Mimetica Alphabetica – Muggeridge At The Whitechapel Gallery

 

The Whitechapel Gallery, located in vibrant East London is known for it’s contemporary and experimental art shows. The gallery opened in 1901, and has a long history of education and outreach projects. Currently hosting ‘Mimeographica Alphabetica’ a typographical print display created by artist Fraser Muggeridge in collaboration with students from Welling School. The collaboration with this South East London School is an exemplification of such outreach projects and this impressive display emphasises the importance of such collaborations and their creative capacity. The show is a unique display which expands the way in which we think about letters, letter formations, and typeface -symbols which we are bombarded with daily in our everyday lives but do not consider further as they have become common place in our lives. This display opens up our minds to consider such typography prints and the way in which we view our alphabet further and evokes an interaction with them – the prints are produced to great effect.

fraser-muggeridge-mimeographica-alphabetica

Muggeridge (1973) is a graphic designer currently based in London. He studied Typography and Graphic communication in Reading, and now teaches at the university as a visiting lecturer. The exhibition was created by the artist and students through experimentation with a mimeographic-printing machine.  Mimeographic printing involves stencil duplication which forces ink through a stencil onto paper. Muggeridge encouraged the students to make their own hand made stencils to make up the prints for the exhibition. This hand made process is a slowly dying style of printmaking, whereby most mimeographic machines were replaced with photocopiers in the 1960’s as an attempt to rectify the imperfections that can be made by mimeographic printing. Where photocopying can produce prints which are exactly the same, mimeographic prints may differ dependant on the press of the ink when printed. The use of the mimeograph here, however, adds to the pieces and the creative process behind them and is evidence of the artists self-proclaimed interest in the ‘obsolete technologies and what you can create on them’. The prints may not be exactly the same as would be with photocopier printing, but these slight differences Muggeridge shows, give them a more unique form.

 

The exhibition space is light and spacious, the prints are repeated as if to almost wallpaper the display. There is an interaction between the typography on the walls and the viewer in this gallery in an extremely powerful way. The typographical symbols do not necessarily make up letters that are familiar to the western alphabet, but this is not the point, as one considers the shapes and tries to translate them into a meaningful symbol one is forced to think beyond traditional letter formations thus expanding the boundaries of typography.

 

Typography and letter formations are not something that usually find place in the art gallery, however ‘Mimetica Alphabetica’ is given home in this gallery and the space it really deserves. This is a rich and unique display in which one can view the experimental collaborative process of a highly skilled graphic designer and his students, which is produced to exceptional effect. The process of print making itself is given as much importance in this exhibition as the finished artefacts. This owes itself to the artist’s teaching process where the students were urged to learn through experimentation. The students may print upside down, but as Muggeridge himself suggests this is all part of the process.  This exhibition is not great simply through its presentation of print making, but rather it allows us to re-consider something as fundamental to us as letters. This is also an extremely unique exhibition as it allows use to see the art in letters and gives typography the opportunity to appear in the art gallery. Taken more broadly this display allows us to re-consider the categories more generally which make up our everyday lives.

 

Mimetica Alphabetica is on display at The Whitechapel Gallery, East London Until 30th November 2014 For further information please see the gallery website: http://www.whitechapelgallery.org/about-us

 

 

Lygia Clark – Organic Planes at The Henry Moore Institute


Nicola Cappleman

The Henry Moore Institute is located on The Headrow in Leeds city centre. It is well acclaimed for its sculpture shows – exhibiting both contemporary and historical work. It is currently hosting an exhibition of Lygia Clark’s work entitled ‘Organic Planes’.

 

Brazilian born Lygia Clark (1920) was a leading abstract artist; Clark trained as an installation artist in Paris in 1950, returning later to pursue her career in Rio de Janeiro where she died in 1988. Clark’s artistic career has Constructivist roots that supported the autonomous nature of art, such roots were evidently influential to her and origins which she never strayed far from. She maintained an intention to produce “non art within art”, a statement which took form throughout her career. Her experimental work and influence brought her to the forefront of the ‘Neo-Concretist’ movement in Brazil during the late 1940’s to mid 1950’s. The movement advocated the role of the spectator in viewing exhibitions – pieces were intended to be created not simply to be perceived from a purely aesthetical standpoint but were to be actively interacted with. The artwork itself exists as a transitional entity rather than a ‘finished’ object – the relationship between it and the viewer is thus on going. Such concept is explored and represented here in Organic Planes, which offers a notable retrospective of the artist’s work and artistic capacities.

Lygia Clark – Organic Planes at The Henry Moore Institute

Clark, as this exhibition highlights, intended to break the boundaries between the spectator and artwork. Her work centres around exploring such possibilities and particularly in the latter part of her career she created pieces, which the spectator explored increasingly using their body. The touch and texture of her work was always significant alongside the poignancy of the relationship that connected the work with its receiving audience. Her works are endowed with a sense of possibility, which makes for extraordinary viewing.

 

This small, but perfectly formed, show highlights a sculptural work created in 1960, ‘Bicho pássaro do espaço’ (Creature passing through space’). The work is contextualised by three collages made and shown alongside the work. Her sculptures are experimentation with form and space –the metal used is endlessly manipulated in order to achieve a shape. There is a topological nature to these pieces as they appear almost as diagrams straight from a mathematician’s workbook. Their delicate combination of folds and sculpted angles allows them to be viewed in different ways from the varying positions of the viewer. The aluminium sheets are endlessly folded and unfolded, it has no end or beginning, no top and no bottom, such constant re-manipulation of form are features that reiterate the finite qualities of her work. Such re-folding ad re-shaping is interestingly still visible in this piece it is not ‘neatened’ to be displayed – the process of its creation is clearly there and is vital to the piece giving it a sense of timelessness. The work is an organic process – indicated in the title, which labels the work in the present tense – the creature is ‘passing’ it has not passed.

The pieces in this exhibition are pleasantly contrasted with the small space of the Henry Moore’s Gallery 4 which seems almost as if it were made to house this selection of Clark’s pieces.

Pangaea

As a ‘gallery day out’, the Saatchi is still one of my favourite art spaces to visit. Stepping out into South Kensington always feels like a different (and dare I say more expensive) world but the gallery itself seems to provide a peaceful, light resting place. Their current exhibit entitled Pangaea unites a melting pot of different artists from across Africa and South America. Incorporating a breadth of mediums, the work on show feels strong at face value as well as being rich in cultural content.

Sara Casa Tomada, Pangaea, Courtesy of Saatchi Gallery.

Sara Casa Tomada, Pangaea, Courtesy of Saatchi Gallery.

From gaging the response of others who’ve visited the exhibit, the most memorable work in the show would likely be the first you encounter. An installation by Colombian artist Rafael Gomezbarros meets your gaze as you approach the first doorway, its efficacy immediately evident. Unnerving or even sinister, it is only once you are fully within the space that you realise you are surrounded. From the huddles of dark shapes sprawling across all four white walls emerge a colony of giant ants, their bodies each comprised of two cast human skulls on closer inspection. For the artist, this work speaks on behalf of thousands of Colombian people displaced by the country’s conflict and the many anonymous and invisible people who forcibly become immigrants across the world.

I was intrigued by a collection of work by Jose Lerma further into the exhibition. His enormous canvases house a mixture of densely built-up pen and paint markings, each portraying a complex array of political and cultural references. The layers of marks allow the artist to reveal and conceal information, creating vague figures on each surface. But it was the objects outside of the canvas’ frame that interested me – the weight of the largest canvas was supported by a small keyboard under one of its bottom corners and by a guiro (a wooden percussion instrument from Latin-America) beneath the other. The overall presentation leaves the work open to sculptural interpretations in relation to the historic place of the canvas.

Ejercicio Superficial, Pangaea, Courtesy of Saatchi Gallery.

Ejercicio Superficial, Pangaea, Courtesy of Saatchi Gallery.

Freddy Alzate’s spherical brick sculpture brought to mind Gabriel Orozco’s Yielding Stone; a ball of plasticine that the artist rolled across the street. However instead of absorbing traces of its environment, Alzate’s object appears to have been produced by the architecture of the urban surroundings itself curling into an orb.

In one of the lower galleries, Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama creates an encounter that envelops the viewer. The room is hung wall to ceiling with coarse, dirtied coal sacks, sewn together to cover the space entirely. The material quiets the echoes that would otherwise bounce against the smoothness of the gallery walls, bringing an eerie stillness and sense of otherworldliness.

Leonce, Pangaea, Courtesy of Saatchi Gallery.

Leonce, Pangaea, Courtesy of Saatchi Gallery.

As I often find myself commenting about many of the exhibitions I’ve seen at the Saatchi, each work is respectfully given the breathing space it requires to command the viewer’s full attention. Pangaea is no exception to this; the curation seems sensitive to both the art work’s individual presence and the conversations created between different subject matter. A considered snapshot of contemporary art from Africa and South America and well worth a visit.

Pangaea runs until November 2nd (2014).

Stranger Than Fiction

Joan Fontcuberta’s first major UK show, Stranger than Fiction, at the London Science Museum is currently running from 23rd July until 9th November 2014.

 

Inquiring into religion, biology and even the role of the museum itself, this understated retrospective presents six bodies of the artist’s work, which span over three decades. Through interweaving the visual expressions of museum display, scientific findings, advertising and journalism, the works mix both fact with fiction and science with art, investigating into the authority of photography and our disposition to trust what we see.

 

From the Herbarium Series, Joan Fontcuberta, 1984. Courtesy of The Science Museum, Exhib. Stranger Than Fiction.

From the Herbarium Series, Joan Fontcuberta, 1984. Courtesy of The Science Museum, Exhib. Stranger Than Fiction.

The first and largest body of work, Fauna (1987) greets you upon entering the space. It sets the tone for the rest of the works, taking on a slick, authentic style of display – in keeping with the rest of the museum. Formed of uniform framed black and white photographs with accompanying fact-files for each individual finding, it is also accompanied by typical museum supporting information, such as sound and video recordings, taxidermy animals and sketches. Presenting itself as a historical scientific breakthrough which meticulously documents zoological discoveries made from the work of Professor Peter Ameisenhaufen. Every element – from the professor himself, to detailed notes and taxidermy animals, is a collaborative artistic fabrication. Fontcuberta and Pere Formiguera (1952-2013) question the authority of museum display, and the power institutions hold to provide factual and educational information for an audience willing to learn. From snake-tailed rodents, to winged-deer, we are transported through fact files of animals with enlarged legs, to the mythical centaur, finding our deepest childhood fantasies coming true.

 

Following suit, Herbarium (1984), Sirens (2000) and Karelia, Miracles & Co (2002) are presented in the same way: framed documentary images, research information and even ‘found remnants’. Exploring biology and belief, these three bodies of work really take advantage of the trust of the museum viewer.

 

The Miracle of Dolphin Surfing, Joan Fontcuberta, 2002. Courtesy of The Science Museum, Exhib. Stranger Than Fiction.

The Miracle of Dolphin Surfing, Joan Fontcuberta, 2002. Courtesy of The Science Museum, Exhib. Stranger Than Fiction.

Simply formed from a set of framed black and white photographs, Herbarium appears to be a collection of rare discoveries of exotic plant. It is unlikely for the majority of viewers to be an expert on plant biology, so to most these images depict unusual, yet not ridiculous, plants. The artist has in fact used litter such as electrical wires and textiles to form shapes mimicking pre-existing human and inanimate forms. It is especially important to consider the specific museum here, for many visitors wouldn’t expect a critically interventionist exhibition, within a family-friendly, popular, free museum space.

It is often true that the easiest way too fool somebody is to provide them with something they wish to be true – and in this case we’d love to believe mermaids exist and that miracles can be performed. Both Sirens and Karelia, Miracles & Co add science to very mythical and belief-based elements of everyday. Suspecting that viewers may question the legitimacy of these discoveries, the artist claimed in Sirens, where the discovery of the mermaid fossil in the Provence landscapehad been vandalised; I suspect that this is the only reason they aren’t currently displayed at the Natural History Museum.

As you reach the final room and body of work, Karelia, Miracles & Co, you are exposed to an exploration into a Finnish Monastery, where monks are said to learn how to perform miracles. It becomes apparent that unless you are a firm and faithful believer, a monk riding a dolphin or developing female breasts, couldn’t possibly be realistic research. This work adds a new dimension to the artist’s critique, for it doesn’t only challenge the viewer and the museum; it unmasks the concept of miracles as a hoax. Fontcuberta has really challenged the strongest rival to science in this particular body of work, but presents it as consistently as the rest of the exhibition. Through challenging the balance between what’s reality and what’s photography, the viewer develops a peaked skepticism towards not only the show itself, but towards photography as a medium constantly engulfing an ideology; the artist chooses the particular vision to present, showing you a particular culmination of concepts.

 

Centaurus Neandertalensis, From the Fauna Series, Joan Fontcuberta, 1984. Courtesy of The Science Museum, Exhib. Stranger Than Fiction.

Centaurus Neandertalensis, From the Fauna Series, Joan Fontcuberta, 1984. Courtesy of The Science Museum, Exhib. Stranger Than Fiction.

Although it is said Fontcuberta is primarily known for his exploration into the truth and reliability of photography, it is the very site in which these meticulous bodies of work are viewed which has been ultimately criticised: the museum. Using this as a platform for critique, the artist has seamlessly displayed six research projects, purposefully using the museum as a validating platform. There is an expectation associated within a gallery, of order, attached to conventions of cognition, within a prescribed and predictable way, where the interaction of the audience and the forms of the museum, are in an infinite cycle of change that is influenced entirely by one another. It is this cyclical process that Fontcuberta highlights throughout his exhibition, and leaves you questioning your involvement as a viewer within the museum. It could seem that these works cannot comment, or even exist, outside of an institutional structure, yet being within it immediately elevates its acceptance of the display, language and criticism of what it means to exhibit.

 

Documenting a changing neighbourhood – Vitturi’s ‘Dalston Anatomy’ at The Photographer’s Gallery

The Photographer’s Gallery, located in central London has been host to many contemporary and stimulating photography exhibitions. It was the first gallery opened in Britain, which was devoted entirely to the art of photography. Since its creation in the 1970’s the gallery has been a vital medium for reinforcing the role of photography and its capacity to play an important function in both society and culture. Lorenzo Vitturi’s ‘Dalston Anatomy’, currently on show in the John Lyon gallery, exemplifies this capacity. Vitturi is a Venice born artist, formally cinema set painter, who currently resides in Dalston, East London. As an artist he uses photography in order to cross boundaries and re-shape and interact with the world around him.

 

Vitturi’s work, in this series, documents the changing landscape of Dalston; an area of London, which is rapidly undergoing a process of gentrification. This series is the end point of a 7-year documentation process in which Vitturi witnessed his local neighbourhood transforming at an accelerated speed. The artist’s interests lie in documenting this process of decay. Such interests are highly visible here in the gallery where the Ridley Road market square is represented as lively and vibrant, yet the process of its decay is highly detectable. This photographic and sculpture exhibition seeks to capture these precarious conditions in an image.

Lorenzo Vitturi, Hairy Orange Yellow Balloons and Rotten Camote, 2013. Courtesy of The Photographers Gallery.

Lorenzo Vitturi, Hairy Orange Yellow Balloons and Rotten Camote, 2013. Courtesy of The Photographers Gallery.

 

The gallery space is a vivacious and uplifting burst of colour. Such vibrancy is the artist’s representation of the energetic streets of Dalston. In order to produce this series Vitturi collected objects that were discarded from the Market – he literally collected up the pieces of the changing Dalston streets. Vitturi uses many of these organic and discarded materials to which he gives a new form. The market square is brought to life within the gallery space; it is there to be seen and admired in all of its vibrancy, but Vitturi has re-shaped it and given it a unique new form as an artwork. Some of the objects were used as found, others were doused in pigment, others were taken apart, dismantled and left to rot. Many of the objects are seen in these varying states of decay, perhaps metaphorical of the adapting world that Vitturi witnessed around him.

 

His arrangements are produced to great effect – combined with sculpture he creates a dialogue between the photographic images and the materials used. There is a distinctive play on form in this gallery and an interesting re-composition of shapes.  His exploratory artistic practice involves multi-layering objects and textures, which create energetic and dynamic pieces. The centrepiece is an almost ceiling high sculpture which gives form to various recycled materials, a beach ball, plastic cups, wooden pallets and synthetic hair. This work reinvents the meaning of the objects used, they are taken apart and dissected – they become repositioned and shifted to become part of Vitturi’s re-imagined ‘Dalston Anatomy’.

 

Lorenzo Vitturi, Exhibition Installation. Courtesy of The Photographers Gallery.

Lorenzo Vitturi, Exhibition Installation.
Courtesy of The Photographers Gallery.

 

The walls of the gallery contain many of Vitturi’s photographic portraits of market traders and other local residents. They are often hung alongside of other images, which contain an arrangement of fruit and other items. The people and the market are always represented as inter-connected in this way. On occasion they appear faceless – their faces are covered with chalk powder and other materials.

On the floor of the gallery lays a huge carpet. This carpet spans almost half of the floor space. The composition of which is extremely distinctive; it was produced in collaboration with the poet Sam Bergson. The words written on it are words, which the poet and the artist placed together to mimic the rhythm of the market street. The viewer is deliberately confused here in order to represent the confusion and busyness of the street market.

Vitturini’s work may seem confusing and whacky – its powerful use of colour is certainly not understated. Yet, if the viewer looks beyond the piles of waste and decaying bananas one can see the portrayal of a unique and individual neighbourhood. The market and the surrounding are is represented as an area, which is slowly falling apart and being adapted to suit contemporary London, but the market itself is resisting.  The market holds a unique character in spite of the process and adaptation of the surrounding areas of East London. Vitturini’s work makes statements about the ever-changing landscape of London; his work is both contemporary and energetic.

Lorenzo Vitturi, Plastic Blue, 2013. Courtesy of The Photographers Gallery.

Lorenzo Vitturi, Plastic Blue, 2013.
Courtesy of The Photographers Gallery.

 

This gallery is extremely thought provoking – it moves beyond being a photography exhibition, which simply represents the world and the artist’s surroundings. The photographic images here are the end product of a wider process. This style of photographic movement is becoming ever more politically minded – it is important to document these neighbourhoods before they are changed beyond recognition. Viturri’s artistic mood captures a working-class market attempting to gain some stability against a backdrop of rapidly changing east London.

Lorenzo Vitturi, Yellow Chalk 1 & 2, 2013. Courtesy of The Photographers Gallery.

Lorenzo Vitturi, Yellow Chalk 1 & 2, 2013.
Courtesy of The Photographers Gallery.

 

The images and the formations he produces show the capacity for such adaptation and the vibrancy and individual character of the market is still maintained.

Dalston Anatomy is currently on show at The Photographer’s Gallery, W1 Central London Until 19th October 2014. For more information visit the Photographer’s Gallery Website: www.thephotographersgallery.org.uk

 

 

All That is Solid Melts Into Air, Jeremy Deller, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne

All That is Solid Melts Into Air, an exhibition curated by Jeremy Deller (Britain’s representative in the Venice Biennale last year) explores the impact of the Industrial Revolution on contemporary British society.  Deller combines contemporary music, archival film, historical artefacts and written text panels to forge connections between materials and finding new meanings in familiar objects.  This exhibition is a personal, intuitive journey which reveals how the trauma of urbanisation and modernisation has affected the culture of this country, from our music to our shopping habits.  However, the exhibition is an extensive survey of our cultural heritage and how every aspect of British life has been informed by the Industry of the country.  Because of the enormity of Deller’s project, I will only attempt to write about a small part of this remarkable exploration.

 

This exhibition opened in Manchester last October, and has travelled through Nottingham and Coventry before finally arriving in Newcastle upon Tyne.  This last stretch of the journey is being shown in the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle’s city centre, a gallery which features a notable historic permanent collection, including John Martin’s 1852 painting, The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, a biblical illustration of Gods destructive power; a glowing pit of fire as a whole city are punished for the sins of its people.  This incredible apocalyptic painting, familiar to Laing Gallery audiences, is the first that we see as we walk into Deller’s exhibition.

 

John Moore

‘The Destruction Of Sodom And Gomorrah’ John Martin . 1852

 

The red light and smoke of Martin’s historic painting is cleverly paired with imagery of the steel industry, exemplified in Steel, a British Council produced educational film made in 1945, which depicts men producing steel in a factory.  In this film, displayed on a large monitor in the space, bright orange molten metal bubbles in huge crucibles while showers of sparks fly over the heads of the workers who stare into the hell-like mouth of the intense, fiery heat.  Martin grew up in the rural Northumbrian countryside, but it is easy to see the influence of London in his painting; the smoggy urban landscape of the capital and the glow of industry are definitely in this painting of the burning city.  Bringing the imagery up to date is the jacket of Unleashed in the East, the 1979 Judas Priest album, where the band are shown standing in smoke, amber lights illuminating them and their instruments.

 

Deller draws comparisons not only between the imagery of the theatrical Victorian painting, the heavy metal album artwork and the post war steel industry, but he also uses Martin’s painting as the starting point for other associations.  In the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, the people of Gomorrah are punished for their vice and their desire.  Just as there were similar moralistic Victorian concerns about excess and sexual desire leading to sin and disease when Martin was painting, so we too, in contemporary society, worry about the physical and ethical effects of our consumerism.  This anxiety is reflected in Ben Roberts’s large photographic print Amazon Fulfilment Centre, Towers Business Park, Rugeley (2013).  This image shows the vast interior of an Amazon warehouse where unskilled workers appear tiny among the expansive shelving units, each one filled to the brim with stuff.  The text panel mounted underneath this image explains that most of these staff members are on zero hour contracts and work for minimum wage.  To the left of Roberts’s image is a poster, the rules of Church Street Mill in Preston from the nineteenth century.  The very first rule feels particularly poignant.  It reads that factory workers must ‘give one month’s notice, in writing, previous to leaving his or her employment …but the Masters have full power to discharge any person employed therein without any previous notice whatsoever.

 

Deller’s careful juxtaposition of materials draw worrying links between the rights of mid-Victorian factory workers and the current working conditions for low level employees.  All That is Solid Melts Into Air is a carefully curated exhibition which is full of incredible objects, ideas and artworks, effectively exploring British culture and the roots of capitalism in this country.  The works read like a  piece of research, a visual essay where you can draw your own associations and conclusions.  If you’re in the North East between now and October 26th, this is an opportunity not to be missed.

An Arts Guide to Amsterdam

A colloquial reason for many to travel to the Netherlands is to get a whiff of the green stuff,however if this and Madame Tussaud’s are not for you, there is a great art scene to take advantage of on your visit. Amsterdam is a museum lover’s destination as much as the gallery goers; with a mixture of historical and contemporary you could spend up to week absorbing the culture, but only as long as the bike lanes don’t get on your nerves.

 

‘TherIs No I’ at W139 Gallery

 ‘W139 explores the unknown; we value the freedom not to know.’

I first came acrossW139 on Warmoesstraat, close to the Red Light District and known as one of the oldest streets in the city.  W139 sets out create new dialogues in art by taking artists out of their comfort zones into an experimental space. Focusing on painting and employing ‘energy, difference, theory and monochrome’ as categories of departure, the emphasis lies within the process of painting as opposed to the result. By expanding ideas around the processes of painting we can hope to extend the boundaries contemporary art is conformed to today. Featuring 20 international artists numerous works measured a large 3x5m, a staircase wall mural amongst smaller pieces and a ‘painting installation’. Many of the canvases may have been collaborations between two artists alongside approaches with performance such as Raymond Cuijpers kicking a painted football onto a constructed canvas goal.

 An Arts Guide to Amsterdam

Museumplann

 The Stedelijk museum boasts some of the greats from the 20th Century to the present day, hosting contemporary art exhibitions alongside its permanent one all within an oversized bathtub architecture. Neighbouring Stedelijk is the Van Gogh Museum where during peak times you will find over four floors of tourists absorbing the Dutch masterpieces. For the price ticket of 15.00 euros you also witness a small display about methods of conservation and an insight into Van Gogh’s more successful contemporaries where he failed to make money attempting to fit in with commercial trends.

Not far from Museumplann is Vondelpark, a picturesque setting with complimentary sculpture from ArtZuid, an international sculpture exhibition hosted across this area of the city. These works by ArtZuid Junior were particularly playful and greatly enhanced my colour contrast bar and is a great encouragement for any young artists.

(We should do more of this in England).

 

Personal Codes of Conduct’at Torch Gallery, Jordaan

 

 Personal Codes of Conduct alludes to the theme of our lives becoming increasingly digitised amongst the role of surfacing subcultures; each artist exhibited here visualises their online identity with a partially negative premise. Suzan Holen’s embroidered code communicates a paradox between constructive functionality and irrational feelings we may encounter as females using social media. Artist duo Pinar & Viola looked to emulate ‘the streets of the internet’ consisting of Trompe l’oeil Human Barbie Dolls with fantasy overlays. ‘I’ll Make You Feel Real’ is provocative of the height of narcissism we now encounter either on Instagram or embedded in the underground of net fetishes, almost verging on idolatry self love.

 

Do your own Human Barbie Overlay here: http://www.overlayer.com/u/pinar_viola

 

South Africa Art Nowat No Man’s Art Gallery

 Towards the west of the city centre, slightly off the beaten path, I came across No Man’s Art Gallery who set out to represent scouted talent at their boundless pop-ups around the world. ‘South Africa Art Nowpresented a healthy variety of photography, installation, painting and prints representing a small body of young artists often confronting domestic subjects sensitive to display. Standing out from the exhibition is Hidokuhle Sobhekwz’s undiscovered photography documenting those he knew who have succumbed to addiction of Nyapope.Nicolene Van Der Walt’s deconstructed pig graves focuses on our role in consumerism and waste as well as challenging the animal’s stereotype using the medium of soap and site-specific soil to show the futility of the still-born piglet as a product.

Mia Chaplin’s minimal palette creates an expressive set of paintings with a sense of detachment. The voyeuristic nature of her work could be said to concentrate on the inner-self and our difficulty engaging with the outer world, visually communicating this through still lives and figurative portrayals.

 

Cobra Museum

Venturing outside the city to Amstelveen, the Cobra Museum is host to a large collection of contemporary art and more recently exhibiting a host of 1950’s masters from the Guggenhiem Museum. Wherever you visit in Amsterdam, you are bound to find yourself in a creative body depending on how far you scratch the surface. The majority of gems you may find in Jordaan, where the gallery art district is the most condensed in the city. Just remember to book tickets in advance for the largest museum attractions as we do not have the privilege of walking straight into them as we do here.

Counterpoint

I find myself standing in the street outside the Talbot Rice Gallery, here to view Counterpoint’s showcase of eight contemporary artist’s work. I find myself here on the back of a recommendation from the festival’s art director, interviewed in last month’s FMG Monthly. My curiosity roused, I cross the threshold into the building. Many beautiful, intriguing and provocative pieces adorned the walls and floors. Of the eight artists, two in particular captured my imagination.

 

The first of these artists is Craig Mulholland. As you walk into the first room, placed right by the stairs for the second level, Mulholland’s installation – constructed from various materials and media, including sand paper, wood and visual projections – takes the shape of a bowling lane, a singular slice extracted from an alley which appears to be in some state of disrepair. I find myself searching for the background to this intriguing construction before me, and in this search my mind connects this sight with emotion, a longing for narrative, as if entering an abandoned, aged property, which oozes character. Upon the wall above the lane, the words “Potemkin Function” are projected in a font reminiscent of the fond neon squiggle used by many establishments to indicate whether they are open or closed. Thin wooden bricks have replaced the pins and these too are displayed in the projection which cycles through moving images of a bowling ball being cast down the lane towards these bricks. For me, Mulholland’s bowling alley offers an insight into how the picture painted can often differ from the actual function. The warping of an area usually utilised solely for recreational purposes into an area harrowed by black paint reminds me of how propaganda is utilised to portray whomever in disfavour in a negative and objectified light. As this feeling rested inside me, I made my way through to the next room of Counterpoint’s exhibition.

 

Counterpoint

Talbot Rice Gallery
Installation views
Part of Edinburgh Art
Festival and GENERATION
Photography by Chris Park
Courtesy Talbot Rice Gallery

Before me lies two full size street lamps, a neat stack of magazines cut zig-zag down their middle, and a large wall of corrugated iron graphitized with black spray paint – an eclectic mix provided by artist, Keith Farquhar. Farquhar’s intention is to “rework the inherited visual of the original appropriated work”. As I stand by these full size street lamps I begin to have some comprehension of Farquhar’s goal in these pieces. Removal of these commonplace functional installations from their usual surroundings and placed with intention on the floor by one another, they begin to feel personified, as if feeling emanates from them. I noticed that I no longer found this material object to be simply that, instead I began to form some type of human connection with them. From when I entered the room, I had presumed the writing on the steel wall to be written in spray paint but upon closer inspection, the paint is pixelated at it’s edges, and within the exhibition booklet, my curiosity is sated. Farquhar reveals his use of a large UV printer – which can print on any material – to create the text within the graffiti. Graffiti, created outwith artistic purpose, is often considered a thoughtless act of vandalism alluding to the carelessness of its creator. Farquhar however, appropriates graffiti, using the UV printer to create what appears to be spray paint. Through this exact act we reconsider this “graffiti”, knowing now it has been carefully and thoughtfully created.

 

Counterpoint

Talbot Rice Gallery
Installation views
Part of Edinburgh Art
Festival and GENERATION
Photography by Chris Park
Courtesy Talbot Rice Gallery

Leaving the Talbot Rice Gallery, I am left with a feeling of lightness and whimsy. All too often artwork and exhibitions are portrayed as being heavy events for the soul – Counterpoint’s Exhibition however, is not such an event. Despite no conscious thematic connection between the eight artist’s works, the quality of each piece creates a feeling of unity. Evident throughout all the work on display is a demonstration of each individual artist’s ability to play and experiment with mediums and media, ultimately creating work that is fascinating, stimulating and wholly intriguing.

 

Grey Up North

London is firmly established as the heart of the art world in this country: with over 1000 permanent art spaces and more artists per square mile than anywhere else in Europe, this huge, thriving, creative hub of a city seduces and fascinates us Northerners.

But the North of England is working hard to make a name for itself as a creative hotspot. Medium sized, post-industrial cities like Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield are rebranding themselves as centres for creativity. Big, publicly-funded galleries, as well as smaller, independent art spaces and studios are popping up all over the North, and from them a distinctly Northern style seems to be emerging.

Middlesbrough’s mima is currently showing ‘Chance Finds Us, a project initiated by Anne Viebeke Mou and Nick Kennedy in 2010.This exhibition showcases eight artists, including Viebeke Mou and Kennedy, based in the North East of England who share similar approaches to the art-making process. The exhibition, according to mima’s curator Alix Collingwood, is a “fantastic opportunity to highlight the wealth of talent and the calibre of artistic thinking that is present in the North East”.

The artists represented in this exhibition use routine and repetition, devising strategies or appropriating frameworks within which they can explore chance and serendipity. Drawn grids, mathematical instruments and imposed rules juxtapose intuitive mark making, random encounters and unpredictability.

James Hugonin art

Courtesy the artist and Ingleby Gallery

Inside the gallery space, the silver-grey light mimics the overcast, gloomy weather outside—a typical day in the North, and the perfect backdrop to the vivid colours of James Hugonin’s ‘Binary Rhythm’. Hugonin’s large paintings are composed of tiny rectangles of colour, picked out from the Northumbrian landscape, and their is a quietness to their vibrancy. Meditative and deliberate, this work systematises and slows the wild and constantly changing colours of the countryside.

Apart from Hugonin, most of the artists showing their work in this exhibition employ to a very minimal colour palette: Anne Viebeke Mou’s faint graphite drawings on paper seem to be particularly modest works. However, closer inspection reveals that her drawings have been made up of thousands of tiny marks. In 2011, she and Hugonin jointly won the ACE Award for Art in a Religious Context, where they were both commissioned to design stained glass windows for St John’s Church in Northumberland. In their works in this exhibition too, a spiritual devotion seems to be apparent in the ritualistic, devout mark-making, and in the light which seems to emanate from the pieces. These artists are influenced by Northumberland’s beautiful countryside, something that I don’t think the London art scene would understand. The English Landscape? Yuck! It’s a heavy topic, reserved for musty old art historians. But Northern artists aren’t let off the hook so easily, they are constantly confronted with the awe-inspiring sublimity of the land which surrounds them. This force has no concern for whether on not it is cliché: it simply persists. These artists have the challenge of addressing it, and speaking from where they stand.

The art scene in the North of England is definitely on the rise and with it is a distinctive voice and style. In fifteen years we will be able to define exactly what that is—but for now, you can just come and feel it forming for yourself.

Middlesbrough’s Institute of Modern Art is in the centre of the town; it’s family friendly, and wheelchair accessible.

‘Chance Finds Us’runs until 4th September.

A whale o a whale o a time…

The McManus Galleries in Dundee offers a dreadfully cliché experience that promises a whale of a time with Nick Evans latest exhibition entitled The White Whale. Evans has created a sculptural installation in conjunction with the GENERATION PROJECT that celebrates 25 years of the development of Scottish Art. The project culminates in a generation of ideas, experiences and of prestigious art that the country has to offer. Nick Evans latest solo exhibition is inspired by the Gothic architecture and décor of the McManus building. The exhibition title ‘The White Whale” has deliberate mythical connotations. It relates to the Narwhal, which was hunted by Dundee whalers in the nineteenth century. The Narwhal’s long pointed ‘tusk ‘ was believed to belong to the magical unicorn.

 

Evans was influenced by “The Geometry of fears”- a group of sculptors that consisted of Lynn Chadwick, Eduardo Paolozzi and William Turnbull. They created twisted and spiked forms of the human figure post Second World War. Evans’ plastered humanoid forms lend to this distinctive style and are originally drawn from ethnographic sources. The sculptures appear as if floating in a fantasyland. They exist in their own distinctive environment scattered across the monochrome printed floor (that was replicated from a textile within the McManus’ collection). I am a very tactile person and I admire the artist’s limited use of material. The simplicity of the monochrome floor in conjunction with the white plaster sculptures and hints of wood throughout the gallery complement one another magically. It adds to this idea of being lost in a dream.

 

There are a few sculptures that stand out to me. “ Petrosphere” suggests a strange molecular structure whereas ‘Hunger’ that can be viewed from different angles insinuates two bodies bending over one another… highlighting the wanderings of a strange hallucinatory mind. My favourite sculpture is “Children of the sun’ where a light appears to sit on top of a human figure. The light was like a beacon calling out to the pursuers of the white whale. The story of Moby Dick represents a universe trapped by its protagonist’s subjectivities instead Evans’ exhibition is a refusal of the subjective. Evans argues that the development of each sculpture is a re-arrangement of form instead of focus on interpretative and symbolic value.

Nick Evans

Nick Evans: The White Whale © The Artist; Mary, Mary

 

Within the high ceiling gallery, the sculptures appear like creatures rising up from the abyss. If you listen closely the sounds of a whale reverberates throughout the hall thanks to the thumps of the little children’s feet. This exhibition is definitely worth taking your children along to visit. They provide the best humorous responses when asked about Nick’s strange parallel universe of sculptures. When sitting on the gallery floor drinking in this strange dream, I want to imagine a dark misty night with the possibility of finding Moby Dick in a strange sea of monochrome.

 

The White Whale was a fantastic exhibition that allows your imagination to run wild through a sculptural dreamland. I highly recommend this exhibition and Evans’ work will be available to see until 31st August.

Summer In The East End

In a lot of ways, I feel quite privileged to have studied fine art in Sheffield: my three years spent there demonstrated to me the importance of seeing beyond the capital for amazing artist communities. Yet now that that chapter has closed, I am once again living on the edge of East London and wandering what this new location will bring.

London can sometimes seem very big and menacing; saturated with artists and possibly intimidating to fresh graduates, who really require the support network of smaller gallery spaces. With the majority of the country’s big name galleries dotted around London’s centre, locating the slightly more hidden art spaces can seem a bit of a mammoth task. With that in mind (and with an abundance of free time), I set myself the task of doing the leg work and learning more about the art scene on my own doorstep. Besides, where would be better to start looking than in East London?

The East End has seemingly undergone a transformation in recent years with several galleries – like the White Cube – relocating to more central locations. There does appear to be a question mark about how areas like Shoreditch – previously the playground of the YBAs, when they were in fact young – will evolve, especially as property prices increase. However, there is still a strong alternative gallery presence and a multitude of spaces to discover. Heading to Cambridge Heath (just a couple of stops on an overground train from Liverpool Street station) would be a good place to start and puts you in walking distance of a host of galleries between Bethnal Green and Aldgate.

That’s exactly what I did when setting out on my gallery search and (just to warn you) sometimes you do have to search. On an impulse, I made my way straight to Supplement Gallery – a short walk from the station on Teesdale Street – which I soon realized was in the middle of a whole terraced street of small galleries and artist work spaces. Another thing to note about many of the spaces in this vicinity is that they are only open Thursday-Sunday, with some open on Wednesdays. It so happened that this particular day was a Tuesday, so it was advantageous that I’d emailed ahead about my visit. Supplement has strong links to the Sheffield artist community and represents a group of already well established artists – their July show Ends Again looked excellently considered (Cecile B. Evans’ video work especially caught my attention) and sat well within the domestic-sized space and beautiful wooden floors.

Vyner Street signFrom there (after being given an amazing list of galleries in the area by Supplement’s director Adam Thomas) I walked to Cell Project Space (Cambridge Heath Road). Set back from the main road and sandwiched between a snooker club and a dry cleaners, it would be easy to miss this gem. Their next viewable show opens on September 18th but they also have a passion for providing affordable studio space for artists working nearby. Furthermore, they also run a yearly internship program, aimed at new graduates and artists in further education.

My route then went as follows: I continued on to Minerva Street, where I found a rather silent matte black building front and an interesting solo show inside. I then carried on to Vyner Street which is lined with artist initiated galleries, Wilkinson Gallery and Vyner Street Gallery being examples. Next was The Approach Gallery – one of my favourite finds. The gallery space is actually the top floor of a pub, which makes an excellent resting point after a while of trundling around on an art adventure. Their current painterly exhibition runs until August 10th.

Supplement, by Cecile B. Evans

If you’d like to follow this same route and find yourself not fully satisfied at this point, you can make your way to Herald Street (nearer Bethnal Green station) where you will come across Herald Street Gallery, Laura Bartlett Gallery, Maureen Paley and Campoli Presti – all of which consistently boast fantastic shows. Mile End Road is home to Carlos Ishikawa – a space that plays host to young, experimental work. Another space that has become a personal favourite is Chisenhale Gallery, which you would find if you were to continue east from the Approach – I admire the way the gallery appears to completely transforms for each show it holds.

Back at Aldgate, there is of course the Whitechapel Gallery: my favourite thing about this well-established space is the Zilkha Auditorium, where they are currently showcasing artists’ film from around the world (their café is pretty delightful too). As you get closer to Shoreditch, you’ll also find smaller spaces like Raven Row, which is very near to Liverpool Street station. Their Yvonne Rainer retrospective is open until August 10th, with four dance performances happening daily.

Now, I would think that that’s quite enough gallery hunting for one day. Maybe we should go find some coffee.

Edafu Colli – Threading Loss

Natalie Kate Lloyd presents a live performance that directs the viewer through a sculptural and photographic cartography, exploring the experiential memory of natural landscapes‘.

Edafu Colli is an installation performance created by Natalie Kate Lloyd as part of her degree at the University of Brighton. The installation both echoes and references her experience with the natural landscape and the memories of it through the manipulation of the space and the presentation of reflective imagery, object and movement.

The term ‘Edafu Colli’ is a Welsh term that can be translated as ‘threading loss’. The title is referencing the physical connective threading between the images and objects placed within the space, Lloyds choreographed activity, and the strict directive movements performed.

Edafu Colli

Natalie Kate Lloyd

Objectively, the installation contains images of local or visited landscapes that Lloyd has sentimental connections with. Certain visual works contain layered visual representations of the threading, but are overpowered slightly by the scale of the supporting installation. Supporting this is a large wooden frame constructed to interrupt the white space in which the installation is placed; behind the bars of wood is an upturned tree root, twined with the surrounding frame. This acted as a subtle visual reference to a found object of similar quality as seen in a previous documentation of the work - the object being driftwood.

On earlier inspection, I was able to investigate the space pre-performance in order to familiarise myself with the images and to embrace the installation as an artwork. This privilege is shared with any viewing member of the public as the installation is open as a space both pre and post performance. From this, I was able to inspect the smaller supporting images pertinent to the subject; the images are documentary representations of the visited landscapes, positioned in a way that the smaller images are threaded with larger more prominent memories. Small details such as the composition and the placement of the images could have been revisited in a way so there is a subtle refining, in order to preserve the installations objective qualities and its visual coherence. Exploring a darkened space as opposed to a naturally illuminated room would be a potentially beneficial inquisition.

The most immediate stimulus is the collection of slate fragments on the floor adjacent to the door; signs of human interaction are evident in the marks left from previous interactions.

As the performance is prepared, the usher greets the audience into the room. The viewer is immediately confronted by Lloyd, who is leaning with support from a black loop of thick material, which is attached to the wall out of direct eyesight, her weight supported in faith by this cord.

Her orientation is relatively imposing, in relation to the expanse of the room, forcing the viewer to make a decision – whether to stand near her from the front, or to traverse beyond her and view her movement from a different standpoint. This decision can alter not just the visual perspective but the experiential perspective the viewer is presented. The slow directional movement from left to right conveys a narrative that visually leads the viewer, and also draws attention to the strategically placed images, echoing the subject matter and becoming an extension of the work through the tension of the cord and the chronological movement through the room.

On first viewing I felt compelled to view her from a distance, as she interacted with the loose slate, to allow for the flow to describe the narrative she intended and to also broaden my view of the peripheral content.

Her gradual movements of interaction with the slate bare connotations that demonstrate a revisiting of physicality of the memory, whilst literally battling with the tension of the cord and the precariousness forced by the fragmented slate.

The transitions from one movement to another are executed pristinely; a lack of fluidity would drain the viewers’ focus from the objects to the performers fallibility. Lloyd’s transitions are subtle, but all are appropriate when drawing the focus of the viewer to the supporting stimulus. The performance encapsulates Lloyd’s intentions very clearly, to draw attention to the memories that are displayed as photographs, and to draw the viewer through the installation through her clockwise movement.

On second viewing, there was a more substantial audience, which proved to offer a different perspective for my viewing and also the viewing audience. The attendees impulsively crouched underneath Lloyd’s taut cord and immediately viewed the work from a reverse perspective, this as stated before would provoke a contrasting perspective on the performance, which isn’t necessarily inhibited by the presence of the performer. I personally found that following the chronology presented in the installation allowed for the narrative to build, as Lloyd intended.

The climatic stage of the performance includes Lloyd drawing herself near the proximal point of her cord, controlling every movement with strict attention, and detaching from the support. Then she takes a hammer and begins attaching a pre set image of the previous take of the performance to the wall with attentive precision. The solidification of the final images’ symbolism resonates through the entire performance, offering a progression towards a conclusive ending.

Lloyd’s personal development is focused on refining her attention to detail, both the objective details and impactful qualities of her motions. This is naturally achieved through her involvement in the performance.

The subtleties of her work accumulatively substantiate the installation, where her interaction with the space finalises the entire work.

Fresh from NUA

Every summer the studio spaces within the historic St. Georges Building of Norwich University of the Arts, which houses the creative activities of its resident fine art students, is cleared. The messy, productive and often quite chaotic spaces find themselves stripped bare and revamped in order to house work (of the graduating students) in a much more purposeful manner.

Shared working environments, such as shared or artist-run studios (the kind one accepts rather expectantly as a student) provides a fascinating environment in which to work; immersive and diverse, these working environments are the ideal breeding ground for creativity. To see such unrefined creative activity translated into such an eloquent display of emerging talent is utterly refreshing and in this sense NUAs 2014 Fine Art Degree Show does not disappoint; an absolute assortment of artistic practice, work throughout this show spans the traditional to the Avant-garde, challenging notions of artistic practice, ways in which work can be made and ways in which making itself can be thought.

Shared studios are the catalyst for creative discourse and dialogue; shared conversations, common interests and communal discussion are echoed through the display of work. The show is not themed per say, although making ones way round one is aware, in a rather poetic sense, of conversations that have taken place between practitioners and dialogue that is taking place between work.

One such conversation may implicate craft or craftsmanship, work across the breadth of the show appears to be heavily involved with its own making and visually demonstrating such processual activity. Davide Lakshmanasamys Untitled, standing authoritatively on the upper landing, is a stunning example of craftsman-like methodologies of making. Positioned domineeringly, the immensely strong and exceptionally certain characteristics of  Lakshmanasamys work sits in tentative contrast aside the ever-in-flux curatorial compositions of Michaela DAgati. DAgatis installation, which is not titled collectively, but lists each work individually, calls into questions contemporary drawing practice. Through processes of hand, mind and eye, elements of her work gracefully and purposefully negotiate the space in which they reside. Through the interaction between the objects and their space, the physical presence of the space itself is brought to one’s attention, one becomes immediately aware of certain characteristics and nuances of the space shared by oneself and the work. In dialogue with the spatial occupancy of DAgatis work, Francesca Cants Moving Hinged Screens, which invite participatory activity, cleverly ensue the negotiation of space by means of a viewers interaction. The four hinged wooden structures, which frame semi-transparent windows, are intended to be moved; the work either finds itself repositioned in which case the mover defines the space they are in, or remains in its current position, where the structure defines the space and how one might negotiate it.

Davide Lakshmanasamy

Davide Lakshmanasamy

Michaela

When I Remember, a work by Emma Jones, sees photographs from her childhood reduced into single colours, papers are printed in these autumnal shades and are then folded to create a constellation of origami-like objects which weighted to a single point seem to float upward like a procession of ascending lanterns. Like in Jones work where meaning is subverted behind a fairly minimal faced, Helen Pifferos, a work comprised of two large canvases, becomes an almost political stance against knowing in terms of viewing work. Behind a really rather physical making, involving as much the removal of paint as well as its application, a very visual façade invites contemplation and reflection.

Emma Jones

Emma Jones

Giles Basons Pari Passu, which quite plainly has involved a meditative and tranquil process of making, invokes the same in its viewer. Its utterly subtle, elegant appearance boasts meticulously and lovingly carved ash wood. The works concrete bases are imprinted with wood-like grain and each one, beautifully sculpted by hand, takes on a life of its own as an individual. Staged in front of a large glass window, Basons work coexists with nature and stunning natural light. Although logic tells us, that these sculptural forms have been whittled down to their current physical presences, they appear very much to have manifested naturally from seedlings, even their concrete bases taking on an organic quality with the subtle wood-like textures engrained in their surfaces.

Giles Bason

Giles Bason

In the work of Adam T. Burton, whose digitally made film Those Personal Machines of Transcendence is intentionally disrupted to give this difficult-to-view media a certain amount of tangibility, the materiality of what Burton creates is very much at the forefront of his practice; HD footage is paired with animated light bleeds and virtual camera faults and gives the impression that Burton is working with a media much more physical than is actually the case. The footage sees Burton returning to his hometown, a place he left at the age of 19, where he shoots an array of eerie scenes in which images of the 70s housing estate in which he grew up, seem not to move at all. The film is not made nostalgically, lovingly or emotionally, instead Burton seems to demonstrate a disconnect between himself, his camera and his subject. In the gallery, Burtons work is viewed initially through the semi-transparent views of Alana Webbs Oculi, Formulation I, in which the traditionally city-scape is completely transformed; windows photographed by Webb whilst exploring the city at night induce our most voyeuristic and inquisitive nature. Unlike with Burtons work, Marcia Xs The Gonzo Museum of Ethnology presents: Diasporic X, also introduces the viewer into new surroundings. Traveling back to Puerto Rico, a place that X hadnt visited in fourteen years, she has retuned with her memories. Whilst immersed in Xs work, one does not find oneself in a recreation of Puerto Rico itself, but an installation in which she curates an identity for herself; one which draws on cultural and social idioms, one which stands against the notion of having an identity created for her. Invited to play dominoes with X, she invites the viewer (and people from other parts of the world) to connect with her, in the same way that friends and family connect in Puerto Rico, through the playing of dominoes.

Alana Webb

Alana Webb

Elyn Middleton in her work Look Up Look Down Look all Around, removes a section of the gallery wall to allow one to peer through, not only to the stunning view through the window behind but to the original and paint spattered wall of this historic building. A glimpse which is mirrored and balanced with subtle material gestures; steel rods balance precariously in the space between the original wall and the much newer gallery wall, small rectangular pieces of painted wood are positioned matter-of-factly on the floor and a box-stool which becomes part of this rather curatorial arrangement has the much more practical role of allowing one to see.

The NUA fine art degree show is also quite heavily involved with more theoretical discussion; the catalogue brings aspects of contemporary art practice into question boasting the work of artist Cornelia Parker who demonstrates her playful methods of making and a conversation with artist John Wallbank focused on the subject of process. The theme of accessibility is discussed through a text comprised of the ideas of artist Jo Addison, writer Victoria Mitchell and curator Marcus Dickey-Horley, whilst Mark Wilsher through his text Dont Stop, talks of continuing practice after art school. Conversations and dialogues are formed and cemented with the presence of research and resource material from each student artist and a well-informed resource area attempts to expand on dialogue with its audience around potential of art practice today.

The Degree Shows at Norwich University of the Arts open on 1st July and runs until July 8th; they boast many more incredible works and talented practitioners.

Photos by Joseph Doubtfire.

TH4Y

TH4Y – They Had Four Years

TH4Y is an annual exhibition held by GENERATOR that invites graduating artists around Scotland to submit proposals towards the production of new work. The newly commissioned work of 2014 belongs to the Brownlee Brothers, Flo Gordon, Jonny Lyons, Ailsa Mackenzie and Mary-Beth Quigley. The common bond that exists between the artists is that their practise resides in the idea of the conflicting desires of escapism from the expectations of day-to-day life. Alongside these themes there is the obvious shared use of humour and reflections on childhood that throws the viewer into a world of colour.  The colourful works excite the viewer and entice them into an edible world of art.

The Brownlee Brothers are drawn to macabre folklore and urban legends in contrast to the initial colourful playground that belongs to Flo Gordon and Ailsa Mackenzie. The Brownlee Brothers have created a sinister atmosphere that radiates throughout the dim gallery through the use of their suspended bronze sculpture. They attempt to imitate an object such as a censer, associated with Free Masonry and Catholic ceremonies. The sculpture is filled with incense and burned each day. This performance in itself is ritualistic and challenges the dark and unsettling nature of secret societies and religion. The atmosphere that surrounds the object is overwhelming and is uncomfortable for the viewer. For the masses that are unaware of secret societies, they are able to consider the role they play in relation to our daily life.

 

To compliment this dark theme is the work of Jonny Lyons. Lyons work was inspired by St. Minias, the first Christian martyr of Florence. According to legend, Miniato was an Armenian king who became a hermit in a cave on the hill of Mons Fiorentinus. In 250AD he was denounced and persecuted for being a Christian as he refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods. Miniato had undergone various torments, most of which he emerged unscathed and eventually he was beheaded. Lyons creates a film that considers the beliefs of Miniato in conjunction with the ideas of lost boys putting their outlandish ideas into practise. Alongside the screening of the film, Lyons has created a functioning sculpture of a wooden gun that is displayed on the gallery floor. I fail to see how Miniato relates at all to Lyons’ film. The wooden gun is pointed at a man’s head continuously. It appears more suicidal than any kind of respect to Miniato although it could be viewed very loosely as a statement to the saint’s martyrdom.  I appreciate the craftsmanship of Lyons’ work however the tribute to St. Minias appears to be a cock and bull story to complement the gun.

Generator Projects

Courtesy of Generator Projects.

This leads onto the colourful work of Flo Gordon. Gordon is interested in colour combinations and the irregularity of shapes. Sensory perception is a key aspect in the artist’s work with what looks like a giant cake portrait of Frodo from Lord of the Rings. Alongside this, placed on the floor are duvet fried eggs that resemble giant Haribo. Flo is considering the concept of edible colours and contains a humorous approach. I was lingering in the gallery with the hope to reach for a giant Haribo. The garish colours clash with the darker themes of The Brownlee Brother’s and Lyons’ work yet it provides a lighter atmosphere leaving the audience to reminisce of childhood dreams.

The GENERATOR is a great venue in Dundee for emerging artists. It is unfortunate that the city offers a lack of gallery space for upcoming artists and I admire the strength of the GENERATOR projects to aid artists from Duncan of Jordanstone and also from other art schools across the country. As a recent graduating artist myself I understand the difficulties that they all face.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Flo Gordon on life after art school and quizzed her on the very issue as well as her art work and more;

DF: Your work is very playful. What was the initial inspiration behind these works and have you always been interested in these ideas?

FG: I have one rule that I make work by and that is: do what you want. I make a lot of my art without question until it’s finished and then I’ll figure out what compelled me to make it – there’s always a reason. I have lots of different interests but the most prominent in my work to date would be my belief in instinctive humour, the psychological effects of colour, abstract ideas of faith and the way in which modern science threatens our sense of reality in benign ways.

DF: Was Mr Blobby a personal favourite of yours or does he have a deep cryptic meaning?

FG: I actually hardly ever watched Mr Blobby when I was young because he freaked me out. Though every time I saw him, then (and now), I would think of cake. I love ‘edible’ colours and how they speak directly to your sub-conscious urges.

 DF: Life after art school was always going to be hard. How did you find entering reality?

 FG: I had a few great opportunities given to me which have kept me busy for most of the year so I’ve been extremely lucky in that sense. However, the change in working environment was quite hard to adapt to. After University I moved home because it made sense financially. At University they tell you about the problems with money and juggling jobs with your practice but they never tell you about how lonely it can get working on your own. Some people work well in solitude but I was surprised to find that I benefited from a lively environment. I now live away from home and have gotten myself a communal studio space. I half-jokingly explain to people that I am paying for my mental health.

DF: Do you have any advice for the current emerging graduates?

 FG: Apply to everything. There are a lot of opportunities that are for recent graduates only, so lap them up while you can. Even if you don’t think you’re quite right for the application or vice versa, have a pop at it because a lot of these things are pretty flexible.

Brush off the rejection e-mails. With lots of applications, come lots of rejections. If you compiled a list of all your favourite artists and had to choose just one… it’s really hard! Just because you didn’t get it doesn’t mean your crap. Keep the faith and keep working.

Do what you want. Don’t feel confined to the art you made at University. I’ve met ‘established’ artists whose art totally contradicts their personality and I can’t help but wonder if they’ve been pigeon-holed into a type of work for which they are admired but they don’t necessarily like themselves. To me that seems sad like sleeping through your holiday.

Don’t be a pushover but don’t be a dick. This comes from personal experience and interactions with galleries; If you have a vision, don’t feel embarrassed to re-iterate instructions that are important to you. However, be considerate, respectful and generally an all-round lovely person because that helps with everything.

DF: Do you think it is important to encourage emerging artists and do you think that they have a place in society today?

 FG: Absolutely. We are definitely outcast a little and that’s mostly because people are fearful of those they don’t understand but all you have to do is talk about your work in layman’s terms once in a while.

DF: Do you have any plans for the future?

FG: I’ve just come to the end of quite a busy period so I’m just starting to make some new work and properly enjoy my new studio http://thenumbershop.org which coincidently will have a few shows on this summer.

TH4Y

Courtesy of Generator Projects.

Meetin Marina; 512 Hours at the Serpentine Gallery

I remember the first time I heard the name Marina Abramović. It was during a lecture in my first year of university – I’d opted for a term of performance art workshops, with the intention of throwing myself as far out of my comfort zone as possible (I knew I’d chosen correctly when our tutor’s first instruction to the group was to walk through the university’s campus barefoot and in single file).

As that particular week’s session was coming to a close, our tutor handed us all some additional reading material – a stapled booklet of photocopied excerpts from several articles about the work of Marina Abramović. Later, as I began to skim through the text in the silence of my bedroom, I quickly became engrossed in the story of someone who not only created art work but seemingly lived it out.

Now pegged as a matriarch within the realm of performance art, Marina Abramović has fostered a career spanning the last 40 years. In that time, she has repeatedly challenged her audience as well as her own body, carving out an area within art that requires both physical and mental endurance. Some of her most famous works required Abramović to push her body to its limits, sometimes until she lost consciousness and was unable to continue. A piece, part of her ‘Rhythm Series’ literally left her life in the hands of her viewers: providing a table of objects and implements (which included thorns, a blade and a gun with a single bullet) she resolved to stay passive for 6 hours, while the audience could use what they pleased on her. Despite what might sound confrontational to some, I don’t believe her work revolves around the danger or even the risk but would say that it is rather concerned with the very nature of being alive; of being conscious and present and with the point where you can no longer maintain this state.

It was the 2002 work A House with the Ocean View that I was first reading about – for this piece, Abramović spent 12 days in the Sean Kelly Gallery, consuming nothing but water. Her dwelling place consisted of three raised ‘rooms’ that acted as bedroom, bathroom and living space, each of them open to the public’s gaze. When talking about her desire for the exhibition, Abramović has said that by cleansing her own body through fasting and ritual, she was opening up a space in which anyone who entered would be free of time and purely in the present. By dedicating the gallery in this way, she even hoped to affect the space on an atomic level. I’d never before heard of an artist who confronted their audience so powerfully (and literally) while remaining so vulnerable.

In the hour that I stood awaiting my entrance to the Serpentine Gallery – on the opening day of Abramović’s new exhibition 512 Hours – I could feel the anticipation of the event building. Being in the present; what does that really mean? The question swirled in my mind as I stood with the friend who’d accompanied me, both of us speculating as to what we might be about to experience. I wondered if it would be similar to her 2010 MoMA performance The Artist is Present; a one on one encounter, sat facing the artist herself. I’d heard that that particular work had evoked tears in many of the people who came to sit with her; I wondered if I would cry, if that was what was to happen.

Marina Abramovic

Image courtesy of Serpentine Gallery, Laura Ferrari, Rahi Rezvani and Marina Abramovic.

A gallery staff member was moving down the queue, informing all those waiting, of the exhibition guidelines: we were to remain silent and to leave all bags/watches/technological items behind before entering. We edged closer to the front of the queue, excitement sparking as if we were about to be let on to a rollercoaster. When it was our turn to go inside, I felt my heart leap in my chest as we briskly moved through to a locker room. Already the air was different; the assistants gestured in silence, their faces warm and calm. Feeling already naked without the objects I’d come with, my friend and I exchanged an inquisitive glance and quietly crossed into the main gallery space.

People; just people. My eyes darted around the room, searching the space for an understanding of the layout. Standing facing the walls, sat on chairs, drifting in the open – I could not fathom the reasons for the different stances people had assumed. Then, like a sweeping breeze, a hand took hold of my own. I immediately felt safe; open. Leading me gently, this woman and I were gliding through the space, past other linked pairs, past poised figures staring ahead pensively. Another figure began to come into focus – an unmistakable face. Marina Abramović’s long, dark hair swayed in a straight plait as she too guided someone by the hand. Based on my track record of star struck gawking even when in the presence of fairly minor celebrities, I was surprised when I was able to take her in as if with no prior introductions. But her presence was strong and my eyes remained fixed to her until I was led into an adjoining room. How long would this hand be in mine? We come to a thick, white blind hanging across a section of the gallery’s large windows with our faces just centimetres away from its surface. I feel the presence of other people swell and fade away into the distance. A pause and then a whisper: ‘You may keep your eyes open or closed, but stay here for as long as you can. Just breathe.’ She let go of my hand and pressed her palm to my back for only a moment before leaving me there; I felt my breathing slow as the feel of her touch evaporated. I stayed in that spot, my gaze roaming the white light of the linen barrier before me. Just breathe, I thought.

I did eventually move, although I couldn’t say after how long. It was probably about the time I realised I’d not come alone and I’d left my friend in a relatively alien situation. My hand was taken on a second occasion as well, this time the interaction coming to a close when I was seated in one of the wooden chairs dotted throughout the gallery. This second woman placed her I did eventually move, although I couldn’t say after how long. It was probably about the time I realised I’d not come alone and I’d left my friend in a relatively alien situation. My hand was taken on a second occasion as well, this time the interaction coming to a close when I was seated in one of the wooden chairs dotted throughout the gallery. This second woman placed her hands on my shoulders, their weight softening my posture. Now in the main space once again, I was watching the movement of people on a square, raised platform in the room’s centre. For a while, Marina Abramović was leading several people, one by one, onto this slightly elevated stand. I failed to decipher what she whispered to them but many closed their eyes and stood for some time. She moved like a river, gently meandering between people and moving some as she went. It seemed as though energy was being transferred from body to body, like electricity that soothed and quieted those it touched.

We left not knowing how long we’d spent in that space. As the Hyde Park sun filtered across our faces, we both remarked on the state of calm we felt even then. ‘Not like a religious experience,’ my friend commented, ‘but still an energy.’ I wanted to let the encounter sink in; to ponder what this very different gallery experience had been. ‘They are my living material; I am their living material’; Marina Abramović’s words prior to the exhibition’s opening. In that space, I had been the same material as I was now. Maybe I was more aware of myself in that space; someone had given me permission to breathe, to be stood where I was stood. Someone had given me the opportunity to leave my belongings somewhere else; someone had let me be without distraction. Someone had asked me to be present.

Brighton Degree Show – Art Fare

The degree show is a very awkward tradition set in place by the institution as self-branding for themselves and upcoming graduates. This conventional expectation takes place every year, whereby every student is expected to muster up a penultimate creation to sum up their entire art school education. Its safe to say that this is a doomed prospect from the outset. This almost unquestioned element of art education is what I wish to explore in this article – do we make work that plays to a high traffic public, rather than question what it means to present a defining artwork vital to our exposure as an artist?

My feelings towards the degree show, admittedly, stem from the nature of my course. Fine Art: Critical Practice at the University of Brighton which places theory and practice as equally important, where you develop a practice which tests itself against discussion and analysis, considering the mode of authorship, the context of the work and how it engages with an audience and society. As part of a group of fourteen students, we all agreed that it has always been a flawed process whereby each year the studio is transformed into aquasi-gallery space, purely to accommodate the degree show. I just want to clarify that we were all aware the necessity of a degree show (for logistical reasons) and the platform it gave us to expose our previous post-studio show, Art Fare.

Art Fare was a two-week exhibition attempting to remove contemporary art from inside of the gallery, and took place across the in-service Brighton and Hove buses. By engaging with a wider audience in a public and accessible space, the exhibition explored the value of art in the everyday. Many works were advertised, whereas others deliberately slipped under the radar, allowing an element of uncertainty on some journeys. Due to the unique transit, post-studio nature of this exhibition, the works were difficult to capture in its entirety. This exhibition captured the ideas we wanted to challenge; so to then create a degree show two weeks later would always exist in the shadow of Art Fare.

Being aware of the exposure the degree show presents allowed us to collectively produce a documentation show of the exhibition. We did, however, actively refuse the conventional form of a documentary gallery exhibition and instead we continued the trajectory of show through Art Fare: The Shop. For those who saw the bus-show, the items in Art Fare: The Shop functioned as souvenirs, and for those who didn’t see the show, they were compensation for the missed opportunity. The work in the show took the understated forms of postcards, key-rings, cushions, posters, and other merchandise – each documenting the essence of the context-specific works.

The exhibition was inside a purpose built white cube, set inside the studio and leaving the majority of the space empty to place emphasis on the structure. Often there is no acknowledgement of its role for the previous three years as a functional, cluttered studio – it was this exact issue that we firstly wanted to avoid, and then came to directly address in our show. Aspiring to this, the white cube structure played on the false pretence given during the degree show; that the work is in a legitimate gallery environment, when in fact it has just been remodelled to appear so.

It often seems that London art schools set the precedent for expectations for work within a degree show – most likely instigated by the YBA’s. Through their use of shock tactics, throwaway materials, and wild living, they achieved considerable media coverage and dominated British art during the 1990s. Famously, many of the artists were supported and collected by Saatchi. For many people, the degree show acts as a platform to uncover their identity as an artist to collectors, potential employers and the press. Now don’t get me wrong, this works very favourably to a lot of people, I just think it leaves a strong reputation for expected spectacular works of art like Damien Hirst’s The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, a shark preserved in formaldehyde in a vitrine, and Tracey Emin’s My Bed, a disheveled double bed surrounded by detritus.

Brighton Art Fare

 

 

Nina Canell, Near Here

Nina Canell, Near Here

Camden Arts Centre, London/BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK

 

Even though I lived in London for a year when studying for my Foundation Degree, I had never been to Camden Arts Centre before. Looking back, I wish I had known about this gem: not only is it an exciting hub of contemporary art but it is also a perfect excuse for a day out in sunny Hampstead.

After eating the most amazing salad in the world in the downstairs Café (seriously, I could write a whole review on the salad), my boyfriend Joe and I made our way into the gallery space. Although perturbed by the invigilators who monitored every step we took as they followed us through the gallery, we were able to ignore them as we were immediately intrigued by contents of the light-filled room: Nina Canell’s ‘Near Here’.

Swedish artist Canell has, according to the blurb on the wall, made a series of sculptural works which ‘respond to the architectural environment of Camden Arts Centre’. The scientific laboratory aesthetic of fragments of electrical cabling set on concrete plinths or inside glass vitrines are muted by areas of domestic carpet which are the same cream colour as in my boyfriend’s mum’s house.

The long black pieces of cable are covered with water in blue-y glass vitrines. At each cut end, we can see a cross-section of hundreds of tiny copper wires, insulated with different coloured plastics. As we walk across the room, the surface of the water wobbles and ripples as though there is still electricity coursing through the thick cable. These remnants of electrical current are echoed by the process of the floor work, ‘Near Here (One Microsecond)’, where the artist has passed 1,000,000 volts through photocopying toner during one microsecond. The result, a dusty black flash of lightning, recalls the force and power of energy, but seems absorbed by the carpet underneath.

 

NINA CANELL

Photo Credits: Nina Canell

Canell seems to choreograph her audience in the gallery space: I have to stand right up close to see the individual fibres of ‘Blue (Diffused)’, a shredded sock which now resembles a petri-dish of cell culture; but when I look down to see ‘Forgetfulness (Ether)’, an Ethernet cable suspended in water in a small vitrine, close to the floor, it is invisible. I am forced to step back, but carefully so I don’t knock the other work which is clustered together.

This trepidation is fully realised in ‘Amender’. In this work, a hidden magnet holds nails which form a chain dangling down. These nails which hang at eye level are simultaneously threatening and precarious; their vulnerability makes you want to hold your breath so you don’t disturb the invisible force which stills them.

This exhibition makes me think about transmission and electricity and how it has been domesticated in our homes. Plug sockets, light switches and Ethernet ports are a familiar sight in our homes, but their underground arterial network is unknown to us.

‘Near Here’ in Gateshead is a much more sparse, pared-down show than in Camden Arts Centre. Just four works occupy the gallery space of BALTIC, a converted flour mill on the Newcastle/Gateshead Quayside. Stepping out of the blue-y glass lift, you are immediately faced with Canell’s second incarnation of ‘Near Here‘, and in particular, the huge sculpture consisting of hundreds of handmade neon strip lights. These lights are filled with gas which, when ionised by electricity, causes them to emit a fluorescent, off-white light: each glows a slightly different hue, depending on the ratio of different gases in each glass tube.

This work, ‘Overcoming the Current Resistance‘, was originally designed for a derelict powerhouse in Sydney, Australia, where the tower of light illuminated the dark, industrial setting. BALTIC, though once a working mill, is now a clean white cube gallery space; here, the blue-yellow-pink-white light is subtle and subdued, changing according to the light conditions outside the gallery. The overwhelming scale means the electricity running through the sculpture is almost palpable; an invisible buzz seems to surround the work.

Image Credits: Nina Canell: Near Here

Photo Credits: Nina Canell

In Camden, the carpets paired with Ethernet cables made me think about the electricity that has been made safe and accessible in our homes; how used to it we are and how we rely on it in our daily routines. In front of this vast work, however, I am faced with something far less familiar and far more powerful: the formidable force of electric potential.

You can see Near Here at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Arts until 20th July. BALTIC has an excellent Café and shop, and brilliant views of Newcastle/Gateshead Quayside. You can access their incredible library resources for free, and their staff are amazingly helpful and always willing to chat to you

245 Reasons to visit DJCAD’S Degree Show…

245 Reasons to visit DJCAD’S Degree Show…

 

The Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design’s academic year culminates with the long anticipated Degree show that provides a platform for the new emerging artists and designers of 2014.

The diversity of the show draws attention to the 245 talented artists that have been housed in Dundee for the previous four years. As a graduating student from DJCAD it has been an honour to study alongside this years creative students.

One particular show that stands out belongs to Lily Morris. Morris explores the nuances of growing up and growing old by abstracting and embellishing her endearing family narratives. Plaster cast mannequin baby doll legs litter the space with dainty ceramic shoes placed on their feet. The mannequins are somewhat disturbing and draw out nostalgic feelings towards my own irrational fear of little girl’s dolls. There is a sculpture of the plaster mannequin doll legs that is placed in the corner dressed in red tights and little girl’s white shoes. The red tights suggest that this baby girl is becoming a woman with the strong vibrant colour of red. Every woman can relate to that idyllic prepubescent stage where one is still pure and innocent and life’s only trial is fighting over who gets the best doll. As you leave Morris’ space the sadness of an era hits you quietly while you secretly thank you no longer have to fight over the best doll. There is a sickly sweet note to Morris’ work yet it was a show I greatly admired.

Kelley davis Art

Image Courtesy Of The Artist Kelley Davis

 The familial theme runs throughout DJCAD’s Degree show. Prominent within Kelley Davis’ work is the portrayal of the early abandonment of her father and the artist focuses on self-healing through the creation of her art. The main piece within the gallery space is the installation of a white communion dress suspended from the ceiling. Fishhooks puncture the dress and are tied with red thread. The red has connotations of blood connecting to the loss of the relationship of Davis’ Father that has detracted from the innocence of a child. The lack of relationship to her Father creates this idea to the viewer that Davis’ has been wounded and seeks a way to rebuild herself. The obvious destruction of Davis’ childhood creates a sense of grief but the viewer is filled with a sense of comfort as the artist recreates a performance of her Mother’s words. Davis’ Mother reconstructs the traumatic events of their lives. The words of the artist’s Mother instils silence within the space and despite describing harrowing events one cannot help but feel the comfort of a Mother’s words and what she will do to protect her children. Having watched Kelley Davis struggle throughout this year dealing with such an important piece of her life, she has executed her ordeal with such grace. Her work is an inspiration and permits those who have experienced something similar to receive some form of acceptance.

The work at DJCAD produced a great show and I recommend members of the public to visit the emerging artists. I am biased as a graduating student but DJCAD has allowed me to meet a bunch of interesting people and some of the most talented people I have ever met.

 

Written By Danielle Fleming

 

Phyllida Barlow: Dock

Phyllida Barlow: Dock

Phyllida Barlow’s current work ‘Dock’ is part of a commission for Tate Britain supported by Sotheby’s.
Having seen Barlow’s ‘RIG’exhibition in Hauser and Wirth in late 2011, I had some incline as to what was to be expected before entering Tate Britain; I certainly wasn’t disappointed. Similarly to ‘RIG’, this show demonstrates Barlow’s successful idiosyncratic style on an even larger scale than previously.

Upon entering the Duveen Galleries (the largest open space in Tate Britain), the viewer is immediately confronted with the scale of the imposing structures; the wooden frames tower overhead as they envelop the surrounding space, occupying the usually vast expanse of the gallery. The protruding struts and lattices provide a path in which to traverse further into the complex, enticing the viewer to explore and investigate the space.

A previous commission by Fiona Banner also demonstrated the way large works occupy the space; Harrier and Jaguar was a work that consisted of two fighter jets, one on it’s back and one hanging from the Duveen Gallery ceiling.

The sheer scale is immediate, as is the presence of the massive hanging objects; the massive tube structure is suspended with industrial cord, tied haphazardly around one of the higher struts, regardless of the apparent casualness of it’s application, the forms are solid and far from being precarious.phyllida barlow

 

The verticality and situation of the work encourages the viewer to observe the space in which the work is situated, and to also traverse the gallery through and around the work.

An affinity with architecture and sculpture is formed through the way the structures swallow the space they fill, and secondly how the protrusions extend the current space; the forming of a new synthetic space allows viewers to investigate the internal and external structure of the objects.

Aside from this affinity, a more stark contrast between the pristine architecture and the invasive harshness of the structures becomes apparent, drawing even more attention to the casualness of the materials in conjunction to the quality of the Galleries. Furthermore, the tactility of the works becomes manifest, the intricacy of the surface detail draws the viewers to near the works and appreciate the surfaces. Ultimately the work bares qualities that draws attention to the minute detail and the sheer scale of it’s form.

On closer inspection, the harshness of the execution and the manipulation of the materials becomes a primary curiosity, a privilege offered through the situation of the objects and the enticing nature of the forms. On occasion the height of the work inhibits further investigation, Barlow’s work is concerned with the human interaction with materials therefore the viewer is forced to interact with the work, one feels compelled to investigate the surface. After this I certainly felt compelled to touch the works.

The materials battle with their common fragilities through their integration with stronger more stern materials; polystyrene and cement, chord and wood, cardboard and so on are materials unified with solidity and rigidity. Phyllida’s work to me has always given the illusion of weight and mass, yet with enough observation the integrity is revealed to consist of more flexible materials, thus demonstrating her considered interaction with the materials.

Context is important, especially the physical context in which the objects are placed. The contrast of its situ was more overwhelming in ‘RIG’, due to the immediacy of the placement of the work (as it was adjacent to the entrance) and through the way the structures interacted with the unconventional space; ‘Dock’ consists of primarily object based sculptures rather than architectural extensions (although they are still present) or interventions.

Ultimately, ‘Dock’ is an impactful commission that encapsulates Barlow’s achievements and successes, and is certainly worth experiencing.

Crippling the Blacksmith Part Two: The Boundless Museum

As the second installment of his Arts Council England funded project, Jon Lockhart’s Crippling the Blacksmith examines institutional display, artifacts and our relationship with them through unspoken insight. In its broadest sense, the exhibition embraces the suppressed nostalgia within us all, bringing each and every viewer into an immediate and eternal relationship with every object displayed.

Its charm begins with the sheer visual wealth in the exhibition’s most prominent work, The Boundless Museum, made from stainless steel scaffolding which accommodates an abundance of found items – adopted and hoarded by Lockhart as a generous pool of reusable creative objects. Through carefully and systematically displaying the countless amounts of things in a static motion, the items appear as though they are frozen amidst a monumental storm of decades past and present. The vast installation has the ability to swallow up the viewer, yet instead it poses as a delicate shelter during a process of looking and discovery. There are chairs elevated on protruding tubes of scaffolding, piles of vinyl records on the floor, coloured cord snaked around poles and the most insignificant clutter ordered with precision. As the core of the exhibition, this installation engulfs the baffling and normalizes it, providing a continuous narrative from object to object; resulting in a tangible collage.

This obscure fictional journey continues throughout both Fanton Walk and Beat, where both works almost become entirely overlooked. In most exhibitions, this would be a bad quality, however in Lockhart’s case, it draws strong attention to the exhibitions use of accidental placement. Fanton Walk, made from a discarded road sign arranged with abandoned pieces of wood and cardboard, seems to be so strategically placed (near the exhibition entrance) that many viewers overlooked it entirely; unlike camouflage, this work is so obvious that it simply acts as a milestone to continue the visual journey. This exploration lingers also within Beat, where its obvious subtlety – a purposeful oxymoron, in fact reveals an uncanny quality to Lockhart’s practice that is neither purely childish nor purely humorous. Beat intensifies everyday objects such as a calculator, screwdriver and an aerial by arranging them as bizarre objects that are no longer simply novelty retro household items, but formed into a sculpture transforming them from invaluable, non functioning items into milestones of technological history. Even though it is clear that these objects don’t work – there are no visible plugs and are not serviceable in their displayed position; they become a believable contraption that echoes make-and-do decades from the past.

Jon Lockhart

 

 

Breaking up the inquisitive murmurs from visitors is This Love of Mine, installed in an enclosed space; the super 8 projector sequentially turns on, along with Frank Sinatra’s renowned song. It is important to note here that the projector did not in fact project anything except the light without a slide. This work – outside of its romantic associations, became a duet between two elements from the cultural past. As the most cryptic work in the show for me personally, the use of Sinatra’s song combined with the projector (not projecting), only hints towards Lockhart’s love for old technology. I think it is fair so say that the absolute wealth of discarded objects is really encompassed within this work, and also in his other work, Flag; a work drawing attention to the passing of time through amplifying the ticking of a clock through several speakers.

Together, the composition and spacial installments within Crippling the Blacksmith: Part Two, guide the viewer through not just the gallery (where the works exist), but through time. Time is not only key to the experience of the works and the duration of becoming immersed within Lockhart’s loosely orchestrated narrative, but it makes us aware of the history behind the objects themselves, craftsmanship and the immediate elevation of the objects into artifacts.

The key work of Richard Forster

The key work of Richard Forster

I find myself inside the tranquil Ingleby Gallery, located just a short walk from the chaotic road of Edinburgh’s Princes Street, In the much quieter Calton Road.The gallery has been a considerable success within Edinburgh’s contemporary art scene and with its bright open floor space it provides excellent commercial premises for a contemporary artist to exhibit their body of work. Today I’m here to take a look at key works selected from the seven yearlong career of English artist, Richard Forster.

Forster draws his inspiration from photographs of all kinds, including his own snapshots, photographs he finds in magazines and books and images on the Internet. Despite the fact that his paintings often resemble photographs from a bygone time, he chooses himself not to be labeled within the category of photo-realism.

I can’t help but agree with him. His art goes beyond that. Whilst I follow the long white walls inside the sun-dazzled gallery, Forster‘s paintings tell me a story. Like jotted down diary reflections; certain places and people seem to have appealed and inspired the artist, in one way or another, to document them as a sort of memory, through the use of classical instruments such as pencils and watercolor.

Utilizing his eye for detail and exceptionally competent skills, Forster invites us to take part in his detailed paintings. His subjects include buildings, construction workers, rail traffic, everyday actions and visions which draw the spectator into the painting, the glorious mix of different themes and locations make for a fast paced yet peaceful viewing.

Richard Forster

 

From a distance I seem to be able to see each ceiling tile and masonry detailing of the buildings he has carefully created – a reflection in the apartment buildings’ window glass, a shadow from a soaring seagull. The closer I get to the painting the more the details fade away and become blurry tonal combinations in gray scale. Precise and well planned, the paint is deployed in such a way that, at a distance, it forms a detailed image full of expression and life.

Looking at his artwork from the collection from Saltburn-by-the Sea, I’m captured by the feeling these three drawings rouse in me. I can practically feel myself standing on the shore; the magnificent waves roll in over my feet whilst the wind beats against my hair. Residual foam from the waves settles on the outskirts of the sea, a clue pointing towards the composition of something bigger than itself. So too, Forster‘s art in close up helps the spectator understand his gentle technique of image creation.

His art reveals an interest in pattern and rhythm. Many of his images create visual movement or include creative ways of playing with different patterns. In a collection of paintings inspired from a 1926 documentary film of a building site, we take part in just that: The movement is captured like a film still, stuck between moments, investigating the physical force of humans in real life situations.

Forster‘s ability to capture movement and essential details cause his paintings to become vivid, captivating and thought provoking.

I leave Ingleby Gallery with the feeling of fresh air in my lungs, wishing to see more of the talented Richard Forster in the near future. If you have the opportunity to visit this vibrant collection of art, I advise you to do just that.

The Richard Forster exhibition is on from 3 May – 21 of June at the Ingleby Gallery.

Written By Freja Malmstedt

Stabbing And Stitching

‘Multiple Points In This Vague Landscape’

Jonathan Baldock and Florence Peake At Primary, Nottingham

Jonathan Baldock does uncanny things with fabric, creating absurd tableaus from semi-abstract shapes and disembodied heads. The sheer meticulousness of his craft suggests a serious and focused attention to making which can transform the most innocuous objects into taut, tactile and slightly unreal versions of their original forms. Since working with choreographer Henrietta Hale at Wysing Arts last year, he has been turning his eye for the uncanny towards performance. For his ongoing exhibition at Primary, he worked on a one-night-only performance choreographed by artist/dancer Florence Peake.

Although the Pembroke born artist is best known for his soft-sculpture installations, he has a background in painting which he shares with Peake. Peake’s work has often involved objects, and shows a very fluid relationship between object and performer, sculptor and sculpture. With just 2 days of rehearsals before the performance, they’re both learning about the possibilities of each other’s discipline. I went along to see the one-off performance at Primary, where the installation will be on show until the 7th of June.

Jonathan Baldock Photo Credit: James E Smith

The installation where the performance plays out is dominated by a gigantic yellow face. The entire head, standing well over 8 ft tall, has been arduously hand stitched. Its eyes have been removed, leaving two gaping holes and red-rimmed sockets. Piles of fluffy wodding are strewn around the stage like innards. Other objects occupy the floor before the monumental head: a huge cushioned red lump, swathes of grey fabric and a circle of sherbet-yellow sand. A collection of ceramic sticks laid out neatly on pieces of brightly coloured fabric of varying size and shape suggest a kit for picnic as much as they recall a surgeons tools. The smell of incense and a low soft humming begins to fill the room. Despite the unsettling connotations of this scene, the world which Baldock has created for the performers, full of kooky outsized shapes and cheerful colours appears soft, silly, even comical and almost, *almost*, harmless.

The performers costumes cover them almost completely from head-to-toe. At times they move so slowly that they could be part of the set they inhabit. It’s the uneven shifting of weight, as well as the exposed hands and feet, that give away the fact there is a person underneath. For much of Act 1, the two sit peacefully holding balls of wadding while using hooked, semi-circular needles to slowly draw out thin strands of wadding. At the first, these characters seem quite benevolent with their silly ‘emoticon’ faces, and their absurd ceremonies. *At first*.

In Act 2, the tone shifts. While one character continues to sit and stitch, the other holds two long poles as he performs a series of rapid but controlled gestures that look like a martial arts performance. As he moves, the poles draw scrape lines through the sand he stands on. The poles could be drawing tools, or weapons, or simply extensions of the characters arms. What the function poles serve is unclear, but the intent is deadly serious.

In Act 2 there is no ambient background noise. They prove that they are also capable of sudden aggression, as the pair set to work attacking one of the sculptures with violent curiosity: repeatedly stabbing and jabbing at the object with ceramic implements. Every stab that penetrates the surface emits an ear-splitting squeak which sets your teeth on edge. The fact that Baldock hand stitches his sculptures, and that his performers use knitting needles as their weapons can hardly be coincidental. As they hack away at the harmless, inanimate object, it’s as though they are distorting and parodying the process of making. Sewing – associated fixing and mending, is suddenly coupled with piercing and stabbing and tearing apart, so that making and destroying become the same sort of action.
Primary Nottingham

Photo Credit: James E Smith

Through the 3 Acts they gradually undress one another – but this only reveals robes beneath robes and masks beneath masks. Gradually exposing more skin, the performers become more human and less like animated sculptures. In the final Act, they stare out at the audience from behind the gigantic yellow head – acknowledging the audience directly for the first time. Up until this point, they have been oblivious to us, wrapped up in a world of their own. Now that we’ve been noticed, the atmosphere shifts again. At first the prolonged staring elicits a few nervous laughs from the audience. As they continue to stare, it goes beyond a joke. Gradually, people realize that this is the end of the performance. There are not going to be any further theatrics. They are not about to enact final climatic ceremony. This is simply the end.

Although the final scene feels like the most intimate moment of the performance, we are kept at a distance by the many layers of disguise. It ends with two pairs of eyes looking out from behind two masks. Two masks, which belong to two performers, which are staring out from the holes in a gigantic yellow mask. The gigantic yellow face, in a vaulted hall surrounded by soft props and implausible tools that serve no real purpose.

Written By Hannah Roast

Peter Doig Early Works

You would be forgiven for coming to an exhibition of Peter Doig’s early works and expecting to see a vague Trinidadian landscape, a purple canoe or a lonesome figure beneath a snow capped forest, such that we have become familiar with over his Turner Prize winning career. Instead, the Michael Werner Gallery offers us an exhibition of Peter Doig’s early works that offers a fruitfully ambitious display of the artist between studying his BA at Central Saint Martins and his MA at the Royal College.

Many of the paintings in this show explore the same subjects and themes that Doig has become well known for in his later work. We can see his interest in the solitary figure and the beginnings of a curiosity in landscape that is underlined with an exploration in the stuff of paint. The paintings remain biographical and document his time in London, Trinidad and Canada but also feature New York from when he would stop off to get cheap connecting flights between his three homes. The show is therefore decidedly more urban than his better-known later work.

Peter DoigImage Courtesy Of The Michael Werner Gallery. Copyright The Artist, Peter Doig.

Boom, boom, boom, boom (the sublime) is hung within a room occupied with other paintings inspired by New York. In this painting, two red figures sit in a car precariously balanced on the spire of the Chrysler Building with a dense New York City below. The painting is compositionally awkward however this only adds to the dissonance that is caused through the crude abstracted figures and the averted palate that constantly reminds us that something is not quite right.

The unsettling abstraction from familiarity continues in Contemplating Culture, a painting that was made after Boom, boom, boom, boom (the sublime) and whilst the artist was visiting London. Here we see rising flames licking the maroon sky above the sprawl of a yellow bricked London and a calm blood red river Thames. In front of this surreal landscape we seem to have interrupted a staring contest between an ancient Greek sculpture and his opposite, an angry man whose piercing glare bounces our attention between the two.

 Peter Doig

Image Courtesy Of The Michael Werner Gallery. Copyright The Artist, Peter Doig.

 

If we look at a later painting again and the latest in the show we see a much more refined and composed perspective on some of Doig’s most common of themes. In At the Edge of Town we see a recurrence of the maroon sky and a growing interest in the natural landscape. This painting shows a pivotal point in the artist’s career between paintings that show a clash of pop culture among the urban landscape, towards a foreign anonymous landscape that becomes tangled in mystery and suspense.

This is an exhibition made up of experiments. It shows an artist who is forever searching for his own artistic language. There are some paintings here that don’t work as well as others but the brilliance of this exhibition is in the pushing and reworking of ideas that has generated such a prosperous career.

The exhibition runs from 20th March through to the 31st May 2014 and can be seen at the Michael Werner Gallery in London. 

 

Written By Tom Cusack

 

The Eight Artistic Principles

The Attic sits at the very top of Nottingham’s towering gallery/studio complex One Thorseby St, which has always played host to an ambitious range of events. Lately the Attic has been used for talks, screenings, performances and parties alongside the regular exhibitions. Last month it was host to ‘The Eight Artistic Principles’, a show inspired by a convergence of painting, sculpture, neuro-aesthetics and evolutionary science, guest-curated by Thorseby St resident Joshua Lockwood.

Although Joshua has been aware of evolutionary theory since his A-levels, he has only recently begun researching more thoroughly, having been introduced to a paper called ‘The Science of Art – A Neurological Theory of Aesthetic Experience’. In this paper V.S Ramachandran and William Hirsteinset out on a “quest for artistic universals”. Their hypothesis is that even if beauty is largely subjective “there might be some universal rule, or ‘deep structure’, underlying all artistic experience”. To test this they put forward The 8 Artistic Principles, which they claim that artists consciously or unconsciously employ when making work in order to stimulate brains of their audience. The Principles are as follows: 

 

“1. The peak shift principle

2. Isolation of a single cue

3. Perceptual grouping

4. Extraction of contrast

5. Perceptual problem solving (visual puzzles)

6. Unique advantage point

7. Visual Metaphors

8. Symmetry.”

Used together or separately, they act as a framework for understanding visual art, aesthetics and design”. In the paper that the show draws from, Ramanchandran and Hirstein explore how each of these operates in forensic detail.

This is by no means the first time evolutionary biologists have offered explanations for what we find visually attractive, some of the above are quite well known – such as symmetry. To take another example, the appeal of visual puzzles in art can be explained when compared to camouflage. Think of a caveman, keeping watch for predators: if you can figure out the ‘visual puzzle’ in the layers of undergrowth, then your chances of escaping and surviving are higher. Viewed in this way, solving perceptual puzzles can be considered an adaptive quality. It benefits the caveman to be able to do this, and so we have evolved to enjoy solving visual puzzles. In the Science of Art, Ramachandran and Hirstein take these ideas and extend them to man-made objects.

Having been drawn in by the press release, I found it hard to resist playing a game of snap when I was in the gallery. There you see symmetry in the arrangement of lines (principle 8), there you see the contrast between rusted metal and the impossibly smooth surface on the inside of a shell (principle 4), etc. In the largest of the paintings (by Benjamin Brett) I can make out half figures, corners of a room, the outline of jugs and distinctive round shape of bowler hats, some shadows, but the initial overall impression is an abstract tangle, and in the back of my mind I know I am playing out Principle 6 – perceptual puzzle solving.

It could be seen as reductionist to propose formulas like this, however Ramachandran and Hirstein emphasise wherever possible that these principles can be played out “consciously or unconsciously”. I asked Joshua how the research he was reading had affected his work: Joshua stated, “Something that has become apparent recently is that I am more interested, more times than not, is the stuff that surrounds the objects – what the work triggers”.

Perhaps this is why the press release doesn’t go into detail about the practices of the individual artists (Benjamin Brett, Jack Brindley, Alice Browne, and Jess Flood-Paddock) leaving much of the viewer’s interpretation down to the aesthetics.  It’s also notable that within the press release itself, the references to ‘The Science of Art’ are kept ‘light’. The writing describes very complex ideas, but it doesn’t overwhelm you with jargon or try to convince you, it just states what you need to know. The rest is between you and the work.

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Images Courtesy Of David McAleavey.

A “quest for artistic universals” might sound grandiose, not to mention implausible, given that art might encompass everything from cave paintings to Jeff Koons, but the more I understand about the potential relationship between art and evolution, the more fascinated I am. The idea that making art is a fundamental part of human nature hardly needs proving – the species would have not have gotten this far without it, but I still find it exciting that something I feel instinctively can be backed up by dialogue between these different disciplines: artists, visual psychologists and evolutionary biologists alike.

Applying an evolutionary logic to art and aesthetics might make total sense in a cave-man era, but the issue of cultural differences, as well as individual taste, complicates the picture massively.  To think that looking at art from an evolutionary perspective might level the playing field as far as interpretation goes would be a huge over simplification. Ramachandran and Hirstein themselves acknowledge that what is considered generally attractive will vary from culture to culture, and that the “aggressive marketing hype” of the art world have a huge impact on how we experience visual culture. They admit that their work is in the early stages and untested for the most part, but they stand by their point and make a compelling argument regardless of this.

Currently, Joshua is in the middle of a research and curatorial project, called ‘Ritual Significance: Contemporary Art Through the Evolutionary Lens’, in which he is working with

his ex-tutor David Mcaleavey.  Mcaleavey was Josh’s A-level art tutor, whose “interests and research surrounds the question of why we do the things we do, trying to understand behaviours through evolutionary psychology”. Both David and Joshua adopt a holistic approach to their practice and seem to take a strong interest in the experience of artwork. Happily the two have kept in touch since their studies, and their on-going project will be presented as an exhibition at The Collection and Usher Gallery in Lincoln Feb-April 2015.

Written By Hannah Roast

Whats The Point Of It?

What’s The Point of It? is Turner Prize winner, Martin Creed‘s, first major retrospective at the Hayward Gallery, 29 Jan – 27 April 2014. As part of the programme of events surrounding this exhibition, Creed hosted an evening talk about his work and life in general.

It is important for me to begin by stating that I purposefully didn’t view Creed’s retrospective prior to the talk with the intention of exploring the relationship between an Artist’s talk and live exhibition. Without the exploration into a proper definition, you’d assume that an Artist’s talk usually consists of an insight into the practice and experiences of the artist in question, perhaps with more detail about projects they are working on or a commentary of the exhibition. Creed did not attempt to meet any of these assumptions where it was announced that, “the performance will be starting in ten minutes”. This created a confusion between whether it was purely an ironic mis wording by the gallery or if there was actually a performative element to the talk itself.

The talk began with Hayward Gallery Curator, Cliff Lawson, entering the stage in the Purcell Room to introduce Creed. Lawson began with a typical introduction to the success of Creed’s career and brief insight into his practice, which all seemed very ironic considering the success of his practice is apparent in the context of the retrospective, but none-the-less we were all informed of Creed’s presence in many noteworthy galleries and wealthy cities. As an active and successful member of the art world, Creed is an artist I have always been aware of, yet admittedly I know very little. This was even more obvious to me once I discovered he was the awkward character stood behind the curator for fifteen minutes whilst he was introducing him by a more eloquent version of his CV.

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I have only experienced Andrea Fraser in conversation at the Tate Modern prior to this, and while this shaped my expectations, Creed’s talk was so alien in comparison. It caused me to feel detached, particularly since I was unaware of the extension of his practice into music. This poses the question of who the artist talk is directed to: is it Creed who is assuming the audience knows his work in detail, or does it allow people to discover more from an artist they know little about, or a middle-ground between both? It is these particular intimations that I was curious to unveil in order to question whether Artist’s talks are composed with an existing knowledge of their practice in mind, which I found became quickly answered as the talk progressed. Creed’s presence further contributed to this uncertainty, as his slap-dash charisma was not as you’d expect– his talk appeared quite awkward, almost as if public speaking was not a strength of his. Audience members picked up on this and consequently began forming questions as a way to structure the gawky ambience in the room. This resulted in some very profound questions, probing the artist for a definitive insight about certain works which produced an almost grovelling situation where the audience members became a comforting mother to Creed as the child with two left feet.

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It was the lack of visual description around the work which separated me the most and this is when I began to connect the least with the partnership exhibition and the works within it.Questions were asked about the ‘work where the lights went on and off’ and the ‘mothers piece’ which – without basic assumption of what they were – I couldn’t mentally participate in the discussion around these works. I suppose that without projecting my own personal ideals onto the talk, even on a very primitive level there should have been some supporting images provided to illustrate any discussion – even if I had known about the works spoken about, it is always a refreshing optical addition to see the work as it is often assumed that those present had seen the exhibition or know his work.

Speaking of this talk retrospectively and in comparison to Andrea Fraser’s, I came to conclusion that Creed’s talk exists only very loosely amongst knowledge about his exhibition. In the case of Andrea Fraser, my familiarity with certain works provided me with the insight to access works I did not know, which were presented by Fraser in image form, videos or a vivid description, creating a strong overview of her practice as whole and the importance of the works in relation to each other. It is safe to say that it is unlikely for someone to attend an artist’s talk without prior knowledge of the said exhibition or elements of their practice and in this instance my lack of this awareness resulted in a feeling of exclusivism towards Creed’s practice as a whole. Unless I had seen What’s the Point of It? preceding the talk, I was not invited to see a brief overview of Creed’s practice, ideas or external works for it felt more of a fan-show for all those who knew about these beforehand.

 

Written By Catrin Andrews

United Visual Artist – Monument

Momentum by United Visual Artist is a site-specific installation that is meticulously integrated with the architecture of the Curve art space in the Barbican.

Before the viewer even enters the Curve, there is a faint haze induced by smoke emitted from in between the gaps of the curtains, which hints at the environment beyond. The Barbican staff describes the environment and encourages photography, but without flash, implying that the experience is more of an impact without any additional light.

Upon entering, the dense smog inhibits any vision of the room, drawing attention to the revolving pendulous mechanisms hung from the ceiling; the haze gives the space an almost ethereal quality. Initially, it is difficult to see anything prior to ones eyes adjusting to the light, but as the viewer crosses through the smoke, the lights illuminate the Curve to reveal its architecture.

Complex distorted sounds resonate throughout the space with subtle yet noticeable impact. The sounds themselves that are emitted are at times incoherent and dissonant; they consist primarily of scratches, clicks, wavelike ambient sounds and distant singing, which are peculiar to each strut.

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The impact of the resonant sound is instant and as the sound fills the room, one is immediately aware of the space in which the work inhabits; curiosity entices the viewer to be inquisitive despite the fact the pitch black prevents any vision of the space.

The spacial awareness of the viewer is stimulated as the spotlight loop freezes and a brief pause of silence in darkness holds the viewer in temporary suspense, allowing for a brief meditation. Following this, the ring of lights perform a cyclical motion that illuminates the walls of the Curve, drawing attention to the space and surroundings, diverting the viewers attention to the space through the illumination of the architecture.

The spotlights allude to the absence of the body, yet within this, it is countered by the enticing of the viewer to become immersed or even involved; they allow for the transition to the ring of lights to exist as a divergent entity, yet they are bound by an aesthetic and systematic coherence.

Ultimately the transition of one illuminative emission to the next is pivotal to the impact of the work. The interlude is what presents the viewer with a moment for lucid consideration and to also allow for the next transition to be systematically coherent.

A synthesis of ambience and kinesis is demonstrated with a captivating display of ingenuity in Momentum. The engagement with the work is formed from the coherent formulation of light and sound, drawing attention to the viewer’s presence in the space and comparatively the illumination of the architecture itself.

The durational loop is tuned in a way that the viewer is compelled to become committed to the experience; with a fluctuation between linear and circular performances and a brief moment of silence, the work captivates to a point that time becomes a distant concern and immersion seems perpetual.

Having experienced the work on a few occasions, becoming entranced with the work was a consistent privilege, so much so I’d realised that half an hour had passed after leaving on both visits.

 

United Visual Artist – Momentum 

Barbican Curve Gallery 

Silk Street 

London EC2Y 8DS

Written By Stefan Rhys Evans

 

A Silvered Light…

A Silvered Light…

Scottish Art Photography Exhibition located at The Dundee Mcmanus Art Gallery and Museum.

The Silvered Light exhibition emphasises Dundee’s collection of photography since the 1800’s in which it strings together a series of Scottish Artists and Photographers to reiterate the claim that photography is the only art form that the Scots have indeed mastered (of course this is my unbiased view, being an avid lover of Scottish Photography and the fact that I am Scottish).

The combinations of the old and modern photographers have allowed the audience to witness the unsurprising rapid development of camera technology and photographic processes that accentuate the quality of work that the Mcmanus has acquired.

McManus Dundee

Upon walking into the gallery, the first image that is placed strategically within view is Calum Colvin’s Dusk on Loch Duich that was photographed in 1987. Colvin creates “sets” of combined furniture, bric-a-brac, painted elements and lighted backdrops that culminate in a photograph of his construction. Colvin is obviously patriotic and proud of his heritage with kilted plastic figurines and tartan cloth covered tables with the reference to Loch Duich. The quality of the photograph is flawless, however I believe that the idea of Colvin’s work lends itself to an installation piece as the image is cluttered with too many colours and graphics. It is very busy and hard to determine the photograph’s significance.

There are a series of intense, atmospheric photographs by Thomas Joshua Cooper that I was drawn to instantly. Cooper focuses on places where people once lived and worked. His black and white gelatin silver prints contrast beautifully creating the depth of the natural landscape. Cooper searches the wilderness for small details found amongst the trees, glimpses of moss and draws attention to the natural earthy landscapes.

The natural world has always been a great inspirational source for artists and a theme that occurs widely throughout the exhibition. Patricia Macdonald and Aase Goldsmith are similar in the sense that they both shoot somewhat abstract images found with the land. Macdonald’s aerial photography highlights the abstraction of the land and focuses on large areas of ground that has been worked. The relationship between human interaction and the physical environment is vital to Macdonald’s work that highlights present day concerns, especially with environmental issues. This can be interpreted within Macdonald’s Croft House and Fields, Lewis, 1986. From Macdonald’s images you can see the effect farming has on the land. On the other hand, Aase Goldsmiths photographs Foam Shape, Loch Laidon, 1982 and Weathered Polythene, Loch Earn, 1982 highlight the simple beauty found within abstraction. The monochromatic images are focused on the patterns and intricate details of foam found within the water and something that is readily discarded such as polythene. Goldsmith’s photographs are prime examples of how beauty is not where you would expect to find it.

Truthfully, I often overlook the Mcmanus Gallery but on your first visit to Dundee it should be on the to-do list. They really came up trumps with the Silvered Light Exhibition and any keen photographer would be sore to miss the opportunity to view the ample collection of works on offer.

A Silvered Light will be exhibiting throughout 2014 and is free entry. Please visit www.mcmanus.co.uk for more details.

Written By Danielle Fleming 

Ian Kiaer at The Henry Moore Institute

Ian Kiaer’s work is hard to talk about. Perhaps this isn’t the way that I should open an article about his current exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute. However, the difficulty of discussing art work that relies on an encounter still stands as a valid obstacle in trying to convey its weight and presence. An encounter – a physical meeting – is exactly what Kiaer’s work asks for.

The exhibition Tooth House spans across the last decade of Kiaer’s art practice, drawing on references within architecture, literature and philosophical writing. His chosen mediums are for the most part familiar within our everyday lives: bubble wrap, polystyrene and plastic sheeting all appear throughout his material decisions. The elevation of the ordinary in order to portray concepts is something very much considered by Kiaer – he has said that ‘very often the work fails to carry the literary ideas or references within the work’ and that it is this ‘failure to carry or hold information’ that interests him. The balance is held between theory and materiality injects the atmosphere with an unspeakable, poetic air.

On visiting the show, it was the lightness of the work in the space that I was first aware of. Whether his work should be spoken of as a whole or as a collection of discrete objects is uncertain; regardless, each component appears to be in dialogue with the others around it, while simultaneously breathing in the environment itself. Kiaer’s light and sculptural gestures seem to whisper to one another through a material language, echoing and reflecting shape and colour. A yellow used in a 3D form is mirrored in a slight drawing hung low on the wall; a geometric configuration creates a subtle visual link between a work on paper and a nearby sculptural element.

FMG Arts MonthlyImage Courtesy Of The Henry Moore Institute

In the first room of the exhibition, the viewer is initially presented with work at floor level, while a translucent, spherical form comes into sight further away. Erdrindenbau project: building for Scheerbart – the title of a once clear, now dirtied mat that seems to bear the unconscious marks of a painter’s studio – appears like an object barely there. As I was beginning to observe, the fragility of Kiaer’s materials encourage a careful investigation of what is seen. The inflated construction titled Erdrindenbau project: inflatable is continually filled by air from a domestic fan that also tethers it to the ground. On closer inspection of the shape that stands a little taller than myself, I see a silver sheen on a part of its surface; the silver-leaf has begun to flake away, like a skin being shed. This noticeable changeability of Kiaer’s objects allows for an element of site specificity, as the physicality of the work is altered simply through movement or reconstruction.

Something surprising about Kiaer is that he often frames his work through the discipline of painting, rather than directly aligning himself with the history of sculpture – an association that would seem quite natural, given that many of his materials could be discussed in relation to the ready-made. Through sculptural constructions, he manages to navigate contemporary notions of painting and its proposed death, while decidedly avoiding the fixed viewpoint of a 2D landscape. On the contrary, the art objects present, feel open to being rearranged; each article becomes merely a sketch of a thought or a model of something to come.

In the exhibition’s publication, Kiaer comments that a ‘model can hold multiple associations and also remain unknowable. It could just be a very particular form that is impossible to describe, or a piece of material that stands in, or acts as a foil to something else. The model is both evasive and ridiculously precise.’ In this way, the work does not provoke or command but rather presents you with an idea through material experience. Kiaer’s titles allude to a variety of literature and theory but when I’m stood in a room with the work itself, all I can see is the way the silver-leaf clings to the surface of a plastic sheet that towers above me; all I take in is the glow from a yellow, Perspex ceiling. When the weight of an idea is heavier than the material it embodies, perhaps it’s better to avoid talking of the unknowable and being present within the encounter instead.

 

Written By Sarah Botha

Dust, Wu Chi-Tsung

Following Wu Chi-Tsung’s 2006 residency at Site Gallery, Sheffield, the artist has returned with Dust, a mesmerising video installation where a live feed captures and then projects, large scale, images of the dust in the gallery space. Chi-Tsung finds the small, uncontrolled moments of serendipity and coincidence; translating them through video or light and re-presenting them in the gallery space. In Dust, the camera and projector work together to show what the human eye can’t see, and the tiny particles of human skin floating in the air are elevated to sparkling sequins; from repulsive to seductive.

Dust Wu Chi-Tsung

Image Courtesy Of Site Gallery

 In an adjacent room in Site Gallery, Chi-Tsung presents Crystal City 003, an incarnation created from the shadows of plastic containers, cast by a moving LED light.  Presumably influenced by his time training as an architect, the Crystal City is reminiscent of a CAD drawing or a floating gods-eye view of a toweringly tall sci-fi cityscape.  Alluding to new building developments in inner city areas of contemporary Asia, and perhaps critiquing the materialism and commercialism that comes hand in hand with technological progress, this work quietly and meditatively divulges another world beyond the ordinariness of its individual components.

This is a recurring idea in Wu Chi-Tsung’s work; in Rain (2002), made when he was a student in Taipei, raindrops appear to flash across an image of a bridge.  Simply by setting the shutter speed extremely high, the downwards line of a raindrop that we usually see because of the slowness of our eyes is revealed as something very different—now each individual raindrop has been captured mid-fall, sparkling across the screen.

It is these very simple procedures that stand out in Chi-Tsung’s works; and here in Sheffield it seems that he has simplified his practice right down to the bare bones.  This work is comprised of the particles that before the nineteenth century were considered the smallest substance—marking the boundary between the world we see and the world of the unknown—Dust.  The mysticism of dust, apparent when you catch it twisting and spinning in the golden sunlight pouring in through a window, is condensed and epitomised in this work.  Galaxies of green and blue flit and flicker across the wall as they continually move in and out of focus.  We are charmed by the romance, the magic, and the very special quality of this created world that is simultaneously real and unreal.

Visiting Sheffield for the day? Site Gallery on Brown Street is only a couple of minutes walk from Sheffield train and bus stations.  The gallery is wheelchair accessible, and also houses a small shop and café, which serves lovely homemade cakes and frothy coffees.  It’s very close to SIA gallery, Bloc Projects, Millennium Galleries and Graves Gallery if you fancy a cultural day out.

Sheffield native? Why not try Site’s free reading groups on 17th April and 1st May, or try breathing meditation set against the backdrop of Wu Chi-Tsung’s beautiful installation? Full details are on Site Gallery’s website, http://www.sitegallery.org

Wu Chi-Tsung Dust

Site Gallery 4th April – 31st May 2014

Opening times: Tuesday-Saturday 11am-5.30pm

 

Written By Posy Jowett