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Mapping the Collection

29 Dec

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.

Alex Bunn in installation at Linear B

Whilst Ranson appears to have created an abstract map, Alex Bunn has worked with mapping in a more traditional sense but with far less traditional media in Pouthichentong (2011).  Like Nadège Mériau, discussed in The World in Miniature, Bunn has presented a photographic print, which appears to contain edible materials.  It seems he has baked a cake and iced it as a three-dimensional geographical terrain map.  The way we see it dented, cut and smashed seems to identify this as a war zone.  Three or four horizontal layers of cake, marzipan or non-foodstuff such as plastercine are arranged in a gradating pattern of different shades of green-brown representing different layers of soil, yet seemingly like an abstract Mark Rothko painting with bands of moody colours.  This depicts the fragility of our environment and the harsh reality of warfare and its continually shifting topographies, whilst in Bunn’s exhibited print covered sex toys form bombs or other military equipment, which may suggest a gendered landscape or warfare, or alternatively perhaps relate domestic violence to warfare.

Bunn’s work is made in response to Rémy Rivoire‘s Unique, Cut out Paper map of Britain & Ireland (2002) made of torn apart shreds of paper, like political borders drawn up to divide related communities and land, as might be said of planned parliamentary boundary changes in the UK now, though to a far greater extent in countries subject to civil war.

Alex Zika’s Find The Others (2011) responds to Adam Chodzko‘s print Meeting Here Everyone Welcome (2000), as though Zika’s work results from a public engagement project, creating the piece from descriptions mapping an imaginary staircase at a further “meeting of people with stammers.”  One description would be that ‘stairs are like a slightly splayed stack of magazines’, as Zika has propped the timber form up on a collection of National Geographic magazines, just as Richard Wentworth has captured numerous moments of makeshift mentality in his photographic series Making Do and Getting By.  Likewise the wooden stairs lead nowhere, a Stairway to Heaven we might say, or alternatively it could be seen as a viewing platform like the structure set up at Tate Britain’s 2010 Rude Britannia exhibition to view George Cruikshank’s The Worship of Bacchus (1862) discussed in Tate Britain Summer 2010.  The form’s sides are emblazoned with large, minimal triangles of paint, which turn its surfaces into signal flags or abstract compositions that again remind of Ellsworth Kelly.

Meanwhile Alexiou’s own print on exhibition is like a vast net of a form like Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome, covering the wall like a map of the stars.  The work’s regular symmetricality makes one think of the view inside a kaleidoscope, and hence draws relation to Mark Titchner’s billboard size print How To Change Behaviour (Tiny Masters Of The World Come Out) in his 2006 Turner Prize nominated exhibition at Arnolfini.

Grid (detail) (2010) by Nikos Alexiou, digital print on paper, dimensions variable. © KIPOS, Nikos Alexiou private foundation, 2010.

Linear B is at The Stephen Lawrence Gallery, University of Greenwich, Queen Anne Court, Old Royal Naval College, Park Row, London SE10 9LS until 6th January 2012.
Vassili Balatsos will have a solo exhibition, The Civilization Project, at the Agency, 66 Evelyn Street, London SE8 5DD from 14th January – 19th February 2012.

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