Scott Myles


The oeuvre of Scottish artist Scott Myles is strongly gestural. It consists of photographs, objects, serigraphs, paintings, and performance-based projects. They always exhibit a reference to social values (for example to generosity or communication), to subjective involvement, to the experience of the artist and the viewer as a central concern, and to an open Romantic stance toward these values. Moreover, artistic projects and sculptures he has already realized likewise play an important role, one Scott Myles repeatedly includes in his artistic endeavors.

In his first institutional solo show, the artist presents works of recent years and a group of sculptures and objects devised specially for Kunsthalle Zürich.

Of late, Scott Myles has focused on recontextualizations and appropriations of renowned works in art history and well-known symbols from everyday life. For some years, he has been collecting posters of artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres, who in his exhibitions exposes his works to dissolution or transience, by giving the posters (printed with socio-critical content) or heaps of candy away to the viewers. Myles inverts this gesture of generosity and of the memento mori, transforming it into a new gesture: He paints over the posters with sentences such as “Performance Now”, “Learn the Language”, “Pointing in one Direction” or “It Hurts” and thus evokes something new, both for himself and the public. Presented in thin Plexiglas vitrines that have a carrying structure on only one side and require the wall on the other to stand steady, thus displaying great ambiguity in function between room divider, banner, and museum display, the posters always seem to be some relic of an action that has not been ended, while also agitating the viewer’s sensibilities.

In other pieces, he translates standardized public sign systems such as emergency exit signage into hand-made communications in the form of posters, thus appropriating them as individual systems of communication.

In recent work, Myles also brings the relationship of “objectified” prints and subjective gestural expression to bear in the form of large-sized posters that he prints with lines for a musical score and then revises with painted text – here, too, he turns meanings and effects this way and then that, for the texts on the standardized lines for notes become the medium of a subjective song that refuses to be read in the customary, objective way of musical notes, placing the tone and melody in the individual voice of the reader.

Scott Myles focuses in a whole series of projects on the notion of social generosity and the transformation of economic principles into intellectual values: For example, in the course of a year he used a series of magazine kiosks as if they were public libraries. He “borrowed” one magazine or newspaper each time from the kiosk and then, having read it, placed it back on the shelf at a different place in the same kiosk chain. And he added to it a small brochure that pointed to his having “borrowed” it. In other words, he intervened direct in the exchange of commodities and values, without this causing the respective store chain any loss.

The interaction of individual and environment through visibility and invisibility is central to one of his latest groups of works: he constructs room-dividing screens using silkscreened material which he then places in rooms as rotors or large “revolving doors”. Objects such as windows or former bus shelters are also part of this group – Myles transforms them with painterly gestures into hybrid objects that again transport and transform the meaning of the public and private dimensions to life. Using the graphic contrast of black versus white, here painting is a matter of individual gesture, not informative graffiti – placing the personal as inquiring and questioned gesture in space.

In his work, Scott Myles always uses contrast as an agitator: the subjective and the collective, the material and the intellectual, the public and the private, the transparent and the opaque – these opposites are present in his works formally in the analogy of the graphic black versus white, thus unleashing, though not depicting the gradations in-between as material and intellectual potentiality. Sentimentally, gesturally, and subjectively, Scott Myles appropriates existing forms as possible utopian was of being and yet always as potential rather than actual entities.

Kunsthalle Zürich would like to thank: Präsidialdepartement der Stadt Zürich, Luma Stiftung