Unfamiliar Territories


Alan Archment is an artist whose oeuvre straddles a number of worlds and who questions whether identity is based on specific characteristics unencumbered by background or culture; or whether it is something inherently bound to culture and definitions of the self.  The use of this shared pool of history, allusions and culture, especially with regard to his family, makes his work significant.  Archment’s iteration of the concept that identity is at once universal and specific leads him to use imagery which has resonances in myriad cultures.  These works are not passive objects intended for mere public display and consumption.  Their disconcerting quality is further heightened by the fact that they appear to reciprocate the viewers’ gaze based on an interactive process.  Thus, the work and the viewer are in a reciprocal relationship where the object is both seen and perceived by the viewer, and the collective audience is seen, albeit in a different context, by the audience through the medium of the work.  He transforms spaces into stages and constructs spatial metaphors for his social and personal realities which represent the world from which his imagery is derived whilst providing a number of complementary and supplementary narratives.  The sheer physicality of the works is also impressive made even more so by the viewers’ physical presence in relation to it.  Viewers are made aware of the space while having their preconceived notions about it challenged.  Sensual and referential, they allude to sensations and notions without, in any way, representing them. 


Archment’s works are an amalgam of eclectically arranged ideas which incorporate references but purposefully and with conviction.  His fantasies have a certain narrative element and many of the references and cultural extractions carry existing meanings within a certain discourse; in addition to which the cumulative work is a reinvention of these meanings.   It is a worthwhile exercise to consider, understand and recognize this reinvention.  The new assemblage is invariably oppositional to the values of a wider context.  The works are essentially dialogues between the artist, the gallery space, their modernist references, the implicit post-modern critique and the artist’s understanding of his own practice.  Some of the imagery clearly has personal significance for the artist.  Therefore, it can be read both as an extrapolation of a moment in history and as a self-portrait of experience and imagery as a repository of meanings denotes multiple biographical experiences and narratives.  It also expresses urban angst, in terms of deficiency, betrayal and conflict.  It is not Archment’s intention to present esoterica but to create works which are based on fluidity and are determined by highly personal, subjective experiences.  Thus, while he draws upon specific images, moods and perspectives, he does so in conjunction with subjective ideas and thoughts.  In turn, this otherwise coded relationship opens up a number of doors to his audience conveying feelings of transcendence, desire, disillusionment and urban displacement.   This concurrence of content enables both the artist and his audience to consider and expand their notions of shared history, culture and human experiences, be it their own or those of others who may or may not be like them. 


          Anirudh Chari