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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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Constructing Photography Now

14 Feb

Chu YinHua‘s slides on exhibition at The Mews Project Space provide an interesting critique of the built environment and the way the artist feels nomadic, without a home base, which is perhaps in essence critical of a negative impact upon artists caused by immigration laws.  Presented on a small-scale in a row of slide viewers, it is difficult to gage reality.  We see out of windows from a series of rooms with a very retro style of wallpaper, 1950s perhaps.

It is only by creating a miniature room which she can carry around with her, that Chu is able to feel at home anywhere.  In essence this is alike the boxes Georgian servants had as their only private space (mentioned by Amanda Vickers in BBC series At Home with the Georgians).

Whilst the rooms in Chu’s work are miniature, the views are real and include Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square and locations around South London in which Chu feels she would be happy to live.  They too are mediated however, through being images on a laptop screen behind the model, some at least extracted from Google Street View.  Such mediation allows us to now digitally travel to anywhere of our choosing simply at the click of a mouse.  Hence Chu chooses to make her home a virtual place.  She could have a party on social networking and chat room websites and even offer someone a slice of cake and a cup of tea.  The freedoms of consuming digital travel, however, might be said to lead us to exist in a box and never leave it.  Well, we can work from home, order in groceries and takeaway, or even go for a stroll around one of the world’s major art museums with the latest Google project.

Pair IV (2007) by John Stezaker, Collage, Private Collection, © The Artist

Nearby at the Whitechapel Gallery a retrospective of John Stezaker‘s work demonstrates a similar yet different kind of photographic construction.  Where Chu constructs the subject scene of her images, Stezaker constructs his images by physically collaging prints of found images, film stills and landscape postcards to create humourous and provocative works.

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Curated to Confuse?

24 Jan

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.

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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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