Nothing’s Ever As Simple As Black and White

31 May

Maintaining the monochromatic theme from the last article, Explorations in Materiality and Texture, Will Rogan and Zin Taylor’s work at MOT International utilise black and white in their images for contrast in tone, not texture.

The Time Machine Scratched (2010) by Will Rogan

In Rogan’s greyscale photographs The Time Machine Scratched (2010) and The Time Machine Open (2010) a beaded, narrow line of light falls across an old copy of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine as though piercing through the gap between two Venetian blinds.  As we compare the two images, we see the light falls across the book in different positions indicating time has passed or been travelled between during the time it has taken to turn from the cover to the first page of text.  The use of traditional black and white photography perhaps indicates the work itself could belong to a time since surpassed by technological innovations in colour photography, yet it remains crisp and new from having teleported to today from when it was first created.

These are contrasted with Taylor’s series of abstract works, An Arrangement of Voids, in which geometric blocks of white printing ink that might perhaps resemble thimbles, test tubes or lavatories, for example, are over layered on black paper, building up areas of powerful contrast along with a series of mid tones, like a photogram negative captured by repeated exposure with different objects placed on photosensitive paper.

An Arrangement of Voids #8 by Zin Taylor

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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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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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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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Drawing in space

5 Feb

Bridget Riley‘s Composition with Circles 7 (2010), installed at the National Gallery, London, makes use of circles in a similar manner to Susan Hiller‘s Magic Lantern discussed in my previous article ‘Curated to Confuse?‘.  Riley and her assistants have drawn a series of meticulously accurate, large, monochromatic circles across the entirety of a vast gallery wall.  Like Hiller’s projection, they build up layers, overlapping and forming a series of Venn diagrams.  However, where Hiller explores colour, Riley explores ways of tesselating the circles, creating a vast array of different size and shape sections of overlap and space, whilst maintaining a fairly ordered overall plane.

Adrian Searle furthers the link between the two by saying this work of Riley’s “… seems to envelop you as if one were consumed by bubbles of light.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/video/2010/dec/15/bridget-riley-national-gallery-wall-circles).  However this work feels much more rigid and defined than flowing light.

This is an installation of drawing which looms over the viewer, affecting our perception of space.  It also physically alters the gallery walls in a museum that, due to its collection, usually retains works within a frame.  Hence it is an intervention in the space, much like Doris Salcedo‘s Shibboleth (2007), a crack in the floor of Tate Modern‘s Turbine Hall.

Besides this piece, it is a small exhibition and predominantly represent’s Riley’s current work, not necessarily her most interesting.  On the other hand it is interesting to see how her modern abstract style has been inspired by some more traditional sources.  A couple of Riley’s older Op Art style works are included, and these create the optical illusion of three dimensionality.  The exhibition Common Logic at IMT Gallery, however, exhibits a series of experiments which take drawing literally into three-dimensional space.

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