Maria Chevska’s solo exhibition consists of a large series of recent paintings, From the Diary of a Fly, and collage sculptures on plinths entitled Muniments. In her paintings and three-dimensional collages, Chevska explores both media’s capacities to shift and evolve ideas: of representation through the gestures of her painting, and of social forms through her collages. Interested in both time and the performative, the paintings and sculptures sidestep a rigid definition of figuration or abstraction; it’s the visible traces of their production that are important.

The assemblage of paintings and objects draws reference from Franz Kafka’s celebrated novella, The Metamorphosis, in which travelling salesman Gregor Samsa is mysteriously transformed into a giant insect. Chevska’s viewers’ conceptual viewpoint is that of this bug or fly – shown through vertiginous changes of scale – by analogy, showing the metamorphosed Samsa’s predicament as he climbs walls and ceilings peering down at his family whose life he can no longer share.

In terms of production, the starting point for Chevska’s paintings are selected close-up fragments seen in religious icons as well as historical propaganda posters. The quick, loose brush marks, repeated gaps and apertures, and the slippage between margin and event within the rectangle of her canvases are disruptive and leave none of the sources’ intended ideological or instructional value completely evident. Made in this way, they have become open artworks in both time-based and semiotic terms.

The small-scale collage sculptures, Muniments, are improvisational in character. Handmade, often from everyday materials, they make reference to, yet de-familiarise, architectural structures such as (albeit slightly risible) fortifications. Some of these structures also seem to mimic apparatus or devices for improving seeing and hearing. Reflecting on the absurd as well as the profound, the material presence of the paintings and objects together exposes a fragile thread between failure and enlightenment, entrapment and escape.

Maria Chevska lives and works in London, UK. She studied Fine Art at Byam Shaw (now University of the Arts, London) in the 1970s. Recent solo exhibitions include ‘From the Diary of a Fly’, Mummery+Schnelle, London (2013), ‘Guest from the Future’, Galerie8, London (2011), ‘And’, Modernism, San Francisco (2010), and ‘Yet’, Gallery Kalhama & Piippo Contemporary, Helsinki (2008). Group shows include ‘Do You Believe in Angels’, Mo Space, Manila and Equator Art Projects, Singapore (2014), ‘The Dark Would’, Summerhall, Edinburgh, and Bury Art Museum (2013), ‘Eye of the blackbird’, Tank, London (2011) and ‘A Thousand Yard Stare’, Art Space Gallery, London (2010). Chevska has undertaken residencies in France, Romania, and the British School at Rome. She teaches at the Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford, where she is currently a professor of Fine Art.

Artist talk: Thursday 29 May 2014, 12-1:30pm

Maria Chevska will be in conversation in the gallery with artist and critic Peter Suchin. Suchin has contributed to many publications, including Art Monthly, Frieze and The Guardian. His exhibition, ‘A Critical Contagion in the Quiet of the Night’, first shown earlier this year at & Model, Leeds, is currently at Rushgrove House, London, until 15 June 2014.