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Tag Archives: Richard Wentworth

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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Mapping the Collection

29 Dec

The Linear B exhibition at the Stephen Lawrence Gallery has been curated and created around the principle that each artist’s exhibited work takes inspiration from an artwork in the collection of the late artist Nikos Alexiou.  What emerges are a whole series of other connections that can be seen in the work to other artists, as each individual forms a dot on an interconnected spider diagram across which you could trace connections similar to the idea of the six degrees of separation through which you should be able to link to anyone on the planet through someone you know knowing someone that knows someone, etc.  I wonder how many steps would be statistically necessary to link two seemingly unconnected artists.  Much as Mafalda Santos in her installation Cross Reference (2011) at The Mews Project Space has drawn out her social network across the walls and ceiling of the gallery leaving a remnant of chalk dust on the ground like the fallout from broken friendships. Occasional lines that were probably accidentally drawn at the wrong angle due to not having a long enough ruler peter off half way like a relationship that has not yet been made or has been cut off, the blue chalk slightly rubbed away as the memory fades.

Cross Reference (2011) (detail) by Mafalda Santos at The Mews Project Space

Plans for a New Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (detail) (2011) by Jonas Ranson, silkscreen print on paper.

In Linear B Jonas Ranson’s Plans for a New Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (2011) is made in response to Vassili Balatsos’ perspective drawing of, or design for, a modern minimal building, clad in industrial metal strips and with a balcony on the upper floor, made with strips of primary coloured tapes.  However whilst Ranson picks up using parallel lines in a mixture of primary colours, this large print also seems to heavily reference Pierre Cordier’s Chemigrams featured in the V&A‘s Shadow Catchers: Camera-less Photography exhibition last winter.  Cordier created a photographic technique he called Chemigram, painting materials such as nail vanish and oil onto photosensitive paper prior to exposure and developing.  The traces left from painting, as in Chemigram 30/12/81 I (1981), leave a perfect series of parallel lines created by the brush stroke, an abstract composition which could perhaps depict cornfields with neatly arranged rows of crops.  These marks are much like the parallel lines in Plans for a New Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (2011), which appear to describe buildings, roads, paths, corridors or electrical circuit diagrams, that map a building, campus, development or city, just as Balatsos’ drawing maps a building and records the parallel vertical lines of its cladding.

Chemigram 30/12/81 I by Pierre Cordier

In turn it feels like Cordier’s work could have influenced some of Bernard Frize‘s abstract paintings.  Whilst Ranson has produced a print and Cordier has worked with photography albeit in a painterly fashion, Frieze frequently paints bold, sweeping, continuous lines, which similarly retain the marks of a wide brush.

Meanwhile Cordier’s Chemigram 7/5/82 II “Pauli Kleei ad Marginem” (1982) has been linked to referencing Paul Klee‘s Ad Marginem (1930), which seems to depict the sun surrounded on all sides by birds, flowers and abstract figures, who could be worshipping it.  However, due to its triangular centre this reminds more of the classic album cover for Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon by Hipgnosis and George Hardie (1973), with some edges perhaps bitten by snakes ala the computer game, whilst the curve cornered straight forms reflect upon the shape of the extending character.

Chemigram 7/5/82 II "Pauli Kleei ad Marginem" by Pierre Cordier

Across these three media we find aesthetics that function similarly across these art forms, with both linear order, aligned with architecture and planning regulations, and the unpredictability of human interaction and nature.

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Deutsche Borse Photography Prize 2008 at The Photographers’ Gallery

24 Feb

So another year in the photography world has passed and it’s time for the Deutsche Borse Photography Prize once more.  Of the four nominees, I would only consider two for the prize.  However, something that strikes me is that many of the photographs are up to 40 years old, despite the £30,000 prize being awarded “…to an international photographer who is judged to have made the greatest contribution to photography over the previous year.”  Consequently, I rule out Jacob Holdt, who was nominated for his 2007 publication United States 1970-1975.  In the exhibition the gallery has curated his work as an automated slideshow in line with the four hour lecture slideshow Holdt made when he returned to Denmark at the end of the 1970s.  I suppose therefore we should consider the captions in the leaflet available at the entrance to his space, but not read my most viewers, as integral to the work, but they don’t read as a lecture.  The subject of Holdt’s work is the people he met hitchhiking around America, and usually lived with in wooden shacks, equivalent to caravans that gypsies live in.  Hence they feel like old family photographs but highlight socio-political issues such as apartheid and interracial relationships, shootings in the street, homelessness and drug use.  Sadly I find them difficult to engage with, probably partly because I wasn’t born then and don’t know what it’s like to live in such poor conditions.  There seems to be little correlation between the images apart from the artist’s relationship with the subjects during his period of travel in the United States, a residency you might call it.  Perhaps they are best exhibited in the United States where viewers will better understand the cultural background to the images, and with the performative element of the slideshow.

Fazal Sheikh’s work doesn’t belong in the gallery presentation.  It is too overly political and there are pages of writing to read about the context or content of the work, which isn’t terribly apparent in the photographs themselves.  I suppose it could be classified as journalistic photography.  Sheikh exposes Indians as being nearly as bad as the Chinese have reportedly been in the past, killing, aborting or abusing girls because they want boys for economic reasons, resulting in populations of 10:7 male:female split.  This work seems to be the sort of images of abused children that a charity would commission to advertise in order to fundraise and to assert political pressure on governments.

John Davies documents industrial landscapes in Britain with sense of the social interaction of the site historically, but again the images are all taken a while back.  The below image shows a train on the railway line that carried large quantities of nuclear waste from Trawsfynydd power station to Sellafield on a daily basis.  We can see that it passed extremely tightly between two houses here.  Perhaps a house was demolished from a terrace to put the line through even.

In his photograph of New Street Station, Birmingham (below), to the left of the central diamond shape roof, a separate track crosses another track and goes up onto the platform.  I presume this is evidence of the print being constructed from multiple negatives to enable to capturing of the view and/or in order to limit the number of trains present in the station.  As the busiest interchange station in the country, it is probably pretty rare to only have two trains present (to the right of the image).  Anyhow, Davies manages to capture the beauty of quite ugly industrial architecture, posing the staggered height glass roofs symmetrically in the foreground with the crossroads in the mid-ground and the tallest building almost centrally in the background.

Bowling Greens, Stockport annoys me that through the title of the piece (and the place) the work seems like it should be about the particular shades of green of the grass there, but Davies persists in using black and white.  This does however give a sense of melancholia to the image, that the greens date to 1875 and may one day be gone, as with a number of his subjects including the reconstruction of New Street Station started in 2006, though the one photographed is not the original.

Hence I would probably award the prize to Esko Männikkö.  His work seems to be much more along the lines of installation art than straight photography.  He presents a collection of large prints in old, worn, found frames, arranged in a line so that each frame touches its neighbours.  It consequently seems to critique the display of art, somewhere between the tightly knit wall of the salon, where each work was only separated by its frame, and the modernist method of display with large amounts of white wall visible.  The contents of these frames seem quite unconnected (they are from five series of photographs) but I can see reference to a wide variety of artists and styles in different images, which seem to come across in the works, further seeming to make a gallery installation.  Per? is very similar to work by Uta Barth and they may both reference Vermeer with the use of light.  It captures a seemingly non-place, but has quite a specific arrangement of objects, perhaps remnants of the location being a squat?  The wall coverings are old and peeling.  Rapakivi? has a painterly feel and the performative randomness of where the egg yolk has been distributed makes me think of Jackson Pollock and the abstract expressionists.  Alvar makes me think of Richard Wentworth’s Making Do and Getting By series of makeshift constructions.  Kuhmo poses the rough, rural man as a fashion model, showing off his clothes and especially his shoes so that only the broken belt, braces and the concrete jetty being broken suggest otherwise to it being a fashion magazine image.

The exhibition is on at 5 & 8 Great Newport St. until 6th April 2008, Free.

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