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The Studio

30 Jul

Whilst graduates of Central St Martins Jessica Windhorst and Hanping Feng depicted domestic interiors, as did Zsofia Schweger at the Slade School of Fine Art, it seems that a number of graduating students have turned their attention to the environment in which they work: the studio.

Alexander Duncan has observed the sloping end of the sculpture studio at the Royal College of Art, and by flooding it and making a wave machine that creates a tide that laps upon the shoreline of the rest of the studio has made this visible.

h2whoa... (2015) by Alexander Duncan

h2whoa… (2015) by Alexander Duncan

Here the water flows like in Pamela Rosenkranz’s installation in Switzerland’s Pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale, whilst a student at Wimbledon College of Arts used water to visualise sound waves in a self perpetuating sound installation with drums and speakers. Flow is also a psychological term which Wikipedia, (accessed 22/07/2015) says “… is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.” Hence Duncan is absorbed in his studio.

Joseph Winter

Joseph Winter

Joseph Winter installed a series of rows of spikes inserted into the studio floor at the Goldsmiths BA show like the spikes placed in spaces such as under flyovers to prevent anti-social behaviour. There has been a recent campaign (written about in the London Evening Standard) against the installation of these outside Tesco in Regent St and Foxtons, dubbing them ‘homeless spikes’ and this installation is as if the college had installed them to discourage graduated students from entering the studios like Paternoster Square was closed in 2011 to prevent Occupy London taking up residence.

In its cast plaster form this also seems to relate to Sarah Blum’s installation in the BA Fine Art and History of Art show at Goldsmiths of casts which must be closely inspired by Constantin Brancusi’s Endless Columns, although apparently come to by casting glasses in the manner of Rachel Whiteread and then enlarging the form.

Sarah Blum

Sarah Blum

Daniel Buren (The Function of the Studio. 1971) says that “By disposing of a large part of his work with the stipulation that it be preserved in the studio where it was produced, Brancusi… afforded every visitor the same perspective as himself at the moment of creation. He is the only artist who, in order to preserve the relationship between the work and its place of production, dared to present his work in the very place where it first saw light, thereby short-circuiting the museum’s desire to classify, to embellish and to select.” Hence we should consider the fact that all these graduates present their work in the studio, albeit perhaps a sanitised version thereof, as a debunking of the museum. Albrecht Barthel (Brancusi’s Studio: A Critique of the Modern Period. 2006. In Hoffmann, J. ed. The Studio. 2012:131) confirms that sculptor François Lalanne argued that “the studio in situ… retain[s] its raison d’être, not to be fossilized in a museum and preserved ad infinitum.” On that note perhaps I am starting to fossilise these works by writing about them.

Buren (op. cit.) opens setting out the function of the studio as:

1) It is the place where the work originates.

2)It is generally a private place, an ivory tower perhaps.

3) It is a stationary place where portable objects are produced.

By planning the opening of the studios to the public gaze the work is often created specifically for its environment, as I would argue that Winter’s is.

Hammer and Tool (2015) by Matt Morris

Hammer and Tool (2015) by Matt Morris

Matt Morris

Matt Morris

Matt Morris in the Slade MA show has painted just about every possible tool that might be found in the studio. These and, particularly, the accompanying cabinet of clay models, speak of being a museological collection, classified, divided and displayed.  With a sense of immediacy this series demonstrates an interest in process and production. Mierle Laderman Ukeles wrote in her 1969 Maintenance Art Manifesto (In Stiles, K. ed. Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art. 1996:623) that “Everything I say is art is art. Everything I do is art is art.” [sic]. However Kristine Stiles (Process. In ibid, 582) says that although Mark Thompson’s work was structurally formed by attention to processes, “he asserted that process alone was not enough to sustain the production of art, but needed to be integrated into the resultant formal structure of a work of art.” Hence whilst the process of working with tools might be considered art, by transferring that process into painting Morris has built more of a practice with substance, objectifying process.

Tool Box Morning (2015) by Matt Morris

Tool Box Morning (2015) by Matt Morris

Meanwhile Phil Amy at the Wimbledon College of Arts BA show has painted a shelf, light switch, tap and two pins left in a wall that must have previously supported an artwork. We are left with the aftermath of a studio, vacated upon conclusion of the course.

Phil Amy

Phil Amy

Both these artists seem to have succumbed to boredom and taken to looking around the studio for inspiration.  Lars Svendsen (A Philosophy of Boredom 2006:33) writes “Boredom is connected to reflection… Reflection decreases via diversions… Work is often less boring than diversions, but the person who advocates work as a cure for boredom is confusing a temporary removal of the symptoms with curing a disease.”  We might analyse that these artists use their studios as a diversion to boredom, creating a programme of work around them, but that these are not sustainable practices in the long term.

Emilie Peyre Smith in the Goldsmiths BA show has demonstrated an interest in the construction and materials of the studio/exhibition space, P.S. Standing Pair consisting of a pair of 12’x6′ sheets of MDF, which have been contorted by ratchet straps, suggestive of interest in the shipping and transportation of art. In essence Smith has transformed a two-dimensional plane into a three-dimensional object. There is a performative aspect to this piece as there is the potential energy built into it that one day the ratchet straps could break and the boards spring back to being flat.

P.S. Standing Pair (2015) by Emilie Peyre Smith

P.S. Standing Pair (2015) by Emilie Peyre Smith

More importantly, however, by the way this affects the viewer’s vision of and movement through the space Smith references Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc and the discussions and controversy surrounding it.  Serra wrote (Letter to Donald Thalacker, 1985. In Kwon, M. One Place After Another, 1997. In Kocur, Z. ed. Theory in Contemporary Art since 1985, 2005:33) that Tilted Arc was a site-specific work and not to be relocated. He elaborated in 1989 (Tilted Arc Destroyed. In Kwon, M. op. cit.) that:

Site-Specific works deal with the environmental components of given places. The scale, size, and location of site-specific works are determined by the topography of the site, whether it be urban or landscape or architectural enclosure.

We are dealing with the architectural enclosure of the studio space. Extracted from this (to a larger environment) Smith’s work would not impact upon the viewer to as great an extent, Winter’s work may be viewed on purely aesthetic grounds and Phil Amy’s paintings may be viewed as domestic objects.

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Everyday Life at Central St Martins 2015

11 Jun

Reflecting on works from 2015’s degree show at Central St Martins (MA and BA) it seems many of the artists have reflected upon the everyday in their practice. Stephen Johnstone (The Everyday 2008: 12) writes “the rise of the everyday in contemporary art is usually understood in terms of a desire to bring […] uneventful and overlooked aspects of lived experience into visibility.” Hence we will assess the ways in which these graduates look at areas of everyday life that do not normally gain attention.

The Semi-Optics of the Holy Braille according to the Almighty Department for Transportation - The Feather, The Sun and The Holy Grail (2015) by Jean-Paul Moreira

The Semi-Optics of the Holy Braille according to the Almighty Department for Transportation – The Feather, The Sun and The Holy Grail (2015) by Jean-Paul Moreira

Jean-Paul Moreira has painted a selection of road signs, commonly seen in everyday travel. This ‘holy’ triptych consists a national speed limit sign, a roundabout sign and no through road sign. These might suggest the way his practice is going at different times, full steam ahead making, going round in circles or stuck for ideas in a dead end. Hence it reflects the everyday life of the artist, much as Maurice Blanchot (Everyday Speech 1962 in Johnstone 2008: 34) said “… the everyday is what we are first of all, and most often: at work, at leisure, awake, asleep, in the street, in private existence.” Moreira’s work also signals an interest in travel as in the psychogeographic experiments of the Situationist International, and the dérive (which translates as to drift). By extracting the road signs from the street and using their image in the gallery space we are asked to view them as aesthetic works over being communicative symbols.

Juncture (2015) by Magda Skupinska

Magda Skupinska has used everyday foodstuffs as materials for painting and sculpture, referencing still life with a contemporary twist. Juncture incorporates fruit into sculpture much like Jeehee Park did in 2014’s Slade MA show.   Meanwhile her abstract paintings that seem to somewhat reference Color Field Painting in their textural contrast between unprepared rough canvas and impasto painted chilli, turmeric and chocolate, which could possibly indicate the contrast of Skupinska’s experience of life as an artist with that of cooking and eating.

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The Kinetic Flow of Light

15 Jul

A theme emerged amongst a selection of the graduates in the Royal College of Art MA Show’s Sculpture Building of making works about the flow of light and this seems to have flowed out of this institution to the wider London art scene.

Untitled (Vents1&2) (2011) by Brendan Giles

Brendan Giles‘ works at the RCA, Untitled (Vents 1&2) are sculptures of vents in which only selected slats are open and exist whilst the rest is solid. This creates an asymmetric pattern of lines where a little daylight can be seen hitting the wall behind the work, like some of Liam Gillick’s sculptural pieces that divide space. Perhaps, however, Giles’ works are actually more about the flow of air in and out of city buildings with vast air conditioning systems.

Oscillator-Aerator (2011) by Sara Knowland

Sara Knowland’s Oscillator-Aerator at the Royal Academy Schools Show bares a similar form but in wood painted grey rather than plaster and seems to directly reference the form of Julian Opie’s H (1987).

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The World in Miniature

5 Jul

Unit (2011) by Poppy Bisdee

Poppy Bisdee‘s Unit (2011) was one of the highlights of the Wimbledon College of Art BA show.  In this work she photographed the exhibition space on all sides including the floor, without a trace of the photographic means.  This includes the building supplies that are left on show in the exhibition spaces here, with the power sockets becoming a particular focal point in this piece, like Bradley Hayman‘s work Tunnel Vision at the Sassoon Gallery in 2009 featured the furniture and fire extinguisher as in the space when originally viewed.

Tunnel Vision (still) (2009) by Bradley Hayman

Bisdee has then printed her photographs on acetate and reconstructed a miniature version of the room except for the wall farthest from where it is projected back onto using an overhead projector, creating a three-dimensional effect of being inside the room, whilst being drawn to consider the relationship between the projected sockets and the real one which is projected onto.  Bisdee has turned simplicity into beauty.  From a simple and minimal photographic act, she has created an interesting three-dimensional piece both within the acetate form and within the spatial installation.

Summer Holiday Dreams (2011) by Haruka Ono

 Meanwhile at the Slade MFA show Haruka Ono created a miniature world from an entirely different medium, frozen food.  Summer Holiday Dreams is a three-dimensional tropical landscape made up of battered fish and chicken nuggets whilst green beans form greenery protruding from the ground or hanging as palm leaves from trees.  This is a curious dialectic work, depicting a tropical place in frozen food, which is contained in a modified commercial chest freezer with a glass top.  Miniature toad in the holes form small boats floating on a sea of blue ice cream (pistachio perhaps) as a wave breaks towards them in cream or vanilla ice cream.  It seems this work critiques the food it uses as a medium perhaps for its healthiness but more so for its environmental impact, using electricity likely generated by burning fossil fuels to preserve it, and its absent packaging clogging landfill, whilst the freezer, likely reclaimed from scrap, contains CFC gases.  This work also shows the childlike playfulness of Fischli and Weiss’ The Sausage Photographs (1979), reflecting art and creativity as skills we are born with, but which most repress as they grow older.

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Under the Surface

21 Jun

Placebo Syndrome (2011) by David Mullen at Tank Gallery

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.

Collected Samples 2, 6, 11 by Eunkyung Lee

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Explorations in Materiality and Texture

29 May

Earlier this month a group of Goldsmiths MA students recently collaborated on the exhibition The Second Attempt at Phane Terglo at Lewisham Arthouse, where all the works were in shades of beige.  As mentioned in the article ‘All That Glitters Isn’t Necessarily Gold‘, a trend for monochromous work appeared over the winter.  What came out of The Second Attempt at Phane Terglo was an experimentation with contrasting textures.  In an all-encompassing installation, painted surfaces that had the finish of raw plaster contrasted with smooth MDF and the striated cut edges of plywood.  Synthetic flowers hung from a washing line whilst minimal glasses of beige drinks with a cherry in sat on the ledge around the room.  Sliced potatoes sewn to a painted strip of fabric hung from the ceiling resembled diseased skin, whilst their decomposition mirrors that of Anya Gallaccio‘s works such as preserve ‘beauty’, where she places red gerberas behind glass and allows them to naturally die.  Finally a series of three monochromatic portrait paintings seemed effectively identical but for slight variations that possibly indicate the models may have been an Asian male, a white female and a black male, demonstrating that we are all alike and equal, whilst it could be said to reflect the dullness of a homogenised society and hence perhaps celebrate our individuality.

The ordered layout of Gallaccio’s work is also mirrored in that of Victoria Scott‘s Lenty Pond (2011), which was shown in the following exhibition at the same gallery.  A grid of nearly 500 petri dishes laid out on the gallery floor formed a graduated change of colour.  From a distance these appeared to contain pigment or coloured sand but in fact they are oil paintings on canvas cut out in a circle, potentially violently, where a selection seem to quite strongly represent landscape scenes, and resulting in their slight undulation.  It was also interesting to observe the reflection of the rectangular gridded windows on the grid of transparent pieces, which also draw to mind Carl Andre‘s floor pieces over which the audience are invited to walk, but in this case despite a lack of barrier it seems the work would be destroyed by this kind of interaction.

Quite different from Scott’s work but related to the use of texture and material in The Second Attempt at Phane Terglo, Neil Taylor translates material in his exhibition True Wood at Campbell Works.  Taylor has carved a series of works that resemble wood out of blue Styrofoam.  The exhibition has a distinctly religious undercurrent, using apparently found material from a neighbouring evangelical church; a powerful letterhead with an image of the crucifixion as a watermark, as both source material and a medium on which to draw or write.

Taylor’s use of material is most interesting in the less religious works where he has created pallets out of Styrofoam and polystyrene, ironically crossing junctions between art and its packaging materials.  The packing is rendered as art whilst it suggests the disastrous or comedic scene that would occur if they were used in the intended manner of pallets.

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