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Review of Real/Non-Real

For one weekend only Stephanie has put together an exhibition of her own work made during a residency at the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford.

The gallery space resembles a laboratory in its whiteness and has become an environment to be experienced and explored, populated by a series of sculptures in black and white. The viewer is immediately thrown off balance by the addition of large mirrors curving around corners, distorting the space and producing disquieting reflections of the sculptures and the viewers.

Douet's interest in optics and in both the mechanics and psychology of vision is clear There are references in the work to scientific instruments, but reinvented from unlikely materials- childrens wooden blocks, blackout card, lenses and old camera parts. Some of the most successful pieces are a series of small assemblages which hint at useful objects but are at the same time nonsensical and sinister. The inclusion of the occasional hand drawn eye in these beautifully made, whimsical sculptures lends them humanity but also a strangeness which defies description. Just like in the best portraits, the eyes seem to follow you around the room. These eyes turn out to be those of scientists who have influenced the project- Max Plank, Einstein, Schroedinger.

Another element of the work is how artists have used and often appropriated optical equipment for their own ends, through photography and tools such as the camera obscura. But the work is not purely about the science of this encounter. Douet says herself that her approach is ‘more reckless than scientific’ and that this exhibition has something of a testing ground about it. The residency context is a great opportunity for this sort of approach and has kept the feel of the show playful and improvisatory.

The effect is curious- the whole exhibition looks something like a scientific experiment, but one which might never have an end point and could easily continue ad infinitum. Douet sees this body of work as just this, an experimental beginning. She wants to continue her enquiry into both the science and art of optics and it is an exploration which is set to be extremely fruitful.
12/11/2013

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