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Artists Making a Mark with their Bodies

19 May

Following on from the article The Gallery as a Dance Hall, it appears there is also a resurging interest in performative mark making.  In Trisha Brown‘s Walking on the Walls a group of performers climb into suits harnessed to girders suspended from the gallery balcony, which act like the track of a rollercoaster.  This enables them to walk horizontally along the gallery wall in a performance that at times becomes like a cat’s cradle as they approach each other and seem to pass on momentum.  Essentially fixed on a straight line, the performers are generally only able to see and approach their neighbours, as described by Edwin A. Abbott in Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, however they do occasionally cross each other’s path in a slightly awkward fashion akin to when a cat’s cradle gets tied up.

Trisha Brown - Walking on the Walls. Barbican Art Gallery, 2011. Photograph by Felix Clay

The performers leave slight marks and traces of their performance in the form of footprints on the white gallery walls.  Whilst their impact is minimal, this could be read in a painterly fashion outside the performance.  What remains is the essence of movement, like the ghostly remains of fossilised dinosaur footprints in the rock.  As these footprints will clearly not last that long, being painted over for the next exhibition, if the wall hasn’t already been re-coated, it consequently  draws allusion with the work of Richard Long.  In his work A Line Made By Walking (1967) Long created a visible mark on the landscape through movement, but similarly the grass will have soon grown back.

Meanwhile, Brown’s Homemade (1966) resembles Stating the Real Sublime by Rosa Barba, mentioned in the article Still, through its use of movement of a film projector.  Where Barba’s work is sculptural in creating movement of a projection by the rotation of the film in suspension, Brown wore a film projector like a backpack, projecting a film of her dancing on varying surfaces of the theatre as she repeats the filmed performance in person.

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A Comparative Study in Space and Sound

5 May

What is perhaps most interesting about Ruth Proctor and João Ferro Martins‘ show at The Mews Project Space is the way their work is so similar yet has subtle differences when neither had met until they hung the exhibition.

João Ferro Martins & Ruth Proctor From L to L and Back Again

Following a set of outline instructions for sculpture combining found or ready-made materials, striking similarities occur in the choice of orientation of objects whilst differences appear in the choice of object design; straight edges versus curves, material, dimensions, volume, weight, colour, etc., which combine to give Martins work an austere, solid and workerly feel, whereas Proctor’s has a sunnier, more vibrant and perhaps feminine outlook.  With a bass ‘E’ guitar string stretched across each chair as if to create a rudimentary instrument, a vinyl record is similarly placed behind the back of the chair so about 60% visible from the front, but one is an album and other incorporates a single.  Meanwhile, at the Barbican, Laurie Anderson is pictured playing her musical invention/sculpture, the Viophonograph, with a record mounted upon a violin body and a pickup in the bow.

Laurie Anderson Viophonograph, 1976 Black-and-white photograph Photograph: Bob Bielecki Courtesy the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery, New York. © Laurie Anderson

Perhaps it might also be relevant to mention Christian Marclay’s Recycled Records (1980-86), at this point, as another example of an artist using this sonic yet visual form, combining cut records to create a new sound.  Meanwhile Martins’ further experiments with record media include Cymbal Scratching (2010), which seems to be the inverse of Anderson’s work in that a traditional instrument is being played by a twentieth century one, whereas Anderson plays the record with the violin bow.

Cymbal Scratching (2010) by João Ferro Martins. Turntable, amplifier, pre amplifier, two speakers, cymbal. Dimensions variable. Sound reproduction of the texture of the cymbal.

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The Gallery as a Dance Hall

27 Apr

It has been a while since the last article, however this is due to a lack of cohesion within the contemporary art world recently, but now a clear trend has appeared for visual artists making works that transform the gallery space into a site for dance and performance.  With Arts Council England redistributing funding from its new National Portfolio in favour of dance, and programmes such as Strictly Come Dancing and So You Think You Can Dance? gracing our television screens, it is likely that interest in dance is growing, and hence galleries are making curatorial decisions in favour of this kind of cross-genre art form.

It is not new for artists to engage in set design with a president set by Piet Mondrian, who designed a set for Michel Seuphor‘s L ‘Ephémère est éternel, and Liubov Popova (who was exhibited with Alexander Rodchenko at Tate Modern in 2009).

What is perhaps different is that many of these contemporary artists (and similarly video artists such as Nathaniel Mellors, showing at the ICA) are controlling the whole experience in the fashion of Richard Wagner.  In German there is the word Gesamtkunstwerk that describes this all-encompassing art form.  However it is likely many of these contemporary artists are working on a much smaller budget.

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All That Glitters Isn’t Necessarily Gold

9 Mar

Hew Locke: Starchitect. Image courtesy of the artist, ArtSway and Hales Gallery, London.

Hew Locke‘s exhibition at ArtSway consists of works made of a variety of gold and silver plastic from pound shops, the most striking of which form shields with crossed swords behind, like would belong in a mediaeval castle.  Additionally plastic pearl necklaces have been used to draw royal crests on plain white fabric squares that hang like Royal Standards, which could be attached to trumpets heralding the forthcoming royal wedding.  Locke’s work is contained in a structure something like a bedouin tent constructed inside the gallery from sheets of plywood.  Each of these is pierced by numerous large star shapes through which the gallery lighting plus some additional lights shine through, creating something closer to a planetarium.

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New Contemporaries

16 Jan

Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2010, at the ICA this year, is a large group exhibition of new art talent; recent graduates.  Hence it is a pretty diverse exhibition and hence feels much like an art school show.  The layout of the ICA galleries furthers this feel of fitting into particular spaces within an institution.  There are however some interesting pieces in the exhibition which suggest a discourse of emptiness, of something lacking perhaps, whilst on the other hand being an exploration of contrasting textures. 

Nick Bailey’s Safe seems rather dumb, a mute casket to which we are not provided access.  We might wonder what could be inside it, but particularly when seen alongside Dials Slightly to the Right, it seems the form itself is the focus of this work; a solid, black box protruding from the wall.  Perhaps it brings Kasimir Malevich‘s studies into a three dimensional form.

Matthew Coombes’ Site Receiver: Untitiled (2009) makes clever use of simple materials; smooth hardboard cut at asymmetric angles contrasted with the texture of anti-climb paint.  This creates a void in the wall somewhat like an Anish Kapoor piece exhibited in the last British Art Show at the Hayward Gallery.  It also seems like it would absorb sound like an open mouth, either rendering it dead or perhaps creating absurd refracted echos, whilst the walls of the nearby screening rooms have been hung with things that look like box canvases to absorb sound that could be similar works.

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Gauguin, etc.

9 Jan



I finally visited the Gauguin exhibition at Tate Modern this evening after having walked away three times seeing how packed it was in there.  On one day they were open late, it was sold out until 7pm by 3pm.  It’s probably attracting potentially twice as many people as the whole of the rest of the gallery.  There might have been 500 or more visitors merely during this evening.

If you are still planning to go, don’t expect too many major works.  This exhibition is more like a biography than a retrospective, following the life of the man and his travels.  Many of the exhibits are preparatory works, sketches, prints, and further sections looking at publications and photographs which give a background view to Gauguin’s life and subject matters. 

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2011, The Year Ahead

1 Jan

Happy New Year!

At this time of year it seems appropriate to take a look at some highlight exhibitions programmed for the year ahead.

  • Riflemaker kick off 2011 with an exhibition entitled Analog paying homage to all things analogue, particularly featuring Richard Nicholson’s series of photographs of darkrooms at the point of their demise.
  • Daniel Sinsel is not an artist I have come across before but his upcoming exhibition from the end of January at Chisenhale Gallery sounds interesting.  “Sinsel’s small handcrafted paintings and sculptures explore classical themes of space, volume and illusion and combine art historical references with a personal iconography.”
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