Eva Gold

Text by Allan Gardner

In Nausea, Sartre describes the sensation of taking a step forward, and while doing so, being struck by the feeling that the ground was also stepping back from him. Since reading this in my late-teens, this has stuck with me as an encapsulation of the sensation of being briefly aware of one’s position within the world and outside of it simultaneously.

Eva Gold’s work occupies that moment where the ground steps back. Working across sculpture, video, and installation Gold creates artifacts of unreal situations. She works with the archetype as material, rendering the viewer an inter-dimensional intruder caught between reality and the artist’s fantasy. Like running your finger along the kitchen counter while James Woods burns Debbie Harry with a cigarette, feeling like they know you’re there but can’t quite see you, ignoring your presence entirely.

Eva Gold, The Last Cowboys, Ginny on Frederick, London. Photography by Stephen James. 

I first became aware of Gold’s work after her solo The Last Cowboys opened at Ginny on Frederick in London. “Cowboys, the anchor of the show, is a sculptural installation of leather-look coats made of rubber roofing membrane. At first glance, they look just like real garments, and the empty coats indicate an absence of wearer. The ephemeral sensations of sex play a key role in the work, described as a ghost lingering around us at all times. It feels like there is a secret door somewhere in that tiled room, a mass of writhing bodies hidden behind it in a sour-sweat scented state of ecstasy—but that’s only part of it. 

As we understand the coats as industrial-rubber sculptures, they become the ghost in the room. They challenge the viewer, forcing an awareness that what they are seeing is not exactly what it looks like. It becomes about the phenomenological, the idea that we could be enveloped by the coats, that they are lifeforms, arcane beings, powerful. This is key to understanding Gold’s work, the cinema she is inspired by trades on the viewer’s ability to fill in the blanks, to connect the dots, to shadow the character.

This November saw the opening of a new exhibition by Gold at Berlin’s Eigen + Art Lab titled Slow Dance. These new works focus on the state of being enthralled, what it means to get caught up in something—someone—with the looming spectre of violence in the distance.

This violence is not a threat of physical harm, but more the shattering of illusion. The slow dance is an escape, an opportunity to hold someone close to you, lay your head on their chest, ignore the world for the length of a song. In pop-culture, the slow dance has acted as the chance to make a move. It is as emblematic of closeness as it is of deceit, the archetypal prom-night virgin laying her head on the chest of her date—seen earlier talking to all his friends about how he can’t wait to fuck. Whether for better or for worse, the slow dance is a point between everything that came before and everything that will come after.

Eva Gold, Slow Dance, EIGEN + ART Lab,  courtesy the artist and EIGEN + ART Lab
images: Peter Oliver Wolff, Berlin
. Slow Dance was supported by the British Council

Among the works emblematic of Gold’s ability to fabricate evocation out of the innocuous sits the eponymous work, a coloured pencil drawing of a woman set within the shape of a convex television screen. The piece embodies a lightness, at least in part related to the choice of medium, with pencil being a means of working that is often associated with sketching privately. Pencil is reserved, unassuming and sympathetic, capable of adapting to different surfaces and situations without causing disruption. Pencils are one of the first art materials that most of us are presented with, the smell and sensation of scribbling Crayolas an early sense-memory. In Slow Dance the nude figure hangs their arms over their head, the mirror not quite angled to reflect them, equally likely to be mid-dance as in contemplation of the body and the self. For me, this pose and composition echo the relationship between the embryonic stages of art practice and the sort of physical and emotional self-discovery that happens in these early incarnations of private space. Compared with the often evocative but somewhat less sympathetic aspects of Gold’s work, Slow Dance represents a particularly intimate moment.

The beauty of Gold’s work is in her ability to bring the viewer with her. Even with few parts, everything becomes a mise en scene able to evoke a dense palette of sensations and emotions, to place the viewer within its universe but all the while reminding them that their presence is not necessary.

Allan Gardner is a Scottish artist and writer based in Leeds and London.