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Tag Archives: Royal College of 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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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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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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The Art of Selling and the Selling of Art

25 Jun

With Mark Leckey‘s work at the Serpentine Gallery it seems unclear whether the work or the sponsorship came first.  By addressing commercial branding and marketing Leckey is actively promoting Samsung and also Fiorucci in a far more direct and blatant manner than I have ever seen an artist do before.

 

Whilst Andy Warhol adopted the graphic design of popular commercial products including Brillo pads and Campbell’s soup, he did not turn his work into a powerful encapsulating installation.  Self complementary announcements are repeated in a direct manner, asserting the value of the brand name, rather than an actual product, badged onto fairly high-end electrical products including televisions, Blu-ray players, microwaves, cameras and mobile phones which are shown in a slideshow in the background of the film shot in a green screen room created in the gallery.  The focal point of this work, GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction (2010), is the ‘Smart’ black fridge freezer that stands in the installation like a monolithic sculpture such as the Easter Island heads.  Leckey takes on the imagined persona of the fridge, seemingly only educated by the company’s promotional material.  In this slick, ultra minimal work, and the trailer at the exhibition entrance, Leckey has assembled a series of hypnotically flashing messages on screen between the Samsung and Fiorucci logos and famous or celebrated artworks and artists, relating the brands to art in the way advertisers aim to emotionally elevate the quality and significance of their product.  In particular Henry Moore’s signature and name are used in the trailer as a Moore sculpture is included in the exhibition installation as another monolith to compare the fridge with, and the use of the signature makes passing reference to Citroen’s Picasso branding.

 

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