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.
David Mullen’s paintings in The Pleasure Principle at Tank Gallery are an appealing sculptural form. By applying monochromatic layers of thick impasto oil paint to his canvases and then covering with one or more layers of gloss paint, Mullen has been able to allow the surface to dry solid whilst the interior remains liquid enough to peel the surface back into a sculpture with the surface of the painting cut away and hanging off the wall. These works, particularly the grey Placebo Syndrome are almost like a sardine can that has had its lid curled back halfway, exposing the yellow filling, whilst the framed work The Perfect Crime directly illustrates the paint coming out of the canvas, peeling back the layers towards the found picture beneath. From a similar thought process Eunkyung Lee’s circular paintings Collected Samples in the Slade MA show are on castors and invited to be kicked around the space to knock against one another and reveal the multiple layers of imagery that are built up on their surfaces. Hence the work becomes an interactive piece in the creating of new, constantly evolving work through the combination of fragmented images akin to peeling back the layers of adverts on a traditional billboard.
Simon Starling’s exhibition at Camden Arts Centre is one of a curatorial nature, yet is diverse and unpredictable. The theme behind the exhibition is to bring together work exhibited over the gallery’s thirty year history. Modernist chairs sit on plinths alongside a Francis Bacon and Graham Gussin’s Fall (7200–1) (1998), which combines a computer randomly generating a continual stream of zeros it appears that apparently affect the footage of a waterside location projected opposite. In the next room Jacques Monory’s 1973 painting of a picnic labeled as including Christian Boltanski and himself taken from a 1970 photograph. Opposite this is Christian Boltanski‘s 1971 photograph Essai de Reconstitution d’un tableau de Jacques Monory, a photograph recreating the gathering depicted in the original image.
An exhibition of Susan Hiller‘s work opens shortly at Tate Britain but her 1987 slide projection entitled Magic Lantern is currently on display within this exhibition at Camden Arts Centre. Not being a familiar artist, however, it appears Hiller has worked in many media and I await the forthcoming exhibition to gain more insight into her practice. Magic Lantern, is a little slow showing just 12 slides from each of the three slide projects over a 13 minute show. However the slides are combined with an audio track based on the sound experiments of a Dr Raudive. This is a mixture of relaxing female voices chanting, as might perhaps be heard in a mosque, with messages with background noise that sound like old wireless recordings, which builds with the slide projection to create a trance like or hypnotic sensation.
The slides themselves are very simple, each one contains a circle of pure colour, almost entirely the three primary colours. However Hiller’s combination of these creates a multicoloured light show. The three coloured circles are blended into one another in a kind of Venn diagram, faded in at constantly varying levels of intensity, hence blending coloured light like blending hues of pigment. In essence you could relate it to the scientific experiments with light; A level physics experiments with lasers and diffraction gratings spring to mind although that isn’t what this is. Dust and hairs collecting on the slides add to the work, giving it grain and texture that appears to protrude from the projection wall and further draw you into the hypnotic depth of the colour.