Sarah Kent

Excerpt from an introduction to the catalogue for the Geomerty of Rage exhibition

"We're fishing beside nuclear power stations and farming the slopes of Krakatoa. 'War propaganda is always disguised as peace propaganda'." Conrad Atkinson 1

...Precision, of the industrial designer rather than the draughtsman, is also a key feature of Denis Masi's tableaux - self-contained environments that employ stainless steel, glass and mirror to create a chilling sense of order and perfection similar in mood to Deanna Petherbridge's drawings. Anxiety, fear and a sense of impotence pervade scenes that are spotlight as though to allow constant surveillance, yet no immediate danger is identifiable.

Masi's subject is not death or apocalypse, so much as the quality of life in a modern state where policing and vigilance have become sophisticated enough to guarantee control. As in Orwell's London, Masi's environments offer no opportunity for privacy - there is no escape from scuntiny. Dramatic tension is created through the subtending of opposites - desolate isolation and enforced contact; highly charged subject matter treated with clinical detachment; intimate glimpses revealed in the gleaming and dispassionate surfaces of mirrors; chic environments that offer no comfort; and dead animals stuffed in life-like poses to suggest the half-life of suspended will and freedom.

Under these pressures, the inhabitants of Arena - laboratory rats - turn against each other. Life is a merciless battle to the death, which offers no respite and in which the victor devours the vanquished. Arena offers a horrifyingly stark analogy of the limitations of contemporary metropolitan experience. To some, observes Saul Bellow, daily life is a torture. "Dead animals, he learned, were preserved in many poisons and that, he said was how he felt about being an employee - a toxic condition." 14

Each sculpture addresses a different but allied set of issues. The alarm of the two monkeys in Barrier is apparently caused by a group of beautifully crafted geometric forms - shining cones and pyramids of chrome, copper, porcelain and terra cotta, that demonstrate levels of skill, knowledge and culture beyond their grasp. The sculpture seems to allude to issues of class, status and privilege. By exclusion from knowledge and action, the monkey's ignorance, inferiority and consequent vulnerability are maintained.

Access to information is becoming a vital moral and political issue. As merciless cuts make higher education a matter of privilege rather than of right, a greater proportion of the population is refused access to learning and the accompanying advantages - in our class-ridden society mental barriers are as strong as physical ones.

The Theatre of Melancholy - Page 1