Alan Magee’s multi-layered work raises questions about the nature of signs and reality unravelling a complex mise en abime which blurs the ideas of nature and definition.

One of his installations stages a very precise drawing of a piece of wood, which is hung above the perfect reproduction of a door wedge. During the making process of this work, the piece of wood is drawn, crushed to powder, and poured with glue into a mould previously crafted from a model of an industrial wedge. The cast is then painted to perfectly resemble the original model.

The replica masks the underlying reality of what it stands for, imitating it so well that it threatens to replace it. This substitution of the “signs of the real for the real” conveys a strong sense of de-realisation.

Another work presents wooden household objects that are so meticulously covered in graphite that they give the impression of being made of lead. The distinction between nature and the artifice is lost, and questions about the undetermined identity of what is being perceived are raised.

Magee develops a kind of existentialism of labour, as he attempts to find a place in the world through his working process. The series of actions undertaken are often analogous to that of a factory or working environment that would aim to create functional objects. However, through this process, he purposefully distorts their use into something else, operating a transfer of values as they shift from common object to work of art. As they are changed, the objects flit between their original and altered functions, and “end up in a state of not quite right, yet not quite wrong”. Evoking the frustration and difficulty of having a determining grasp on reality, the artist seems at times to take a playful revenge on the potential powerlessness of his human condition.

Magee elaborates a schizoid vision in which the world, the objects and himself, are amalgamated into one. Art is used as a way to assert his marks on a slippery reality which can only be reached through transformation. In this manner, the act of altering objects around him transforms in a same gesture his own person and the world.

Localising his activity “between ‘traditional’ art processes and absurdist pottering”, Magee nourishes his ideas with refined craft skills, whether in the precision of his drawings or in the mastered finishing of his objects. His work interrogates the distinction between reality and its representation, while his process explores the possibility of finding a place in the world through the action of transformation.

Author Marie d’Elbée