Artist Newsletter, Reviews, May 2006

Anne Charnock, Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston.
by James Hutchinson

Those of us who went to school before the invention of the word processor will remember essay writing as a process involving several drafts existing on the same pages. Made up of scrawl, crossings out, overwriting and arrows – indecipherable to all but the author – these tatty papers had a certain beauty, retaining the full history of an argument's development. Those who hold this process dear but have switched to computers will utilise the ‘Track Changes' function on Microsoft Word, a tool which replicates the aforementioned process using a simple system of strike-through, underlining and colour change making all editorial decisions visible.

Anne Charnock's new text works, shown recently at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston, adopt the format of ‘Track Changes' to explore the journey from an idea's conception to its manifestation. Of the two series on show, Uncertainty Series is the most satisfying. Each piece in this group starts with a simple hypothesis that might normally be tested through the production of an artwork. Many of the propositions are fairly banal, existing as the kind of preoccupation one might default to when faced with the metaphorical blank canvas and a lack of subject matter – outlines of how the non-specific work might be produced or what it should or shouldn't be. Minor alterations are then made to the sentence until the meaning has changed, sometimes gently drifting off in a new direction and sometimes performing a complete about-turn. So the uncertainty initially seems to exist in the artist's refusal to let go of the original thought despite ending up somewhere else, but because of the system Charnock employs the viewer will tend to read the most recent version of the proposition first and then work back through the history. It is perhaps somewhere in-between the artist's and the viewer's processes that the real uncertainty lies: the clarity of execution, along with the confident aesthetic, paradoxically lends the work authority and belief.