Nick Hackworth

Keith Tyson, Supercollider, South London Gallery

Essays & Reviews Evening Standard

A SUSPICIOUS narrowing of the eyes should be the natural response to art that deals heavily in scientific theory. Typically, a sub-Ladybird Books’ level of knowledge about major scientific theories - quantum physics and chaos theory being old favourites - provides inspiration for works that harvest glib conclusions from profound ideas.

Initially the work of Keith Tyson seems to warrant such suspicions. A 33-year-old, up-and-coming British artist, Tyson has always been interested in mathematical probability, and most of his works here are investigations into its mysterious operation in our lives.

Sadly, most are also less interesting than the subject matter they purport to celebrate. A huge mounted glowing glass ball that changes colour is no more captivating than a large lamp - in fact, it’s a sealed environment whose fluctuating temperature drives the colour changes. The 12 panels of a painting depicting a star-studded section of space, can be hung in a vast number of ways, hence the title A Night in a Billion, but that doesn’t make it any more interesting to look at. A massive whirring mechanical piece with 12 perpetually rotating metal arms that have little bits of the Moon and Mars stuck on the end of them, succeeds only in appearing to have been stolen from Launch Pad, the Science Museum’s section for kiddies.

Two pieces, however, redeem the show. One will only be found by the curious - it’s been deliberately hidden - and they will be rewarded with a laugh. The other is a massive mixed-media work, which looks as if an obsessive-compulsive maniac has made it. A myriad sentences, differing in scale, colour and writing style sit on a lively yellow background, covered in paint splatters. There are random descriptions of things, such as Monteverdi’s pancreas, to reminders of everyday but unnoticed events, along the lines of “somewhere, a baby coughed”. It is a straightforward exercise in depicting the modern sublime, and it works.

Until 17 March. 65 Peckham Road, SE5. Tel: 020 7703 6120.