcabin, Bristol, 31st May – 27th June 2008
By Colin Glen
For the first in the series of four northcabin commissions, Sovay Berriman pastes over the windows of the former operating cabin of Redcliffe Bridge with a distinctive chart-like formation of white flyposters which bear only the minimal inscriptions of black and white delineations. Reminiscent of the geometrical abstraction of early Modernism, the ciphers manifest the artist’s interest in symbols as a covert esoteric language used, for instance, as a means of communication in evading oppressive authority or in order to identify other members of a secret society. Yet in the context of the thoroughfare of the bridge the elliptical halo shape or the black point held at the corner of a right angle by a fine thread-like line, the interpretation of the marks requires a more poetic reading of the work and the location.
The semi-circular North Cabin room contains defunct bridge operating equipment and is inaccessible to visitors, viewable only through the bridge-side windows which Berriman has covered. On the opposite side of the bridge is the South Cabin which continues to operate and in being the semi-circular mirror image of the North Cabin acts as the perfect foil to the project in its ‘site responsive’ function intended by curator Katherine Daley – Yates. In fact the whole location takes on the graphic quality of Berriman’s illustrations, for, imagined from above, the line of the road bisects the two halves of the cabin in the Suprematist manner of a line bisecting a circle. The piece is resonant of the collaborative nature of the northcabin project, the product of the three-way relationship developed over time between curator, artist and place, a quality that Daley-Yates’ draws from her connection with the Situations programme, which continues to act as an influential model for activating poetic encounters with place beyond the prescriptive trammels of a purist site-specificity. Indeed, inducing the allusive associations which was so evocative of the ‘Thinking of the Outside’ commissions is here emphasised further by the delicacy of conceptual touch of ‘Cabin Tactics’. The neat paradox is that it is precisely the inaccessibility to the interior of the cabin, combined with its obfuscation by Berriman’s flyposters, which allows subjectivity to flourish by engaging the imagination of the viewer, and standing in direct counterpoise to ‘accessibility’ agendas whose ‘pasted on’ artworks patronise both artist and audience.
a-n, September 2008
All work copyright the artist