Tom Ellis – The Middle at the Wallace Collection
The gilded treasures of the Wallace Collection’s Front State Room are undergoing restoration, and at first glance you might be forgiven for thinking that the room itself was also under repair. Wooden structures resembling scaffolding line the walls, and a fold of industrial metal lies as if abandoned in the corner.
These are in fact part of an installation by British artist Tom Ellis, whose exhibition The Middle takes its inspiration from the Wallace’s unique status. Mounted on the scaffolding in the Front State Room are four paintings, all takes on a rather obscure painting by Dutch old master painter David Teniers the Younger. The work is not part of the gallery’s collection, and the reference feels irrelevant at first. However, The Middle continues into the museum’s exhibition space, where Ellis’s many versions of the Teniers painting make it feel like a nod not just to one old master, but to all the old masters housed there.
This exhibition examines the role of the Wallace Collection in contemporary London, exploring how fashions for showing art have changed. The museum remains a living monument of a historical way of presenting paintings; several are shown on the same wall, against highly patterned wallpaper and next to pieces of ornate furniture. By contrast, Tom Ellis’s constructed exhibition space points to the contemporary trend for displaying art in blank “white cube” spaces.
Ellis’s artistic practice is unusual, in that he is a furniture maker and sculptor as well as a painter, echoing the many talents of some old masters. His installations explore the relationship between art and objects, with a series of pieces which can be presented either as card tables or as chairs. His work questions how we categorise fine art and how we create a distinction between art and design, and between form and function.
The Middle asks the right questions, providing a two-way dialogue between an artist and an institution that is rarely seen. Although some elements don’t quite sound the right notes, the overall effect is one of exploration and self-awareness.
Tom Ellis – The Middle is at the Wallace Collection from 15th September until 27th November 2016, for further information visit here.
For further information about Tom Ellis visit here.