Ceal Floyer’s art displays a clarity of thought within elegantly concise presentations. Engaged and active viewing is typically required—and then rewarded—in the artist’s minimalist-conceptualist amalgams. Her work, which resonates in a gently philosophical manner long after the first encounter, often draws attention to neglected everyday objects and situations. Floyer thinks of her art as very self-reflexive: not necessarily about anything outside of the work itself, but focused instead on the context and conditions of its production and display.

What at first may appear very reduced, expands with contemplation. Floyer has the uncanny ability to coax and activate entirely logical, yet overlooked, associations from dull and inert objects. Drawing on the tradition of the ready-made and conceptual art, an interesting disproportion is created between the almost-not-there form the works take and the many ideas and perceptual shake-ups they generate.

Floyer lays open the structural character of things, as well as reflecting on the linguistic basis of signification. She often takes objects and situations to an extreme logical conclusion. These mental deliberations can sometimes achieve a haunting poetry. Titles, therefore, always play a key role, often refering to both the subject and the process of a piece. For instance, Light Switch (1992-99)—a key and by now classic work—consists of the image of a light switch projected in scale from a 35mm slide on the wall, just where you would normally expect to find it. Similarly, Double Act (2006) is an inward, thwarted spectacle where nothing ever happens, but where much is going on. Consisting of a spotlight directed at a bare wall and floor, it projects but also illuminates a stage and a red curtain, the light source doubling as the image source.

The DHC/ART exhibition also provides an opportunity to see a reconfiguration of Things, first shown at KW Institute for Contemporary Arts, Berlin in 2009. Two dozen or so plinths, devoid of objects, stand in an empty room each emitting the word “thing” at different intervals in real time—the only audible section from otherwise silenced pop songs. Apart from the plinths themselves, however, no ‘things’ are present in the room.

The deceptive simplicity of Floyer’s work is informed by her particular sense of humour and awareness of the absurd. Through subtle interventions the artist uses double-takes and shifting points of view to encourage viewers to renegotiate their perception of the world. In the words of Jeremy Millar, her work “looks simple; it often seems as if there is nothing to see. Yet these works can lead us in important directions, allowing us to consider the nature of representation, or the difference between art and non-art.” Floyer asks us to accept this challenge.


Pakistani-born, London-raised, and Berlin-based, Ceal Floyer (b. 1968) has exhibited widely, including the 53rd Venice Biennale, 2009. She was the subject of solo shows at Palais de Tokyo, Paris, MADRE, Naples, and KW Institute for Contemporary Arts, Berlin. She graduated from Goldsmiths College in 1994 and was awarded the prestigious Nationalgalerie Prize for Young Art in 2007. Her work is in major museum collections including Tate Modern and MoMA, New York.


Courtesy of 303 Gallery, New York