Slovenly yet taut, plush yet geological, Patricia Ayres’ large-scale sculptures are towering bundles of contradiction. They are meant to be. Deriving, ultimately, from Ayres’ background in fashion – her knowledge of cut and stretch and fit – their materials are taken from that trade. Inspect their lumpen surfaces and you’ll find them delicate, composed of antique undergarments, garter belts, and elasticated fabric sourced from the Garment District. Yet they are the opposite of decorous. If the sculptures conjure a mode of femininity, it is one bursting with disruptive energy (comparable, perhaps, to the avant garde couture of Rei Kawakubo). Monumental sculpture has long been a heroic genre, associated with male achievement. These works provide a much-needed riposte: they are gargantuan heroines, barely contained, very close to spilling their guts, or swallowing you whole, or just spreading out, to take up as much damn space as they please.
Alongside these powerfully volumetric works, Ayres has also created a series of more geometric character – stepped octagons, low to the ground. Their centers are occupied by small grates, which turn out to have been sourced from church confession booths (the cross-shaped perforations are a giveaway). Perhaps they are objects to whisper into, and confide in? Yet there is a certain formality to them that discourages such intimacy. They could even be science fiction props: their ziggurat-like profiles remind you of the way that images of the future often deploy the imagery of the deep past. One could imagine them as portals to another world, or landing pads for extradimensional beings. In fact, standing in Ayres’ studio, I had the whimsical thought that her other sculptures, the galumphing giants, might have used them to beam down to Earth. Also, that they might have been continually reconfiguring themselves when I wasn’t looking. This implication of perpetual metamorphosis, of open-ended form, suggests that for all the power of her work, Ayres is just getting started. “I did love fashion,” she says. “But I love this more.”
- Glenn Adamson