Art The new John Lewis is departmentally confusing. It's not always obvious which sale person works within which product area, or for that matter where on product area ends and another begins. So when I approached some staff members asking about Jason Jones's exhibition, which is advertised as being in the furniture department neither had a clue what I was talking about. Then, as they took me to the actual furniture department, it became apparent I had, at first, been standing in soft furnishings.
My confusion was also due to expecting a fairly typical exhibition space on the shop floor when, as the manager then went on to explain (because it's not clear from the information leaflets dotted about the shop) that Jason Jason's works are in small picture frames and arranged carefully about the surfaces of tables and sideboards and bookcases within the department, almost imperceptibly because they're largely indistinguishable from the interior design highlights John Lewis has in stock.
That's not meant as a backhanded criticism, because in the explanation, Jones implies that in displaying the images, inkjet prints on Hahnemuhle paper, within this setting he was keen to remove the pictures from the preconceived notions that might be imposed on them by appearing in an art gallery space (Jones is currently the curator/manager of the Cornerstone Gallery so will have experienced this first hand) and that he wanted them to be discovered by people who might not necessarily have been expecting to greet an artwork in this context.
Between Presence and Absence, then, is a series of untitled images of furniture from a range of periods (though in the post-modern age, design periods are dropped one on top of the other of course) isolated in various spaces always with the impression that man (or woman) was here and may return. With their muted colours and disarray they're not unlike the shots of a city in the aftermath of disaster, man made or otherwise. What is the meaning of a chair if it's not going to utilised?
After viewing as many as I could find, I asked the sales assistants if any of their regular customers had tried to buy them. After eventually convincing them that I wasn't asking if I could buy them (the condusion, perhaps, because they've not used to having something this tangible in the department that doesn't have a barcode) they told me no, not that they knew of, none have turned up at the till. Just this once there isn't a direct correlation between art and commerce.