In a solo presentation from Jonathan Small, perspex fans cut with intricate patterning adorn the walls at Soft Opening’s Piccadilly Circus space. Engraved onto Small’s reimagined version of the folding fan, referencing his Japanese heritage, the artist depicts fantasy scenarios of desire, love and violence that otherwise might prove challenging to express. By covering the works in detailed engravings and cutouts, the fans display a complex, self-determined lattice of symbology. Used to convey hidden messages within their designs, ancient Japanese fans represent devices of communication used to hide one’s true emotion from society. Referencing myriad sources ranging from Western movie posters to biblical illustrations, textile patterns, Art Nouveau design and organic forms, while abstracted on single blades, once folded outwards the full engraved tableau becomes complete. Small’s sculptures become motifs of deception, markers of a human instinct to oscillate between hiding and revealing our own image.
Denying their essential usefulness as handheld, personal objects, Small’s fans enlarge to oversize proportions. Some display sharpened, knife-like ends while others seems ready to pierce if hurled in battle. By reimagining the form and function of folding fans in this way, Small challenges their associative qualities as delicate or flamboyant and re-establishes them as weapons of defence. For Mask Off, Small positions two new wall-based sculptures in duel with one another. Reinventing the delicacy of the folding fan into weaponry, emboldens these works to embody an investigation into how we shield ourselves, both physically and metaphorically. Hung upside-down, this non-uniform display reveals that much like ourselves, these works behave differently dependent on their surroundings and implicate their audience in a self-reflective environment.