Hannah Knox, Buff (2013)

courtesy of the artist and Ceri Hand Gallery, Photographer Anna Arca
courtesy of the artist and Ceri Hand Gallery, Photographer Anna Arca

Painting is an empty pocket. The content it once contained, the paint itself, has in many cases gone. In all cases now, a stretched canvas is a blank canvas. Put in it what you will.

So the unadorned white t-shirt you see here, the unifying image from a show which shares its name, is more than a sly joke. It is a comment on the nowness of its chosen medium.

It was made in 2013, but it echoes the 1980s which in turn echoed the 1950s. As Knox has said, it could make you think of Marlon Brando. It could even make you think of the band Bros.

Those of us on the wrong side of history, during that turbulent decade, may have shown a preference for a darker, or more fey, English look. But here is the triumph of a cotton icon.

It is as large and wide as any buddha and all the more potent for its facelessness. Buff is a strong word for it, suggesting the ripped muscles we cannot see. The muscles of thought.

Because this is a show fully engaged with the body and the world of fashion. No two works are much the same. And the artist has even named one after the season, Fall 13.

Fashion is a threat to anyone with artistic leanings. It implies that any success is temporal. It implies that your audience has the most superficial of relationships with your work.

But Knox is not afraid of catwalks and collections. She grew up in what you might call a fashion household. This could be her greatest strength, acceptance.

So again the Buddha smiles. And given that Knox has spoken about her mother’s death in relation to her show, is Buff not also a ghost of sorts? And if it be a ghost, might it not be the zeitgeist itself?

If so, it is still waiting for your input. You might not find a better receptacle for your own ideas about art than Buff in the show BUFF at Ceri Hand Gallery. At least not this season.

Hannah Knox: BUFF can be seen at Ceri Hand Gallery, London, until October 26 2013. See gallery website for more details.

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