In recent years London based artist Peter Liversidge has become known for his polymathic approach to exhibition-making, inundating curators with pages of proposals which are sent via the postal network. The proposals start life on an old manual typewriter, typed at his kitchen table. Brimming with ideas for projects, performances and artworks, the proposals invite the reader into the artists mind. Since 2006 Liversidge has worked in this peculiarly generous way with institutions across Europe, including the Tate Gallery, Liverpool; The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art; the National Gallery of Finland and most recently the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London, whose summer 2013 exhibition includes 68 such proposals tailored to the theme of Utopia.
For his exhibition at Ingleby Gallery
for this years Edinburgh Art Festival, however, Liversidge has typed a single proposal: an entire exhibition stemming, unusually for Liversidge, from a single thought his fascination with a sequence of etchings by the slightly obscure Austrian Symbolist Max Klinger.
The series in question, known as Ein Handschuh, The Glove, was first published as a set of 10 etchings in 1881 and recounts the bizarre psychosexual adventures of a ladys elbow length glove, dropped on a Berlin roller skating rink and picked by the bearded figure of Klinger himself. The action that follows, in a series of dreams and nightmares, anticipates both the fetish theories of Sigmund Freud and the hallucinatory style of the Surrealists.
Klingers theme is obsession: a visual poem on the madness and mania of love, the glove a lingering symbol of the artists desire for an unidentified woman about whom he knows nothing. In Liversidges hands the emphasis shifts and the story becomes a much wider one asking questions on the obsession of creativity and the workings of artistic imagination.
Liversidges exhibition unpicks Klingers story in two parts; upstairs in Gallery I all ten of Klingers original etchings have been painstakingly remade, each one at a giant scale, so that the tiny image of the original grows to life-size, revealing all of the marks of its making. In a sense the image is a found one, borrowed and adapted, but essentially unchanged (except for scale) and as such in keeping with the thread of finding and repositioning that runs through much of Liversidges previous work. In front of each frame, as if dropped from the scene, sits a glove, hand carved from white Carrara marble, a supremely elegant twist which enhances the sense of an object that appears to have been somehow found from the original, despite the fact that of course it wasnt there before.
Downstairs, Gallery II has been transformed into a panelled room in a late 19th century style: an imagined parlour from Klingers Leipzig home that appears to contain a suite of Klingers original prints. The parlour prints are not what they first seem. On further examination they turn out to be subtly altered facsimiles of Klingers etchings made to precisely the same scale as the originals. These pieces provide a context for Liversidges larger works and become a further extension of the journey from one artists imagination to another. In Liversidges hands Klingers glove has become the self-referential evidence of the theme of obsession itself, and so a metaphor for the entire artistic process.
In the strangeness of Klingers Ein Handschuh a dropped glove is transformed into a gauntlet questioning the compulsions of the creative mind. Klinger threw it down, Peter Liversidge has picked it up.