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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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.”

Still (expanded post)

20 Dec

I enjoyed Roelof Bakker‘s exhibition ‘Still’ at Hornsey Town Hall in November, although I personally feel this series is too dispersed or diverse and needs further editing into a smaller group or groups.  The images that were of most interest are the few of the large spaces devoid of life such as The Green Room below, The Council Chamber and The Stage (Piano), along with those of stacks of ancient scrolls or plans, creating a honeycomb of history, each numbered with a luggage tag.

Most haunting, however, was the video, which was under-promoted.  This included scenes from many more interesting parts of the building than are included in the images exhibited.  We appear to have stepped into a 1930s that has been abandoned.  It’s as if a major event has devoid the place of life.  Perhaps we lost the second world war.  Or else something along the lines of the early plot of 28 Days Later has occurred.  The space is ready for use but there is no life here.

Many of the spaces we see seem of a peculiar antiquation that is beyond twenty-first or late twentieth century business use yet not like anywhere I have seen conserved as a museum.  I can only guess anywhere equivalent has already fallen into disuse and been demolished.  The spaces are abandoned, yet feel too fresh, crisp, new and little used, as if we have travelled back in time. 

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Welcome to

7 Nov

Welcome to

Check back for fresh articles reviewing trends across art exhibitions, predominately in London, and theoretical thoughts on contemporary art.  Also don’t forget you can subscribe to be updated of fresh articles by email or social networking sites, see the subscribe page.

Posts prior to this one were written by the editor on other sites prior to the launch of


5 Sep
IMT’s latest exhibition is a positive departure from their specialism in predominantly sound based art forms.  Alejandro Ospina’s paintings form an installation, drawing allusion to the ordered grid patterns of many websites ranging from search engine images, social networking and dating websites, through to those of glamour magazines or of a more overtly sexual or pornographic nature.  The fifteen paintings hung around the gallery’s convex wall in a five by three grid formation also remind me of the video ‘quadrasphere’ exhibit on the water cycle at the Natural History Museum, where a similar grid of TV screens are surrounded by mirrors on all sides to create the visual effect of a whole globe of radiating light and image, much like the glowing computer screen these images originate from.

Tate Britain Summer 2010

14 Aug

Rude Britannia has to be the worst ticketed exhibition I have seen at the Tate and really isn’t worth paying the admission fee for.  They have attempted to bring together comic art from the paintings and prints of William Hogarth and his contemporaries through to a Spitting Image doll of Margaret Thatcher and recent critical photographic images of Tony Blair and George Bush, and then practically shoved it all in one room without any historical order or comparison.

They’ve devoted a whole room to George Cruikshank’s ‘The Worship of Bacchus’ and wasted umpteen sheets of timber building a stage for viewers to stand on and see the upper parts of the very large canvas following a key.  However due to the detail of the painting depicting the role of alcohol within all walks of British life, that is being annotated, the staging is too far away to actually view the work and remains better viewed from the ground in front.  Finally they’ve got TV comedian Harry Hill to curate the final room… hmm…

 The one plus point about the exhibition is that when I visited at least it was much easier to see Hogarth’s ‘A Rake’s Progress’, only the prints, than in the exceedingly packed solo exhibition they held in 2007 though it doesn’t feel that long ago.  I also felt the cartoon accompaniments by Viz were very good at engaging a modern audience with the situation, character Roger Mellie, “The Man on the Telly” describing the works as a TV art critic in a hurry.

Having complained about this exhibition though, it is still worth paying a visit to Tate Britain this summer to see Mike Nelson’s ‘The Coral Reef’ a get lost in this labyrinthine installation of rooms that seem to reflect a series of commercial American spaces of perhaps the 1960s, such as a bar, a garage in which the collection of old tyres creates a resonant atmospheric smell, and a timber workshop that I couldn’t tell whether this was part of the work, evidence of its production or I’d gone out the fire exit to a part of the gallery I shouldn’t have been in.  That’s how confusing it can be, something quite uncommon in contemporary art, which could relate the work to trying to untwine the symbolism in a painting.  Also Fiona Banner’s ‘Harrier and Jaguar’ is interesting in the way these two fighter planes react with the space of the central gallery they have been inserted into, the latter having had its paint removed and been highly polished to create angled reflective surface that capture the gallery space.  I particularly like the gallery’s caption: “Harrier and Jaguar remain ambiguous objects implying both captured beast and fallen trophy.”  The reflection within the surface of the work captures the beast of the gallery whilst drawing comparisons between the art institution and the weapon of war, which lies upturned on the floor.

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