Cobbing’s first solo exhibition in London in four years, Haptic Loop features an installation of sculptures and video works that utilise the tactile qualities of clay to explore notions of surface, process and entropy. An accompanying text by Sacha Craddock is available here.
A newly created series of hanging bronze sculptures repeat throughout the gallery space. Featuring life-cast hands blindly grappling formless lumps of clay in an Ouroboros-like loop, the works are a meditation on the rudimentary act of making, albeit without articulating a finished form.
Echoing the absurdity and apparent futility of these works are the two video pieces, Text-based and Long Distance, both created in 2018 for the institutional survey of contemporary artists working with clay, Further Thoughts on Earthly Materials at GAK Bremen and Kunsthaus Hamburg.
Text-Based documents two figures marking and smearing words on each other’s tablet-like clay heads. The video references Cobbing’s Palimpsest, which was performed in 2014 at the Hayward Gallery and which featured Cobbing and artist Beth Collar on different sides of the Dan Graham Waterloo Sunset Pavilion, both writing on a wet clay surface without seeing what the other was inscribing. In Cobbing’s new darkly humorous video the faces of the actors become the tablets on which the two figures write, a tabula rasa in which words appear and are erased in perpetuity.
The second video Long Distance, features an extruded lumpen form growing between the heads of a couple facing each other. They prod and caress the clay, physically connected and yet unable to get closer. The work is part of an ongoing series which includes Cobbing’s best known video The Kiss, 2004. As with the Kiss, these new videos highlight the ambiguity of words and gestures, presenting language as a tactile and tangible experience.
Throughout the installation the video works and sculptures are unified in capturing moments in which clay is still engaged in the act of being formed. The work offers no conclusion but rather a Haptic Loop in which process becomes the subject, each element of the exhibition picking up where the last left off.
William Cobbing’s artworks encompass a diverse range of media, including video, installation and performance. His work explores the idea of entropy, blurring of the boundaries between the body and the landscape. Cobbing studied sculpture at Central St Martins (1994-7), De Ateliers, an artists’ institute in Amsterdam (1998- 2000) and a PhD (2004-10) at Middlesex University. Cobbing also undertook a residency at Turquoise Mountain in Kabul, Afghanistan (2010). He was awarded the Helen Chadwick Fellowship at Ruskin School and British School at Rome, resulting in the Gradiva Project at Freud Museum and Camden Arts Centre (2007-8).
Exhibitions include CLAY! / LER! Museum Jorn, Silkeborg, Denmark, Material Gestures, E-WERK Freiburg, Concrete Poetries, LOWER.GREEN, Norwich, Further Thoughts on Earthy Materials, Gesellschaft für Aktuelle Kunst, Bremen and Kunsthaus Hamburg (2018), Terrapolis, French School, Athens (Organised by Whitechapel Gallery and NEON (2015), To Continue / Notes Towards a Sculpture Cycle NOMAS Foundation, Rome, What’s Love Got To Do With It Hayward Gallery Project Space, London (2014).