‘Continue without Accepting’ is a solo show by pioneering British artist Tim Etchells, showcasing a new body of neon works which bring to mind feelings of uncertainty and instability through a series of short texts. All created in 2023, these new works will be exhibited for the first time together in this installation.
Working between performance, sculpture, drawing, video and installation, Etchells’ work employs simple and humorous approaches to language and form to convey serious ideas reflecting on global politics, contemporary identity and urban experience. His work is often site-responsive, such as his large-scale public artwork commission in 2021 on the facade of Centre Pompidou, titled ‘Qu’y a-t-il entre nous?’. Installed just before the museum closed for renovation, the intervention serves as a cue to consider the past, present and future of the museum, and its transformational presence in dialogue with the city.
Etchells’ neon pieces often draw on his broader fascinations as an artist, writer and performance maker, exploring contradictory aspects of language – the speed and clarity with which it communicates narrative, image and ideas, and at the same time its propensity to create a rich field of associations and questions.
In this new body of work Etchells combines short neon texts which evoke ambiguous uncertainties. ‘everything up in the air’ and ‘continue without accepting’ are both suggestive of an uneasy feeling; an unknown and unstable situation, and a stubborn persistence in light of acceptance. Further to this, a perplexing narrative scenario is present alongside the works in ‘most of them are ghosts, the rest are premonitions’. The eerie sentence similarly creates unease and tension whilst engaging with the paranormal idea of ghosts being a common occurrence.
On the longer wall in the space, a series of smaller neons tease out multiple sculptural possibilities from the single word ‘problem’. Throughout the show Etchells’ language works explore a dynamic relation between context, form, and content; ‘everything up in the air’ is installed close to the ceiling as if to enact its linguistic proposition, whilst the ‘problem’ pieces spell out the word in reverse, upside down or in increasingly dysfunctional arrangements.
Through simple phrases, Etchells strives to create miniature narratives, moments of confusion, awkwardness, reflection and intimacy in the gallery and courtyard spaces. Encountering the neon text works, the viewer becomes implicated in a situation that’s not fully revealed, or a linguistic formulation that generates confusion or tension. As often in Etchells’ work, in the neons the missing parts of the picture are as important as the elements that are present. Invoking a story, or projecting an idea out-of-context, the work invites us in, but into what exactly we can’t be sure.
Alongside the exhibition a book launch event will mark the arrival of ‘Let’s Pretend None of This Ever Happened’ (Spector, 2023) a new 240 page monograph investigating Etchells’ longstanding sculptural practice with neon, LED and other media in public and gallery space.
Tim Etchells (b. 1962, Stevenage, UK) lives and works between London and Sheffield. His work has been presented internationally with solo exhibitions at galleries and museums including: TATE Modern, London, UK; Kunstverein Braunschweig, DE; Bloomberg SPACE, London, UK; Plymouth Arts Centre, Plymouth, UK; Jakopič Gallery, Ljubljana, SI; Bunkier Sztuki, Krakow, PL; Gasworks, London, UK; and Künstlerhaus Bremen, Bremen, DE. Solo fair presentations include: Frieze Sculpture (2018 and 2022), London, UK; Performance Exchange, London, UK (2021); Dallas Art Fair, Dallas, US (2016); and Perf4m ARTISSIMA, Turin, Italy (2016). His collaboration with violinist Aisha Orazbayeva ‘Seeping Through (Decouverte)’ was performed at FIAC, Palais De Decouverte, Paris (2016).
Etchells’ work was included in: Folkestone Triennial 2014, Folkestone, UK; Gotenburg International Biennale 2011, SE; Manifesta 7, Rovereto, IT. Further group exhibitions and performance programmes at galleries and museums internationally, include: Centre Pompidou, Paris, FR; Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, DE; Kunsthalle Wein, Vienna, AT; Somerset House, London, UK; Ebensperger Rhomberg, Berlin, DE; Heidelberger Kunstverein, Heidelberg, DE; Kunsthalle Mainz, Mainz, DE; The Showroom, London, UK; The Grundy, Blackpool, UK; Turner Contemporary, Margate, UK; Compton Verney, Warwickshire, UK; Cubitt Gallery, London, UK; Hayward Gallery, London, UK; Arnolfini, Bristol, UK; Württembergischer, Kunstverein Stuttgart, DE; Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, Norwich, UK; MATTATOIO, Rome, IT; Kestner Gesellschaft, Hanover, DE; The Auxiliary, Middlesborough, UK.
Etchells has concurrently led the performance group Forced Entertainment, based in Sheffield since its inception in 1984. Forced Entertainment are widely considered to be one of the greatest British theatrical exports of the past 30 years, credited with producing some of the most innovative and challenging theatre of the era to great acclaim throughout the world. In 2016, Etchells was awarded the Spalding Gray Award well as the International Ibsen Award for his work with Forced Entertainment.
Current/forthcoming exhibitions include ‘The Weight of Words’ at Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, UK.