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Looking at one thing and thinking of something else at Carroll/Fletcher

27 Mar

Picasso is reputed to have said, “good artists copy; great artists steal.” At first sight Eva and Franco Mattes, whose work is currently showing at Carroll/Fletcher in the heart of Soho, appear to have taken this advice literally. Stolen comprises some 40 or more different fragments of artworks from different museums in the US and Europe. They are each encapsulated in a little perspex box and, on the wall, nearby is a key so that you can work out what you are looking at.

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Eva and Franco Mattes: Stolen

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It is like a Who’s Who of contemporary art; some artists might be quite peeved to be left out. Among those included are Wahol, Andre, Segal, Beuys, Kandinsky. Very few women, you notice;  Robert Rauschenberg’s bed is included rather than that of Tracy Emin. Rauschenberg himself famously erased a drawing by de Kooning but that was with permission.One wonders what he would have thought. Looking at the tiny trophies, a few threads here, a label there, some strangely sizeable items like the metal plate from Cesar,  one is torn between admiration at their audacity and  middle class horror at the vandalism, even if on a small scale; “what if everyone were to do it?”

Finally, despite the video above the reception desk showing the pair appropriating a thread from a painting by Alberto Burri,  doubts surface. “What is this? A fragment of porcelain from Marcel Duchamp’s fountain? ” But the whereabouts of Duchamp’s fountain are unknown. Only replicas exist. I conclude that Eva and Franco are only guilty of breaking the ninth commandment, rather than the more serious eighth. I am almost disappointed.

The exhibition “looking at one thing and thinking of something else.”  has been in four parts and this is the last of the series , entitled Disrupt/Disorder/Display. It certainly succeeds in making you think about the nature of art. I wish I had seen the earlier ones.   The world has been turned upside down in another of the Mattes’ work. This time in a very different form; a disconsolate  cat has been caged by a canary.P1020148

Natascha Sadr Haghighian’s I can’t work life this was first produced in 2007 in response to a gallery’s invitation to contribute a work for an art fair. The words are spelt out by gaps in the hammered nails. The abandoned tools and bent nails lie on the floor beneath clearly expressing her frustration with the commercialism of the art world.

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Natascha Sadr Haghighian: I can’t work like this.

Downstairs, I particularly enjoyed the video by John Wood and Paul Harrison, Semi Automatic Painting Machine. Framed by articles apparently hanging out to dry, we watch items being spray painted, sometimes to the point where they can hardly be distinguished  from their surroundings.

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John Wood and Paul Harrison:Semi Automatic Panting Machine

It is  more interesting than it sounds. The sound of the paint being sprayed is particularly effective. Once again I found myself looking at one thing and thinking about something else – in this case, ” how did they do it?”

Looking at  one thing and thinking about something else is showing at Carroll/Fletcher,56-57 Eastcastle Street,London W1W8EQ until 29 April

The Texture of Time at Murmurations Gallery

7 Mar

Back last year, when Joe Nguyen, owner of the Murmurations Gallery in Bexhill, asked me to curate a 3D exhibition, we discussed various angles; it seemed to both of us that exploring the nature of time could work well. It appealed to me because much of what I do is, in some way, related to human mortality and it appealed to Joe because only a stone’s throw away on the beach you can see dinosaur footprints, so there was a local connection.

When I asked two fellow Broomhill National Sculpture Prize finalists, Stathis Dimitriadis and Paul Tuppeny to join me, I was delighted that they too took inspiration from the enormity of  geological time. We all felt texture was important in our work. So that was the basis for  The Texture of Time which opened at Murmurations Gallery today.

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Paul Tuppeny: Here Beneath Our Feet

Closest to the dinosaur footprints is Paul Tuppeny’s wonderfully evocative work, made out of lead and mirror glass which shows human footprints, as if on wet sand or perhaps fossilised in the same way the dinosaurs made their mark all those millions of years ago. On the wall above it is a painting Doubtful Species, the man on the Beach,  which again shows the beach and the ghostly impression of a man, perhaps the creator of the footprints below. This work is itself about time, for as Tuppeny points out the knots in the walnut panel of wood took 120 years to develop.

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Paul Tuppeny: Doubtful Species; Man on the Beach

When thinking about which works would go together,  I was sure Stathis Dimitriadis’ tall column Escape from Reason would contrast with Paul’s footprints. They did; but I was also pleased how the orange in the rings and the orange in my work complemented each other.

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The Texture of Time; gallery view

Stathis works in ceramics and in his Ramble, he imagines the detritus of our everyday lives fused together as if by geological forces. This is work which really rewards study as you recognise the bits and pieces which are generally disregarded.

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Stathis Dimitriadis: Ramble

My favourite among Dimitriadis’ works, Respire, reminiscent of  a heart. brings our exploration of time back to the human, the fragility and the short span of our lives. This is a wonderfully clever piece; I particularly like the way that the tubes reach down below the level of the base.

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Stathis Diamitriadis: Respire

It was planning where everything might be placed that led directly to my work.  It was clear that at the entrance to the gallery there was a large expanse of wall space but not so much room on the floor. I am interested in works which sit on the boundary between sculpture and painting – and here was the perfect opportunity to make something site specific: paint on canvas that was also sculptural.

Fault in the Fabric of Time takes the idea of geological strata not as they are now but as they might be – millions of years in the future, long after the human race has been wiped out by asteroid impact, super volcano, or, if we as a species are really stupid, nuclear war. At that point geologists, perhaps from another planet or the evolved descendants of whatever manages to survive the catastrophe, would dig down and discover the strata that arise from the current geological epoch, the Anthropocene, with the same kind of wonder that we feel when thinking of the dinosaurs that walked in Bexhill. For these future geologists would deduce from the tiny fragments of plastic deep in the rock, that there had once existed an advanced civilisation. Plastic there will certainly be;  it has recently been discovered that it can even be found in the oceans’ deepest trenches. Fittingly therefore the Anthropocene layer is made from compressed plastic bags.

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Sue McDougall: Fault in the Fabric of Time (detail)

 

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Sue McDougall: Fault in the Fabric Of Time

Of course geological time is long but not infinite. Even if the human race survives; even if we successfully colonise other planets, we know that the habitable earth and the solar system will come to an end, though thankfully it has around another eight billion years to go. But beyond that, by big crunch, or by heat death, or something else entirely, there could be the end of the universe itself. So my geological strata fall into the funnel of time, and as time unravels, we have disconnected matter, with a nod to string theory, end up as string on the floor.

The Texture of Time runs at Murmurations Gallery, 17 Parkhurst Road, Bexhill TN39 RJD until March 23. The Gallery is open Tuesday to Sunday 10.30 -4.30. Stathis Dimitriadis, Sue McDougall  and Paul Tuppeny  will additionally be talking about our work at the studio in the De La Warr Pavillion on March 18 from 12.30 to 3pm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Editions Show at Project 78

16 Dec

Still looking for Christmas presents and hoping to find something arty but affordable? The current exhibition at Project 78 in St Leonards might provide the answer. The gallery is selling limited edition pieces from the artists who have exhibited there during the past two years. I admit that I am biased as two of my works are included, but it makes for a fascinating show. There is such variety: sculpture, prints, a single record, a memory stick, a small bag of rice, even a table and in prices, which range from £25 to £2000.

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Here are a few of them; they will be on sale in the gallery until the second week of January and on line at www.project78gallery.com/

I wrote about Neil Ayling’s work back in November last year and for this exhibition he has produced is this small but intriguing aluminium sculpture in a limited edition of eight at £85 each.

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Izabela Brudkiewicz is a performance artist who spent a week last summer counting grains of rice; 21,780 of them. For this exhibition she has produced seven mysterious little hand-made bags each one representing an hour of her time and costing £60. Brudkiewicz will be returning to Project 78 and again counting rice in the New Year.

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I was impressed by the recent exhibition from Anne Marie Watson whose flow of consciousness writing took the form of a meticulous circle. She has produced seven much smaller ones, all diffferent but still mind-blowing in their precision. They cost £100 each, £120 framed

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Anybody must love Martin Symons‘ chickens in a limited edition of 10 at £75.p1000842

Or if you are feeling flush there may still be a chance to acquire one of Patrick Adam Jones‘ large and dramatic “I am” pictures at £2000; four of the edition of five have already sold.

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Or how about one of mine? They  relate to the floating sculptures Nostalgia for the Body  which was shown back in May and are part digital prints, part collage using material from the original installation which was itself hand-painted. They are each in an edition of ten, but all slightly different and cost £60 unframed, £100 framed.

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The little purple table, in a limited edition of ten is by Becky Beasley and Marc Camille Charmonicz and relates to the summer show A House of Life. It could well prove a profitable investment Marc Carmille Charmonicz’ exhibition, an Autumn Lexicon, has just finished at the Serpentine Gallery in London. The price of the table goes up by £100 every time one is purchased.

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A very popular item at the Private View was a memory stick containing the video of the haunting Trees and Keys by Overlap;

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they are £56 each, or if you prefer old technology for £80 you can buy one of an edition of ten singles of the work Bass Superstructure  by Caleb Madden which was recorded in the project space. p1000867

Editions 16 is showing at Project 78, until 7 January  78 Norman Road, St. Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, TN38 0EJ 

Ken Price at Hauser & Wirth

13 Dec

I’m always interested in the importance that sculptors attach to drawing; they seem such different skills: the hand eye coordination and precision needed to convey a three dimensional object on a flat surface compared with the physicality of moulding, building or carving. Google the subject and you find some sculptors claim only to draw in order to demonstrate ideas to potential purchasers and gain commissions whilst for others it is a vital and intrinsic part of the process. For Ken Price, the Los Angles ceramicist whose work is being shown by Hauser & Wirth in a major retrospective, it was essential. Price, who died in 2012, is quoted as saying that he was at his happiest when drawing but it was also the way he clarified his thinking. “I think sculptors learn to draw so that they can see what they have been visualising,” he said, “because if you can’t draw it, you can’t see it”

So strong is the tactility of his works that without this quotation I might have expected him to be more absorbed with how the works would feel in his hands.  But at Hauser & Wirth there is the proof that it was drawing which drove his creativity. The curators have divided his works between the two Savile Row galleries; in the first are the small pieces from his early career,  cups,  bowls and jugs, playful and colourful as well as paintings and drawings. Price was clearly an outstanding draftsman as shown in what are described as snail cups, though another adjective would have been equally applicable. But other drawings were the equivalent of notes, apparently quickly sketched, almost diagrammatical, with instructions to himself about colour or texture.

Ken Price (1935 - 2012) Von Bayros Snail Cups 1968 Graphite on Paper 40.6 x 32.4 cm / 16 x 12 3/4 inches PRICE72303

Ken Price (1935 – 2012) Von Bayros Snail Cups 1968
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Ken Price (1935 - 2012) (Blue Object Purple) 1987 Watercolour, c

In the second gallery you find the sculptures, larger pieces displayed on a series of plinths. They create a feeling of ambivalence in the viewer; in part one longs to run one’s fingers over them but they also evoke inhibition. Many have a strongly sexual quality so that it is not just the general gallery prohibition against touching artworks that keeps viewer’s hands at a distance, rather the feeling that the sculptures themselves are sentient and would regard it as unwanted intimacy.

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If the shapes suggest the human, or perhaps an alien body, the colours are far from natural. These subtle and extraordinary effects were achieved by layers of colour that Price alternatively applied and removed, so that it appears not so much a  created surface but part of the work’s fundamental structure. And often, as in this piece above, and suggested in one of the drawings, there appears a small strange black geometric shape – which tempts the observer to put out a cautious finger to discover if it is an indentation and to ponder its meaning.

Ken Price , A Survey of Sculptures and Drawings, 1959 -2006, is showing at Hauser & Wirth until 4 February at 23 Savile Row,London W1S 2ET

 

Susan Fynes at blackShed

21 Aug

Susan Fynes, whose work is currently showing at the blackShed Gallery in Robertsbridge describes herself as predominantly a system based artist but, looking at her work last night, I wondered whether that emphasis might slowly be changing. Fynes  was in the year below me on the Brighton MA Fine Art course and  impressed everybody by her painstaking geometric compositions. You would be forgiven for wondering whether they might be computer generated, but there is no technology  involved. Amazingly, they are all done by hand  in pencil and acrylic paint. The larger ones, which can measure  50 inches square, can take months to complete.

If like me, your working habits tend towards messiness, you cannot help but be awed by the precision, the care and concentration needed.  Imagine having just a few tiny triangles to complete, when you knock over your cup of coffee, or you shift the paper to fill in another area before noticing that your thumb has picked up a liberal coating of yellow paint. Fynes clearly has the self discipline to avoid such disasters and to keep track of which colour comes next.  Stand in front of some of the painting and you can sense that there is a system in place but try to work out the code and you are likely to be puzzled.

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Susan Fynes: May You Be Free From Suffering

Take the work above,  one of a series of three in the exhibition; you sense that the  pattern is not random; distinct bands appear out of the complexity but your eyes are likely to go squint before you work out whether there is a repeat pattern let alone what it might be. In fact, the answer lies in the title: May You Be Free From Suffering. Fynes told me this phrase is repeated in the work and that each letter has its own code, but, even knowing this, I cannot trace out the mantra in the painting or in either of its companions, May You Be Well, or May You Be Happy. But I liked the idea of the good wishes being woven into her works.

Much of Fynes’ work has this spiritual element; she considers herself a Buddhist. Increasingly, she appears to be allowing herself a freer rein in the way this spirituality is portrayed..In Faith, shown below, there was no formula,though oddly it looked as though there might have been one. In fact, the process was intuitive and started with filling in triangles of one colour and grew from there.

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Susan Fynes : Faith

Emerging too are more fluid pieces where squares and triangles give way to curves and the resultant bands appear to move and vibrate.

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Susan Fynes: Untitled XV

In the exhibition there were some pieces which did not appear to rely on process at all, like this perfect little drawing which was sold even before the private view,

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Susan Fynes: Untitled Study V

and this larger piece which is clearly a free composition.

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Susan Fynes pictured with Path of Least Resistance

It will be interesting to see whether, in future, works with no underlying grid slowly get larger and larger.With the increase in size; the technical challenges must surely grow. In the early days, she told me, she used to cover up part of the work to concentrate on the area on which she was working.  These days, with the looser interpretation, it is vital for her to be able to see the whole composition all the time, even if it increases the work’s vulnerability to the notorious gravity-defying properties of paint.

Susan Fynes is showing at the Blackshed Gallery,Russet Farm, Redlands Lane, Robertsbridge
East Sussex, TN32 5N Robertsbridge,  until 3 September.

 

 

 

Sea Pictures professionalism

18 Aug

When I was first interviewed for a place to study art at Sussex Coast College, I remember saying that one of the reasons I wanted to become a student was that I felt my works looked amateurish. Reasonably, I was asked what that meant and replied that I didn’t know; if I knew the reason I would be able to change it. The answer obviously satisfied as I got in. But it is a problem that I have wrestled with every since and perhaps am now a little closer to finding the answers though not necessarily to putting them right. I thought about this whilst looking at Czech artist Richard Höglund’s extraordinarily effective Primary Colours at the Mayfair Ronchini Gallery.

 

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Richard Höglund: Primary Colours

The work which is part of his Sea Pictures project is about portraiture; Höglund has explained that he wanted to indicate a man through “mark and measure.” It comprises a series of panels each showing a number of loosely executed loops and swirls drawn in silver point on a pastel background inspired by Turner’s seascapes

What I have found interesting about this work was that in the four years I spent studying art,  two fellow students, one at the Hastings campus, one in Brighton  attempted something similar. They came from different perspectives; one was influenced by the measurements and data from her own body and the precise measurements which she recorded became, over time, looser and more fluid; in the other case, the starting point was originally Chinese calligraphy but her drawings were made on the out breaths whilst she was in a kind of meditative state. Both artists produced marks which had a lot in common with those made by Höglund. If two students from one university have tried something like this, it is likely that there are people across the world also experimenting with this kind of mark making.

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Primary Colours: detail

Indeed look at the marks in isolation and they are no so very different from the scribblings of a small child.  This is not a matter of saying that anybody could do it, because they quite clearly could not, but trying to understand why, with similar initial ideas, the paintings produced by my two friends, though interesting, were not impressive and those of Höglund are.

Size is obviously part of it. Höglund’s paintings are enormous. They are apparently some of the largest silverpoint works ever made. The photograph shows just one side of the room; on the opposite wall there are a further four panels whilst there is a single linking panel at the end.  But size alone is not the answer.

Materials are also  important; Höglund’s painting are on linen and incorporate lead, tin marble dust and bone pulver. The use of the metallics means that the works will change and develop as the materials react with one another after they have left the studio. Whilst the potential for change is interesting, it does not explain why they look so right just now.

With this work, the reason that they are so powerful is not the looseness of the drawing, nor the subtlety of the colour, nor indeed the concept but is actually all of those things crucially combined with the precision of the horizontal bands. It is the grey bands top and bottom and the centre grey mark which are all so carefully and perfectly executed which gives the work a structure and a discipline which was lacking in the student works. Professionalism is a matter of getting everything right at the same time: and that is never going to be easy.

Primary Colours is showing at the Romchini Gallery, 22 Dering Street, London W1S 1AN until 10 September.

 

Two year’s of looking: New Art Projects Gallery

15 Aug

It is amazing how a little information can transform entirely your views of an artwork or, as happened to me recently, an exhibition. I had wandered into Two Years of Looking at the New Art Projects Gallery knowing very little about it. At first it seemed one of the oddest exhibitions I had visited. The gallery is a blessed with a large space and around the walls were sculptures and different sized paintings but there was no apparent theme and no predominant style that I could identify.

I wrote last time about my visit to Black Shed Gallery where the artists through their paintings were supposed to be having a conversation. The works in  New Art Projects Gallery were possibly chatting among themselves but not about anything in particular, what they had had for breakfast, perhaps, or, as they were all from the States,  the pros and cons of the dollar strengthening against the pound.

None of the works had labels but with the aid of the catalogue you could find out who had done what and there were works from some 50 different artists.

One of the first paintings which caught my eye was this one,  with no information about it  but the not particularly informative title,  iPainting (3434267) I am not sure what it is supposed to be about, but I  really like the organic shapes; it reminded me of swirling smoke somehow captured and solidified in time. The name against the work was  Robert Buck and the price $19,000 which turned out to be the most expensive there.

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Robert Buck: iPainting

Nearby was another small painting in a similar tone of grey. I thought at first it might have been by the same artist but, no the other was by Betty Tompkins, Pussy Painting, so perhaps not so similar after all. Looking her up afterwards, I really liked her grand scale erotic works. But while I could see there was at least a colour connection,  with her work and that of Buck, I couldn’t see what either had to do with  what appeared to be a stuffed cat in the corner, Mr Early by Jack Early or the weird hanging thing,Weeping Willow (For Orlando)  by CarlosRolon/Dzine .

 

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James E Crowther: Love Thyself

I was amused by the strange painting cum sculpture of a fat man skateboarding by James E Crowther  but, again, what was the connection?

The price variation was far more than you would normally expect within the same exhibition. Whilst there were plenty of five-figure price tags,  a small ceramic figure by Dasha Bazanova was just $275; and if you fancied an orange jock strap that was a snip at $500 whilst a pastel drawing of  Popeye by Scooter la Forge came in at $975

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Mark Jan Krayenhoff van de Leur: Jockstrap

I was puzzled and went back upstairs to ask. The connection was in fact one man – US performance artist Erik Hanson  whose self-portrait, below, was included in the show. Hanson, like many artists, believes it essential to keep looking at the latest artworks and Fred Mann owner of the gallery had asked him to curate an exhibition including all the works which had touched or influenced him over the past two years.

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Erik Hanson: Self Portrait

It was such a simple but brilliant idea. A kind of Desert Island Disks for artists without the need to be limited by eight choices or to imagine life on a Desert Island. I really liked the democratic way that established artists and those at earlier stage of their careers had been treated with equal respect.

Study the works for longer and one could no doubt learn a bit more about Hanson; I mainly learnt that he liked the unusual  and the colours grey and orange.

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Bill Abertini: Three Floor Scrumples

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Justen Laada:Bevmax

His hope, according to the press blurb, was that viewers would see the New York art scene through his eyes, would  enjoy the works which had affected his thinking and might in turn be influenced by them. Once I understood the connection, I hugely enjoyed the variety; there were pieces there which I thought were tremendous fun and works which I would have loved to have owned. It introduced me to new artists.  But in a way, the lasting effect for me was the way that, just as a Desert Island Disks gets you whittling down your favourite tunes to a paltry eight, the exhibition had me drawing up in my my mind what I would have included from my own wanderings. It also made me want to see what other artists would choose given an equally free hand. Perhaps New Look Art Gallery will make this artist’s choice an annual event.

Two Years of Looking is showing at New Art Projects 6D Sheep Lane,  London E8, 4QS until August 28

 

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