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Tag Archives: Art

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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Are We Communicating Yet?

12 Sep

Recently a theme has emerged of artworks addressing communication modes and creating interventions in language.  In The Pool Exhibition for Goldsmiths MFA, Jin Wook Moon has created a new language using a variety of everyday objects as symbols, like a variation on sign language.  This was presented plastered across the exhibition space walls, in a newspaper and in a translated version of BBC News.  Use of passports as symbols in this language particularly juxtaposes against the background news story about planes or an airport featured on the screen.  This draws up issues of identity and highlights how important common understanding of language is to cohesion, whilst the development of a coded language enables secret transferral of information that may raise suspicion.  He adds another level of critique in that the language is meaningless, questioning whether it is important that we read text where it is used within an artwork.

The Untitled Text by Jin Wook Moon

The Untitled Text by Jin Wook Moon

The Untitled Text by Jin Wook Moon

The Untitled Text by Jin Wook Moon

Meanwhile, included in the Visual Poetry exhibition at Maddox Arts is Glenda León’s Objeto Mágico Encontrado #3 (Magical Found Object #3), where the artist has applied flower petals in a variety of vibrant shades to the keystrokes of a typewriter, whilst in Objeto Mágico Encontrado #4 we see a text potentially produced with this, validating that Objeto Mágico Encontrado #3 produces a flowery dialogue that curator Gabriela Salgado suggests in the exhibition catalogue is symptomatic of a love letter.

Objeto Mágico Encontrado #3 by Glenda León

Objeto Mágico Encontrado #3 by Glenda León

Plastique Fantastique have produced a series of posters in their post-apocalyptic installation, Your Extinction Our Future at IMT Gallery, with the vowels missing, consumed by the alien force of Neuropatheme, which can only exist by the conversion of humans into Phenome-Humans, much like the ‘upgrading’ of humans into Cybermen in Doctor Who.  These question the permanence of humanity and language in an ever-changing world where mass (media) influences can have sweeping effects upon a population.

NFRMTN WNTS T B FR (2013) by Plastique Fantastique

NFRMTN WNTS T B FR (2013) by Plastique Fantastique

This is similar to Georges Perec’s exploratory writing La disparition (1969) in which he works without the letter e, translated into English as A Void (1994) by Gilbert Adair, whilst the vowels are more directly absent in Plastique Fantastique’s work.  The text in this example also refutes there being anything to communicate both in life and art generally.

Meanwhile, at Tate Modern a few works by Ellen Gallagher on exhibition including Greasy (2011) almost recapture some of these vowels.  In these she has obliterated sheets of text from magazines with white paint except the letters e and o, rendering communication pointless or censoring information, whilst highlighting the frequency and shape of these letters.  This brings potential sexual connotations to attention in both shape and sound, whilst this may apply more generally to all the vowels.  In essence this might be viewed as sound art, a score to be performed like the instructions for a Fluxus Happening, whilst looking at León’s work may lead to imagining the noise it makes, a combination of harsh mechanical clunking and the delicate touch of the petals.  Jin Wook Moon has already verbalised his language by reading the names of the objects in english, considerably lengthening text if we view each object as a single letter.  Gallagher’s work also attracts comparison to Perec’s Les revenentes (1972), translated as The Exeter Text (1996) by Ian Monk, in which e is the only vowel used.

In relation to these works it seems relevant to discuss the use of the term character to describe the symbols of language.  Each letter has its own story to tell within a greater narrative, as is particularly the case in Jin Wook Moon’s language.  Each flower on Leon’s work has lived its own life and been lovingly preserved like the Egyptians embalmed their Pharaohs.  Meanwhile Gallager’s characters are not individuals and could therefore represent different species or genders.

Visual Poetry: Intermedia Traditions in Latin America continues at Maddox Arts, 52 Brooks Mews, London W1K 4ED until 21st September.

Life as a Veneer

4 May

In retrospect, at a selection of exhibitions in London over the winter a number of works emerged which use veneers and discuss thin surfaces.  At the end of 2012 Henrik Schrat exhibited a series of two dimensional works at IMT Gallery made in the marquetry tradition from tessellated pieces of different woods that form scenes for a comic book, probably with reference to Roy Lichtenstein’s paintings of scenes from comic books such as All-American Men of War, but carried out in a totally different manner.  This pair have similarly transformed the disposable paper comic into something more substantial, created for longevity and monumentalising what some may describe as a trivial entertainment media, yet solid wooden board may have a longer life expectancy than a canvas.  Schrat’s Space Odyssee series (2009) makes a number of references to modernist architecture, with Space Vessel resembling Buckminster Fuller’s Geodesic Dome and Falling Water featuring a Frank Lloyd Wright house, whilst documenting the daily life of a Cyloptic science fiction character like a series of snapshot photographs that could be posted on the character’s social networking profile.

Space Vessel (2009) by Henrik Schrat

Space Vessel (2009) by Henrik Schrat

Helen Marten’s exhibition at Chisenhale Gallery included a row of low works, each with a different wooden finished, which resemble temporary covers placed over open man holes in pavement or trailing cables somewhere lots will be required like a temporary concert site.  Titled Falling very down (low pH chemist) (2012) these were ramped on two opposite sides as if to aid wheelchair access these works appear to invite the viewer to walk on them like Carl Andre‘s floors and leave the patina of their movement on the polished surfaces, yet they then had a collection of objects piled on them, like the personal effects upon a series of individuals’ bodies or a collection of detritus disposed of by a being, including a sock and a Starbucks cup of iced coffee, whilst skewed and edited wrappers invite you to consider what you consume.

Falling very down (low pH chemist) (2012)Helen Marten, Plank Salad, exhibition view, Chisenhale Gallery, 2012. Photo: Andy Keate. Commissioned by Chisenhale Gallery.

Falling very down (low pH chemist) (2012)Helen Marten, Plank Salad, exhibition view, Chisenhale Gallery, 2012. Photo: Andy Keate. Commissioned by Chisenhale Gallery.

Art13 Art Fair commissioned Peter Lemmens, also seen on the Dam Gallery stand there, to create a series of essentially plinths, entitled Proxy (2013), which appeared to be covered in a variety of wood and marble laminates as might be used on kitchen worktops and cupboards; practical elements of modernist architectural design, like the structures depicted in Schrat’s work.  Lemmens invites us to look at that which the contemporary art viewer tends to ignore, yet most continue to walk by regardless.  Indeed these innate objects seem to be typified by private view visitors using them to stand empty glasses on.  These works were juxtaposed in odd combinations, clearly defining the apparent pointlessness of the trompe l’oeil pretence of using patterned laminate, making their seemingly basic materials obvious.  However, in fact only part of each work is a trompe l’oeil, a self-adhesive veneer applied to a solid block of an opposing material, for example a block of marble has one or more surfaces covered in a wood effect plastic, confusing the brain as to what material it really is.

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A Return to Classicism

16 Aug

Correlations between art and politics have been repeatedly shown and this is clearly apparent among a selection of this year’s graduates that have returned to classical forms, responding to economical situations in Greece particularly.  Perhaps this will become known as Post Neo-Classicism or Anarchaic Art.

At Goldsmiths Hannah Lyons (BA Art Practice) has created a Doric column from expanding foam that bends slightly to lean against the wall, needing to be propped up, like Greece needs support from other Euro zone countries including Germany.  Titled I Tried (2012) it infers the artist’s attempt to create something and the failure to achieve the desired perfection, requiring the practice and refinement that can be seen in Greek sculpture across the Archaic period and into the Classical period, yet this is emblematic of contemporary attempts to stimulate the economy and develop businesses.  Meanwhile in BA Photography at Camberwell College of Art Maria Gorodeckaya includes a smashed plaster Doric column, reflecting a broken economy, in her installation Деструкция (Destruction in Russian), Gorodecaya’s column lays in fragments as it was broken, with three main sections that one could imagine being sliced violently with the swipe of a sword, like the conversion to Christianity defacing polytheistic Classical sculpture.

Деструкция (2012) by Maria Gorodeckaya

Lyons also exhibited Ironic Piece of Work by Female Artist (2012) in which she has successfully cast a plaster female figure, Aphrodite or Venus perhaps, without head and arms like a classical relic, but potentially suggestive of this being a cost cutting measure, imagining the construction of a temple, from which it might have originated, as a public building project inevitably running over budget.  The irony here seems to lie in a female artist creating a female figure that is presented as a purely sexual object, devoid of any identifying features and with just a loose drape of a skirt for modesty, seemingly about to drop at any moment.  Furthermore this pure white figure is contrasted against dark arches painted on the surrounding walls, highlighting a possible reference to the abrasive cleaning carried out on sculptures from the Parthenon at the British Museum to make them stand out, and by turning the otherwise unused space of the lift lobby into that of a formal museum gallery she ostensibly lowers the latter to the level of importance of the lobby, a transient space one doesn’t really want to spend much time in.

Ironic Piece of Work by Female Artist (2012) by Hannah Lyons

Won Woo Lee‘s F.A.S.W. (First Abstract Sculpture in the World) (2012) project at the Royal College of Art (MA Sculpture) includes an amalgamated collection of fragments of plaster bust, arranged into a somewhat pot-like form, with just the occasional facial feature visibly emerging from the surface slightly, adding texture and some light shadowing in addition to the darkness seen inside the object.  Whilst this, like Gorodecaya’s work, is suggestive of uprising, it also speaks of the desire for perfection sought by Archaic sculptors and realised by their Classical successors, like Lyons’ I Tried.  Adjacent to this visitors are occasionally startled by Always Something Behind the Truth (2012), an adjacent table which suddenly shakes like someone is panning soil to find remains or gold on an archaeological dig, further accelerating the physical erosion of further facial fragments on top of it, as measures such as quantitative easing could potentially accelerate recession.

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Creating Distorted Figures

28 Mar

Tate Britain‘s exhibition Picasso and Modern British Art sets out to trace Pablo Picasso‘s influence on Britain. Hence much of the exhibition looks at British artists influenced by Picasso, including Henry Moore, Francis Bacon and Ben Nicholson, drawing upon the research carried out for other recent exhibitions and the Tate’s own collection, and the exhibition consequently features several works that have appeared recently. Therefore it seems more targeted at the casual audience and tourists during this Olympic year, trying to introduce fresh audiences to the British artists shown. A considerable space and volume of wall text is devoted to indicating works bought by British collectors. This doesn’t seem to add much to the understanding of the artist’s work, or really to indicate that British collectors had a taste for particular genres of Picasso’s practice, but does help to reinforce the country’s importance within the art world and as a powerful nation in the modern world. Indeed a more pressing reason for this section may be to encourage visitors to collect the work of contemporary artists, demonstrating that British collectors can help cultivate major artists, and that by collecting work, one day you might be remembered by being named in a museum exhibiting it in the future.

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The Sculpture of Gabriel Kuri and Others

9 Nov

Gabriel Kuri’s exhibition at South London Gallery includes a variety of sculptural work that appears to draw wide-ranging artistic references and political comment. Untitled (Scoop) (2011) feels like a twist between Richard Serra‘s Tilted Arc (1981), tilted further until it is elevated off the ground, and Ellsworth Kelly‘s similarly segment-shaped canvas White Curve (1974), whilst it is painted with a smooth block of dark red colour in the Field Colour Painting style of Kelly, but taking this into a more three-dimensional form. Meanwhile the steel nature of this work and red painted finish also seem to reference the sculpture of Sir Anthony Caro. Where Kelly’s work is hung away from the wall, Kuri’s similar Untitled (3/4 Blue) (2011) is raised off the ground on a blanket, seemingly suggesting installation work is still in progress.

Gabriel Kuri, Untitled (Shells and Stubbed-out Cigarettes), 2011, prototype voting table and mixed media, installation view South London Gallery. Photo: Marius W Hansen. Image courtesy the artist and the South London Gallery.

Some of the works may appeal to smokers (and those anti-smoking) as cigarettes feature. In Untitled (Charted Topography) (2011) a series of resin casts have been made in the ribbed bottom of plastic bottles which have been used as ashtrays and hence Kuri has preserved the evidential cigarette ends like fossils, probably even locking in a trace of DNA like a fly trapped in amber as used in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. Beneath the table sits a wholesale pack of water bottles, seemingly suggesting that one is used each day. I recently saw Lewisham Stop Smoking campaign advertising funding for relevant public projects; perhaps they should commission some of Kuri’s art. However, which way do you think the giant roll-up cigarettes or cigars of Untitled (Shells and Stubbed-out Cigarettes) (2011) leans? Are they a smoker’s dream, like the giant billboard cigarettes of the past or do they highlight the dangers of smoking, with the title potentially referring to them as a ticking explosive device?  On the other hand, this work may discuss gender politics through sexual connotations of phallic cigarettes and concave shells, with the prototype voting table dividing the objects into heterosexual and homosexual couples, and creating boundaries between them.

Gabriel Kuri, Untitled (Shelter), 2011, mixed media, dimensions variable, installation view South London Gallery. Photo: Marius W Hansen. Image courtesy the artist and the South London Gallery.

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London Art Fairs 2011: Bold and Textured

16 Oct

So, it’s show time for the art world in London.  Across the fairs and events visited thus far it seems there are trends for colourful work in bold primary and secondary colours and for textured work.

These themes began to emerge at the Pavilion of Art & Design London, where works for sale particularly include a number of pieces by Agostino Bonalumi on Galerie Vedovi’s stand, which build geometric patterns by stretching the canvas over various obstacles, some slashed work by Lucio Fontana, several Antoni Tàpies relief paintings, and a collection of collages by Roy Lichtenstein plus a design for a contemporary tapestry.  Here there seemed to be a particular choice of works with texture as the fair also contains a number of design stands, whilst the majority of work for sale is mid twentieth century.

At the Frieze Art Fair, Marc Quinn has left his Fingerprints all over Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac’s stand.  Indicating personal identity, authorship and uniqueness, the coloured version of this relief work seems to highlight the bacteria we may come in contact with in our daily lives, each secreting itself in a different groove in the texture of the finger print.

Fingerprints by Marc Quinn at Frieze Art Fair

Magali ReusBalance Sheet series on Galerie Fons Welters’ stand contrasts roughly textured silicon rubber with shiny, smooth aluminium grilles.

Balance Sheet Series (2011) by Magali Reus at Frieze Art Fair

Nick van Woert’s Not Yet Titled 7 (2011) on Yvon Lambert’s stand references Liam Gillick’s work and acts as a room divider almost akin to Richard Serra’s Titled Arc (1981), but is partially transparent.  A series of equal blocks are stacked horizontally, each containing different textured materials in different bold colours, including liquids, loft insulation, wire wool, chippings and powder.

Not Yet Titled 7 (2011) by Nick van Woert at Frieze Art Fair

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When Does Minimalism Become Too Minimal?

8 Oct

It was recently pointed out to me that there has been a lot of minimal art produced recently, and the exhibitions this article discusses feature minimal and monochromatic works, but can minimalism go too far?

Florian Pumhösl’s part of the current exhibition at Raven Row consists of two floors filled with a series of minimal works on glass.  This choice of unframed medium seems to reflect upon Joseph Kosuth‘s works including Clear Square Glass Leaning (1965) and No Number #1 (+216, After Augustine’s Confessions) (1989), and to the latter of these there also seems to be a link in David Batchelor‘s Shelf-like No. 5 (Green) (1999), currently on display at the Whitechapel Gallery in their latest exhibition of the Government Art Collection.  However, where Kosuth applied text to the medium using Letraset and later silkscreen, Pumhösl has composed and painted a series of abstract black lines, numbering between two and six on each piece.  These lines might describe journeys, lines of communication, horizons, or statistical graphs, but there is no information within the work for viewers to read the artist’s intention or act.  To the viewer these are simply random lines, some arranged so they create intersections and others vaguely parallel, floating in the liquid plane of the glass, sometimes alike part of paintings by Wassily Kandinsky.

Whilst Pumhösl’s work fits within the broad nature of minimalism and perhaps Abstract Expressionism, The Mews Project Space is hosting an exhibition of monochromatic works, which critically address minimalism and its practices from within.  In the first room of Dark Matter Jonathan Lewis has set out to recreate the installation conditions of Kasimir Malevich‘s seminal Suprematist exhibition, The Last Futurist Exhibition (1915), but Lewis uses only a series of prints of Black Square on White in different size and style frames and digital printing means and materials.  However the focus of The End (2011) is on the pixelation of the image, which unlike Lewis’s previous work is due to the prints being taken from a very low-resolution image found online.  This includes a rather bizarre square of different shade off-white pixels in each corner like an unreadable QR code or the tags within a graphic design software package for manipulating the dimensions of a selected image.  Then a greyish line of pixels forms a border between the two areas, as though the image could be of a black surface over layered with a white mount board casting a slight shadow.  Such is the case that online information, particularly that resourced from search engines that pick up any text on a page, can be confused between original pieces and things inspired by a master, hence it is possible that this may not be an image of the original.  Consequently the work questions the capability of communication of knowledge and ideas through the internet and the actual minimalism of artworks including Malevich’s.  Do they conform to machine-accurate straight lines or is the presence of human nature visible in brushstrokes and minor imperfections?

The End (2011) by Jonathan Lewis at The Mews Project Space

Opposite, Andreas Schmidt’s Free Porn critiques censorship on Google Images suggesting that there is either too much censorship or that the pornographic images obscured in this work are too easily accessible and without payment to the models and photographer.  Furthermore Schmidt may be critiquing several layers of censorship; that of the images, the power of Google and other search providers to control what you can find on the internet, and also that within the art world.

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