Are We Communicating Yet?

12 Sep Objeto Mágico Encontrado #3 by Glenda León

Recently a theme has emerged of artworks addressing communication modes and creating interventions in language.  In The Pool Exhibition for Goldsmiths MFA, Jin Wook Moon has created a new language using a variety of everyday objects as symbols, like a variation on sign language.  This was presented plastered across the exhibition space walls, in a newspaper and in a translated version of BBC News.  Use of passports as symbols in this language particularly juxtaposes against the background news story about planes or an airport featured on the screen.  This draws up issues of identity and highlights how important common understanding of language is to cohesion, whilst the development of a coded language enables secret transferral of information that may raise suspicion.  He adds another level of critique in that the language is meaningless, questioning whether it is important that we read text where it is used within an artwork.

The Untitled Text by Jin Wook Moon

The Untitled Text by Jin Wook Moon

The Untitled Text by Jin Wook Moon

The Untitled Text by Jin Wook Moon

Meanwhile, included in the Visual Poetry exhibition at Maddox Arts is Glenda León’s Objeto Mágico Encontrado #3 (Magical Found Object #3), where the artist has applied flower petals in a variety of vibrant shades to the keystrokes of a typewriter, whilst in Objeto Mágico Encontrado #4 we see a text potentially produced with this, validating that Objeto Mágico Encontrado #3 produces a flowery dialogue that curator Gabriela Salgado suggests in the exhibition catalogue is symptomatic of a love letter.

Objeto Mágico Encontrado #3 by Glenda León

Objeto Mágico Encontrado #3 by Glenda León

Plastique Fantastique have produced a series of posters in their post-apocalyptic installation, Your Extinction Our Future at IMT Gallery, with the vowels missing, consumed by the alien force of Neuropatheme, which can only exist by the conversion of humans into Phenome-Humans, much like the ‘upgrading’ of humans into Cybermen in Doctor Who.  These question the permanence of humanity and language in an ever-changing world where mass (media) influences can have sweeping effects upon a population.

NFRMTN WNTS T B FR (2013) by Plastique Fantastique

NFRMTN WNTS T B FR (2013) by Plastique Fantastique

This is similar to Georges Perec’s exploratory writing La disparition (1969) in which he works without the letter e, translated into English as A Void (1994) by Gilbert Adair, whilst the vowels are more directly absent in Plastique Fantastique’s work.  The text in this example also refutes there being anything to communicate both in life and art generally.

Meanwhile, at Tate Modern a few works by Ellen Gallagher on exhibition including Greasy (2011) almost recapture some of these vowels.  In these she has obliterated sheets of text from magazines with white paint except the letters e and o, rendering communication pointless or censoring information, whilst highlighting the frequency and shape of these letters.  This brings potential sexual connotations to attention in both shape and sound, whilst this may apply more generally to all the vowels.  In essence this might be viewed as sound art, a score to be performed like the instructions for a Fluxus Happening, whilst looking at León’s work may lead to imagining the noise it makes, a combination of harsh mechanical clunking and the delicate touch of the petals.  Jin Wook Moon has already verbalised his language by reading the names of the objects in english, considerably lengthening text if we view each object as a single letter.  Gallagher’s work also attracts comparison to Perec’s Les revenentes (1972), translated as The Exeter Text (1996) by Ian Monk, in which e is the only vowel used.

In relation to these works it seems relevant to discuss the use of the term character to describe the symbols of language.  Each letter has its own story to tell within a greater narrative, as is particularly the case in Jin Wook Moon’s language.  Each flower on Leon’s work has lived its own life and been lovingly preserved like the Egyptians embalmed their Pharaohs.  Meanwhile Gallager’s characters are not individuals and could therefore represent different species or genders.

Visual Poetry: Intermedia Traditions in Latin America continues at Maddox Arts, 52 Brooks Mews, London W1K 4ED until 21st September.

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Life as a Veneer

4 May Crate (2012) by Conall McAteer

In retrospect, at a selection of exhibitions in London over the winter a number of works emerged which use veneers and discuss thin surfaces.  At the end of 2012 Henrik Schrat exhibited a series of two dimensional works at IMT Gallery made in the marquetry tradition from tessellated pieces of different woods that form scenes for a comic book, probably with reference to Roy Lichtenstein’s paintings of scenes from comic books such as All-American Men of War, but carried out in a totally different manner.  This pair have similarly transformed the disposable paper comic into something more substantial, created for longevity and monumentalising what some may describe as a trivial entertainment media, yet solid wooden board may have a longer life expectancy than a canvas.  Schrat’s Space Odyssee series (2009) makes a number of references to modernist architecture, with Space Vessel resembling Buckminster Fuller’s Geodesic Dome and Falling Water featuring a Frank Lloyd Wright house, whilst documenting the daily life of a Cyloptic science fiction character like a series of snapshot photographs that could be posted on the character’s social networking profile.

Space Vessel (2009) by Henrik Schrat

Space Vessel (2009) by Henrik Schrat

Helen Marten’s exhibition at Chisenhale Gallery included a row of low works, each with a different wooden finished, which resemble temporary covers placed over open man holes in pavement or trailing cables somewhere lots will be required like a temporary concert site.  Titled Falling very down (low pH chemist) (2012) these were ramped on two opposite sides as if to aid wheelchair access these works appear to invite the viewer to walk on them like Carl Andre‘s floors and leave the patina of their movement on the polished surfaces, yet they then had a collection of objects piled on them, like the personal effects upon a series of individuals’ bodies or a collection of detritus disposed of by a being, including a sock and a Starbucks cup of iced coffee, whilst skewed and edited wrappers invite you to consider what you consume.

Falling very down (low pH chemist) (2012)Helen Marten, Plank Salad, exhibition view, Chisenhale Gallery, 2012. Photo: Andy Keate. Commissioned by Chisenhale Gallery.

Falling very down (low pH chemist) (2012)Helen Marten, Plank Salad, exhibition view, Chisenhale Gallery, 2012. Photo: Andy Keate. Commissioned by Chisenhale Gallery.

Art13 Art Fair commissioned Peter Lemmens, also seen on the Dam Gallery stand there, to create a series of essentially plinths, entitled Proxy (2013), which appeared to be covered in a variety of wood and marble laminates as might be used on kitchen worktops and cupboards; practical elements of modernist architectural design, like the structures depicted in Schrat’s work.  Lemmens invites us to look at that which the contemporary art viewer tends to ignore, yet most continue to walk by regardless.  Indeed these innate objects seem to be typified by private view visitors using them to stand empty glasses on.  These works were juxtaposed in odd combinations, clearly defining the apparent pointlessness of the trompe l’oeil pretence of using patterned laminate, making their seemingly basic materials obvious.  However, in fact only part of each work is a trompe l’oeil, a self-adhesive veneer applied to a solid block of an opposing material, for example a block of marble has one or more surfaces covered in a wood effect plastic, confusing the brain as to what material it really is.

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Frieze London 2012 Takes A Look Outside

14 Oct Small Door (Olive & Grey) (2012) by Gavin Turk

London’s annual art annual spectacle is upon us again.  This year a selection of the work for sale at the Frieze Art Fair seems to be extrospective.  As London opened its doors to the world, inviting visitors to the Olympic Games in the summer and again for Frieze itself, these artworks seem to use windows and doors, the portals of our built environment, as a way at look out at the world outside the fair and beyond, and perhaps invite it in.  However, on the other hand, the windows and doors in these works are either closed or only partially open, like an immigration policy limiting the capacity of the marquee.

Window Vol III. from daily newspaper, January 2008 (2008) by Jan Manuska

Jan Mancuska’s Window Vol III. from daily newspaper, January 2008 (2008) on the Meyer Riegger stand is a ponderous physical construction of a pair of windows rendered with a vanishing point.  Viewed from the edge of the stand as in the above photograph, they appear to be nothing more than windows, but from front on they are a conjoined work, getting increasingly taller the further you go in, contorting or elongating a space, depending on which way they are viewed.  The handles have even been custom made to have diagonal edges to match.

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A Return to Classicism

16 Aug Paper by Alex Ball (2012)

Correlations between art and politics have been repeatedly shown and this is clearly apparent among a selection of this year’s graduates that have returned to classical forms, responding to economical situations in Greece particularly.  Perhaps this will become known as Post Neo-Classicism or Anarchaic Art.

At Goldsmiths Hannah Lyons (BA Art Practice) has created a Doric column from expanding foam that bends slightly to lean against the wall, needing to be propped up, like Greece needs support from other Euro zone countries including Germany.  Titled I Tried (2012) it infers the artist’s attempt to create something and the failure to achieve the desired perfection, requiring the practice and refinement that can be seen in Greek sculpture across the Archaic period and into the Classical period, yet this is emblematic of contemporary attempts to stimulate the economy and develop businesses.  Meanwhile in BA Photography at Camberwell College of Art Maria Gorodeckaya includes a smashed plaster Doric column, reflecting a broken economy, in her installation Деструкция (Destruction in Russian), Gorodecaya’s column lays in fragments as it was broken, with three main sections that one could imagine being sliced violently with the swipe of a sword, like the conversion to Christianity defacing polytheistic Classical sculpture.

Деструкция (2012) by Maria Gorodeckaya

Lyons also exhibited Ironic Piece of Work by Female Artist (2012) in which she has successfully cast a plaster female figure, Aphrodite or Venus perhaps, without head and arms like a classical relic, but potentially suggestive of this being a cost cutting measure, imagining the construction of a temple, from which it might have originated, as a public building project inevitably running over budget.  The irony here seems to lie in a female artist creating a female figure that is presented as a purely sexual object, devoid of any identifying features and with just a loose drape of a skirt for modesty, seemingly about to drop at any moment.  Furthermore this pure white figure is contrasted against dark arches painted on the surrounding walls, highlighting a possible reference to the abrasive cleaning carried out on sculptures from the Parthenon at the British Museum to make them stand out, and by turning the otherwise unused space of the lift lobby into that of a formal museum gallery she ostensibly lowers the latter to the level of importance of the lobby, a transient space one doesn’t really want to spend much time in.

Ironic Piece of Work by Female Artist (2012) by Hannah Lyons

Won Woo Lee‘s F.A.S.W. (First Abstract Sculpture in the World) (2012) project at the Royal College of Art (MA Sculpture) includes an amalgamated collection of fragments of plaster bust, arranged into a somewhat pot-like form, with just the occasional facial feature visibly emerging from the surface slightly, adding texture and some light shadowing in addition to the darkness seen inside the object.  Whilst this, like Gorodecaya’s work, is suggestive of uprising, it also speaks of the desire for perfection sought by Archaic sculptors and realised by their Classical successors, like Lyons’ I Tried.  Adjacent to this visitors are occasionally startled by Always Something Behind the Truth (2012), an adjacent table which suddenly shakes like someone is panning soil to find remains or gold on an archaeological dig, further accelerating the physical erosion of further facial fragments on top of it, as measures such as quantitative easing could potentially accelerate recession.

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Creating Distorted Figures

28 Mar Sudo, 2010 by Damien Meade.  Oil on linen on board 55 x 44.5 cm.

Tate Britain‘s exhibition Picasso and Modern British Art sets out to trace Pablo Picasso‘s influence on Britain. Hence much of the exhibition looks at British artists influenced by Picasso, including Henry Moore, Francis Bacon and Ben Nicholson, drawing upon the research carried out for other recent exhibitions and the Tate’s own collection, and the exhibition consequently features several works that have appeared recently. Therefore it seems more targeted at the casual audience and tourists during this Olympic year, trying to introduce fresh audiences to the British artists shown. A considerable space and volume of wall text is devoted to indicating works bought by British collectors. This doesn’t seem to add much to the understanding of the artist’s work, or really to indicate that British collectors had a taste for particular genres of Picasso’s practice, but does help to reinforce the country’s importance within the art world and as a powerful nation in the modern world. Indeed a more pressing reason for this section may be to encourage visitors to collect the work of contemporary artists, demonstrating that British collectors can help cultivate major artists, and that by collecting work, one day you might be remembered by being named in a museum exhibiting it in the future.

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Mapping the Collection

29 Dec Plans for a New Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (detail) (2011) by Jonas Ranson, silkscreen print on paper.

The Linear B exhibition at the Stephen Lawrence Gallery has been curated and created around the principle that each artist’s exhibited work takes inspiration from an artwork in the collection of the late artist Nikos Alexiou.  What emerges are a whole series of other connections that can be seen in the work to other artists, as each individual forms a dot on an interconnected spider diagram across which you could trace connections similar to the idea of the six degrees of separation through which you should be able to link to anyone on the planet through someone you know knowing someone that knows someone, etc.  I wonder how many steps would be statistically necessary to link two seemingly unconnected artists.  Much as Mafalda Santos in her installation Cross Reference (2011) at The Mews Project Space has drawn out her social network across the walls and ceiling of the gallery leaving a remnant of chalk dust on the ground like the fallout from broken friendships. Occasional lines that were probably accidentally drawn at the wrong angle due to not having a long enough ruler peter off half way like a relationship that has not yet been made or has been cut off, the blue chalk slightly rubbed away as the memory fades.

Cross Reference (2011) (detail) by Mafalda Santos at The Mews Project Space

Plans for a New Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (detail) (2011) by Jonas Ranson, silkscreen print on paper.

In Linear B Jonas Ranson’s Plans for a New Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (2011) is made in response to Vassili Balatsos’ perspective drawing of, or design for, a modern minimal building, clad in industrial metal strips and with a balcony on the upper floor, made with strips of primary coloured tapes.  However whilst Ranson picks up using parallel lines in a mixture of primary colours, this large print also seems to heavily reference Pierre Cordier’s Chemigrams featured in the V&A‘s Shadow Catchers: Camera-less Photography exhibition last winter.  Cordier created a photographic technique he called Chemigram, painting materials such as nail vanish and oil onto photosensitive paper prior to exposure and developing.  The traces left from painting, as in Chemigram 30/12/81 I (1981), leave a perfect series of parallel lines created by the brush stroke, an abstract composition which could perhaps depict cornfields with neatly arranged rows of crops.  These marks are much like the parallel lines in Plans for a New Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (2011), which appear to describe buildings, roads, paths, corridors or electrical circuit diagrams, that map a building, campus, development or city, just as Balatsos’ drawing maps a building and records the parallel vertical lines of its cladding.

Chemigram 30/12/81 I by Pierre Cordier

In turn it feels like Cordier’s work could have influenced some of Bernard Frize‘s abstract paintings.  Whilst Ranson has produced a print and Cordier has worked with photography albeit in a painterly fashion, Frieze frequently paints bold, sweeping, continuous lines, which similarly retain the marks of a wide brush.

Meanwhile Cordier’s Chemigram 7/5/82 II “Pauli Kleei ad Marginem” (1982) has been linked to referencing Paul Klee‘s Ad Marginem (1930), which seems to depict the sun surrounded on all sides by birds, flowers and abstract figures, who could be worshipping it.  However, due to its triangular centre this reminds more of the classic album cover for Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon by Hipgnosis and George Hardie (1973), with some edges perhaps bitten by snakes ala the computer game, whilst the curve cornered straight forms reflect upon the shape of the extending character.

Chemigram 7/5/82 II "Pauli Kleei ad Marginem" by Pierre Cordier

Across these three media we find aesthetics that function similarly across these art forms, with both linear order, aligned with architecture and planning regulations, and the unpredictability of human interaction and nature.

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The Sculpture of Gabriel Kuri and Others

9 Nov

Gabriel Kuri’s exhibition at South London Gallery includes a variety of sculptural work that appears to draw wide-ranging artistic references and political comment. Untitled (Scoop) (2011) feels like a twist between Richard Serra‘s Tilted Arc (1981), tilted further until it is elevated off the ground, and Ellsworth Kelly‘s similarly segment-shaped canvas White Curve (1974), whilst it is painted with a smooth block of dark red colour in the Field Colour Painting style of Kelly, but taking this into a more three-dimensional form. Meanwhile the steel nature of this work and red painted finish also seem to reference the sculpture of Sir Anthony Caro. Where Kelly’s work is hung away from the wall, Kuri’s similar Untitled (3/4 Blue) (2011) is raised off the ground on a blanket, seemingly suggesting installation work is still in progress.

Gabriel Kuri, Untitled (Shells and Stubbed-out Cigarettes), 2011, prototype voting table and mixed media, installation view South London Gallery. Photo: Marius W Hansen. Image courtesy the artist and the South London Gallery.

Some of the works may appeal to smokers (and those anti-smoking) as cigarettes feature. In Untitled (Charted Topography) (2011) a series of resin casts have been made in the ribbed bottom of plastic bottles which have been used as ashtrays and hence Kuri has preserved the evidential cigarette ends like fossils, probably even locking in a trace of DNA like a fly trapped in amber as used in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. Beneath the table sits a wholesale pack of water bottles, seemingly suggesting that one is used each day. I recently saw Lewisham Stop Smoking campaign advertising funding for relevant public projects; perhaps they should commission some of Kuri’s art. However, which way do you think the giant roll-up cigarettes or cigars of Untitled (Shells and Stubbed-out Cigarettes) (2011) leans? Are they a smoker’s dream, like the giant billboard cigarettes of the past or do they highlight the dangers of smoking, with the title potentially referring to them as a ticking explosive device?  On the other hand, this work may discuss gender politics through sexual connotations of phallic cigarettes and concave shells, with the prototype voting table dividing the objects into heterosexual and homosexual couples, and creating boundaries between them.

Gabriel Kuri, Untitled (Shelter), 2011, mixed media, dimensions variable, installation view South London Gallery. Photo: Marius W Hansen. Image courtesy the artist and the South London Gallery.

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London Art Fairs 2011: Bold and Textured

16 Oct Not Yet Titled 7 (2011) by Nick van Woert at Frieze Art Fair

So, it’s show time for the art world in London.  Across the fairs and events visited thus far it seems there are trends for colourful work in bold primary and secondary colours and for textured work.

These themes began to emerge at the Pavilion of Art & Design London, where works for sale particularly include a number of pieces by Agostino Bonalumi on Galerie Vedovi’s stand, which build geometric patterns by stretching the canvas over various obstacles, some slashed work by Lucio Fontana, several Antoni Tàpies relief paintings, and a collection of collages by Roy Lichtenstein plus a design for a contemporary tapestry.  Here there seemed to be a particular choice of works with texture as the fair also contains a number of design stands, whilst the majority of work for sale is mid twentieth century.

At the Frieze Art Fair, Marc Quinn has left his Fingerprints all over Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac’s stand.  Indicating personal identity, authorship and uniqueness, the coloured version of this relief work seems to highlight the bacteria we may come in contact with in our daily lives, each secreting itself in a different groove in the texture of the finger print.

Fingerprints by Marc Quinn at Frieze Art Fair

Magali ReusBalance Sheet series on Galerie Fons Welters’ stand contrasts roughly textured silicon rubber with shiny, smooth aluminium grilles.

Balance Sheet Series (2011) by Magali Reus at Frieze Art Fair

Nick van Woert’s Not Yet Titled 7 (2011) on Yvon Lambert’s stand references Liam Gillick’s work and acts as a room divider almost akin to Richard Serra’s Titled Arc (1981), but is partially transparent.  A series of equal blocks are stacked horizontally, each containing different textured materials in different bold colours, including liquids, loft insulation, wire wool, chippings and powder.

Not Yet Titled 7 (2011) by Nick van Woert at Frieze Art Fair

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