Jesse Darling is interested in the myths that underline modernity – the constructs that are at the foundations of our religious, political, cultural and medical institutions.
Steel, a material favoured by the artist, is historically associated with the complex system of extraction and colonialism on which the West was built. In the sculptures presented here, bent and elongated pieces of steel are assembled together to conjure flimsy, fragile bodies, at odds with the notions of industrial progress and domination that the material usually evokes. They are faceless yet contorted in deep expression; while looking at them, one can’t help but attribute movement and even feelings to them. vers top seems to be enthusiastically throwing itself forward in a kneeling dance move, while the piece of railing in The Road Extinct (municipal fragment) appears to be awkwardly gesturing towards us, its open hand holding out a plastic tree like a precious offering.
Darling describes his work as ‘a bunch of visual and verbal puns slung together with magical thinking’ *. Magical thinking is the human tendency to confer agency to a person’s thoughts, actions and words in influencing the course of the world. Indeed Darling’s sculptures compel us to confer life and anthropomorphic qualities to inanimate objects, to find reassurance and companionship in them – a sacred feeling of not being quite so alone. The sculptures’ fragility becomes a reflection of our own. Through these works, Darling awakens our intuitive way of relating to the world, the “imaginary” that Glissant talks about. As Darling deconstructs the myths of modernity, their works also posit new ones. In an uncertain, broken world, the sculptures become totems of resistance against alienating narratives of exclusion and division.