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Ongoing exhibitions Paris Uncategorized

Dark Waters at Galerie Chantal Crousel

Water has always been a fascinating subject-matter for artists, with its fluctuating nature and dangerous temperament, both a mirror of the soul in turmoil. The popularity of scenes at sea, ships and tempests, rose mainly amongst romantic artists of the 19th century. They never entirely left the peacefulness of pastoral scenes with their picturesque lakes and rivers, yet a definite shift occurred that made water a source of ambiguity and turmoil. Parisians lazing around on the riverside, or desperate shipwrecked sailors fighting against the waves?

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Exhibition view. Photo credits: Florian Kleinefenn Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris
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Jean-Luc Moulène, Drapé nuit, Paris, mars 2009

These deep, dark waters now reflected an inner melancholy or torment that the forces of nature could both show and channel. Is this romantic ideal dead? Not according to Galerie Chantal Crousel’s most recent group exhibition, Dark Waters. The theme of water is used to host a large array of interpretations in many different mediums and subjects. The arrival of water in the gallery space is welcomed by its sound as we walk in; David Douard’s sculpture MO: need sets the mood through its complex and elegant structure of plexiglas, cables, metal and flowing water, reminiscent of a urban, futuristic fountain. Its twisting forms seem to complement Jean-Luc Moulène’s Drapé Nuit, a twisting, serpentine work in rubber and epoxy resin, creating a shape “pulled inside out, creating a void…” according to the artist. It mirrors his work on paper Cristal Vague, that seems to create a strangely ordered chaos on the page.

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Jean-Luc Moulène, Cristal vague, 2004, Crayon noir sur papier 28.50 x 39.50 cm | 11″ 2/8 x 1′ 3″ 4/8

The desire to seek out an abstract way of representing water and its flow, while paradoxically immobilizing it, seems to haunt many of the exhibition’s works.This is particularly true in a less abstract but more cinematic approach, with Marcel Broodthaers’ projection and video installations from the 1970s, Bateau-Tableau and Chère Petite Soeur (la Tempête). In the first, fragments of marine paintings are projected, while the second captures in motion a boat in the storm. Set into motion through film it mingles into a video collage between picture and text. The words call out on the approximate capture through the image, seem to question how we could capture a storm in any aspect, either through video, sound or image, tie in with a vaster question of the way in which we can represent at all, only attempt to record a sensation.

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Exhibition view. Photo credits: Florian Kleinefenn Courtesy de l’artiste et Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris

 

Sometimes the most potent creations depicting water or recording its effects are those created partly by water, such as Gabriel Orozco’s Set of Ringstones, which are in fact river cobblestones he found in Mexico. In a sense the water also becomes sculptor, shaping objects just as it may shape entire environnements and people. It can either smooth out or destroy, remain pure or become “dark” in many different ways. In Darkwater IV by Tim Rollins and K.O.S, the darkness of the paint and water obscuring and destroying the pages of an old book corresponds to its content: Darkwater, Voices from Within the Veil, by W.E.B Du Bois, where “ever below is the water, – wide and silent, gray-brown and yellow.”

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Wolfgang Tillmans, Buenos Aires, 2010, Inkjet print on paper in artist’s frame

It would appear as a description that is a far cry away from the introductory quote of the exhibition by Armelle Barguillet-Hauteloire in Proust et le miroir des eaux:  “Reverie begins before a brook’s running water, the still water of a pond, the unpredictable water of the sea, it ends in a gloomy water that imparts strange and funerary murmurs.” Yet again, there is no concession made between the prosaic, almost documentary depiction of water and its poetic, almost abstract appeal, such as Tillmans’ Buenos Aires photograph where the down-to-earth shot of a gutter contrasts with the multitude of senses and colours it conveys with extreme precision.

 

 

 

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Édouard Manet, Marina, 1964-1966

Most of these works I have mentioned, and those completing the exhibition as a whole, are more or less recent, from 2000 and onwards, with a few striking exceptions such as Broodthaers. These exceptions also include notably two works on paper from the end of the 19th century and early forties: the first is Marina, by Edouard Manet, a delicate and elegant etching on paper of ships at sea, a drawing reminiscent of his own maritime travels and sketches, when he was still aiming for a career in the Navy, before devoting his life entirely to his art. Its powerful dark lines contrast with the second work on paper, Untitled by WOLS (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze). His watercolour depiction of a harbour seem lyrical and dreamlike, in soft tones of yellow and blue, yet its accumulation of details reflects the time he spent at de Camp des Milles concentration camp in 1939, fighting against confinement and anxiety. The presence of the two works on paper within a contemporary display give an additional sense of the historical context and aesthetic legacy surrounding seascapes, adding to the dialogues going on within the space from one work to another.

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WOLS, Sans titre, 1940-1941

The theme of ‘water’ could seem simple. Yet this group exhibition, far from only skimming the surface, delivers a thoughtful and sensitive display of an uncontrollable element that we nevertheless always manage to appropriate as our own, in abstract and poetic terms.

Featured image: Marcel Broodthaers, Chère petite soeur (La Tempête) film still, 1972

 

Dark Waters, at Galerie Chantal Crousel, June 12th to July 24th

 

 

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Exhibition review Ongoing exhibitions Paris

Suivez mon regard at L’oeil de la femme à barbe

At the moment, it seems that Paris exhibitions are all about GIRLS. But I’ll be talking of an Parisian exhibition with a lot les press coverage but, in my books, a bit more feminist integrity. I am talking about the first inaugural group exhibition “Suivez mon regard” in the art boutique L’oeil de la Femme à Barbe”.

Located in a cosy little venue rue Quincampoix in Paris, right next to the Centre Pompidou, this first exhibition focuses around 30 women artists, using various mediums and subject-matter that weaves in and out of our notions of contemporary and decorative art.

You might wonder why L’oeil de la Femme à Barbe chose the term “boutique d’art et d’objets itinérante” (roughly translatable as “art and objects itinerant shop”) has been chosen as rather than “art gallery”.

After a discussion with the owner and curator of the exhibition, it seems as though she wants to avoid the main labels that are attached to art galleries, in her own opinion: a sense of remoteness, isolation and silence. And although I disagree, believing that the atmosphere of a gallery (and its opening nights) varies widely depending on their owners, I do understand what she means in the general sense. Indeed, when I stumble upon the boutique with a friend, we are welcomed by her with open arms, drinks and food…as well as the presence of the artists themselves. Every Sunday and Thursday they assemble to welcome visitors and talk to them about their work.

It is a clever way of taking the element that really livens up a gallery exhibition – its opening night – and repeating it once a week, every time with various artists and informal discussions. And the display itself invites this cosiness, without cluttering the space; while the first floor has a lounge with a sofa and refreshments, downstairs is a cool and spacious continuation of the exhibition, allowing for a quieter viewing.

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Martha Romero, Maja Vestida and Maja Desnuda, 2011

Amongst these artists, eccentricity and humour mingled with quaint, unsetting qualities seems to be the key. Amongst them: Martha Romero’s textile sculpted canvases, in which her little feminine models emulate both religious icons and art history in their small and soft intimate frames. I also had a soft spot for Pétra Werlé, who collects bits of vegetation and dead insects in the forest and then assembles them into impish, fairy-like characters, both ethereal and organic in nature. I was able to talk to her about her practice and passion, born from a great deal of boredom in her day job and the realization that with a bit of bread dough, butterfly wings, pinecones and leaves.

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Pétra Werlé, Histoires Naturelles (2005)

This creates a process of relic-like accumulation that also relates it to the work of Odette Picaud, who enjoys collecting tiny objects that she can amalgamate into sculptures that float somewhere between esoteric theatricals and nightmares, with a clear Baroque aesthetic. The love of bricolage and small scale is quite refreshing in an art world concerned with monumentality and fits in with the intimacy of the space.

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Odette Picaud, La Déesse au Plumeau

In order to fall in love with the exhibition, I first fell in love with the place and its atmosphere. It possesses warmth coupled with a true sense of curating and artistic direction, showcasing emerging artists and letting them express themselves freely. And it is all about women, whether they are bearded or not. I therefore invite you to discover it if you are passing by the area, until the 19th of June – it will have some pleasant surprises in store for you.

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Exhibition review London Ongoing exhibitions

Martin Creed at the Hayward Gallery

The walls are painted in bright fearless stripes, a huge neon sign swings overhead, a piano is patiently played key by key and a few bemused yet exhilarated visitors fumble out of a room filled to the brim with white balloons. Welcome to Martin Creed’s exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, whose title seems to think ahead of the distressed reactions of contemporary art skeptics: “What’s the point of it?”

The same question was probably asked when the British artist and musician, who has already exhibited extensively abroad and acheived international recognition, won the Turner Prize in 2001 for Work No. 227: The lights going on and off . Too minimalistic, too conceptual…or not conceptual enough to be seen as artistic? In his work as a whole and in this exhibition Creed enjoys toying with this idea and testing our own reactions and limitations, while keeping a stance that is inventively serious yet self-deprecating.

Martin Creed at Hayward Gallery, London.  Photo by Linda Nylind. 26/1/2014.
Installation view, Work No. 916, 2008, Martin Creed What’s the point of it, Hayward Gallery. © the artist. Photo Linda Nylind

The Hayward Gallery has allowed Martin Creed to appropriate the entire space, from the interior itself to its outside terraces, lifs, and even toilets. Most of the trip to the toilet is made in anticipation of this single artwork that ends up being a stack of tiles superposed one on top of the other “in a useful space.” The concept of utility in Martin Creed’s work must of course be taken with a grain of salt; most if not all of his works comme across as ingeniously produced absurdities…pointless in their utility.

Martin Creed at Hayward Gallery, London.  Photo by Linda Nylind. 26/1/2014.
Installation view Martin Creed What’s the point of it, Hayward Gallery. © the artist. Photo Linda Nylind

A lot goes on at the same time, and it is best to go through the exhibition slowly in order to feel constantly surprised without becoming too overwhelmed. A side door within the gallery slams open and shut, a screen flickers as though attempting to constantly screen a video in small fragments; the very space seems turned upside down as the wall is sculpted into phallic-like protuberances and tiles stack themselves up in unexpected places. On one of the terraces, a huge brick wall rises up in the centre, stark and monumental. A single loudspeaker reproduces the sound of blowing raspberries (as, hilariously, visitors passing by all look at each other, shooting suspicious glances). While all of this happens, Work No. 1092 MOTHERS, a huge rotating neon sign forming the word…‘MOTHERS’ menacingly whirrs around the entrance space. A mocking reference to Freud? An answer to that famous question that runs throughout the entire display, in its haphazard juxtapositions that we are meant to make sense of?

Martin Creed at Hayward Gallery, London. Photo by Linda Nylind. 26/1/2014.
Installation view,Work no. 1092,2011,Martin Creed What’s the point of it, Hayward Gallery. © the artist. Photo Linda Nylind

Something that seems to reoccur as an underlying theme is the idea that these objects, sounds and videos are artfully incidental, as though they were the result of a deliberate mishap, displacement, an awkward accident or malfunction that was made to work as a piece of art. Everything falls into place despite being somewhat broken, accidental, at least in appearance. And the gallery’s large, spacious and airy structure is both a blank canvas and a catalyst to these extraordinary yet commonplace incidents.

This is definitely an exhibition that concerns itself with the multi-sensorial and a strange mix of organic and mechanic. Indeed, the human body does not escape this cycle of repetitions and reactions. Bodily functions and excretions are explored in a way that is decidedly voyeuristic yet also strangely emptied of taboos, devoid of violence…although retaining its uncomfortable and awkward nature. Thus, in a video we see a performer patiently, slowly excreting during a long span of time, before two other performers arrive, in a second screen where the backdrop-canvas is minimalistically white once again, and violently vomit in a matter of seconds. It seemed at odds with the more whimsical nature of the rest of the exhibition yet does complement one of the works on the terrace that consists of a giant sceen with a black and white filmed closeup of a penis becoming erect and then limp again in a continual, and solemnly comical loop. It is worth noting that all of these parts of the exhibition were indicated well in advance and that there was decidedly no attempt at potential shock-horror for the sake of it. This does not seem to be Creed’s style after all…unless that surprise includes a piano whose lid lifts and slams down every fifteen minutes or so.

Martin Creed at Hayward Gallery, London. Photo by Linda Nylind. 26/1/2014.
Installation view Martin Creed What’s the point of it, Hayward Gallery. © the artist. Photo Linda Nylind

I was also hardly expecting to find myself in Work No. 200 Half the air in a given space, a room filled with balloons containing, indeed, 50% of the room’s air…although, similarly, the gallery assistant take care to warn anyone with claustrophobic tendencies or latex and talcum powder allergies to venture inside. After being warned of this, a nervous-looking visitor and her friend decides to go in anyway…and end up having a wonderful time, at least from what I could hear and see surrounded by the giant ethereal white bubbles. It is strange to imagine that such a simple venture could entirely change our sense of space, surroundings and even movement.

Martin Creed at Hayward Gallery, London. Photo by Linda Nylind. 26/1/2014.
Installation view, Work no. 200, 1998, Martin Creed What’s the point of it, Hayward Gallery. © the artist. Photo Linda Nylind

Work No. 79 Some Blu-Tack kneaded, rolled into a ball, and depressed against a wall and Work No. 264 Two protrusions from a wall play with definitions and descriptions in a playful but perceptive way. I personally enjoyed the fact that some of the works’ power resided not in their appearance to us but through the way in which they were described in an exacting sense of detail that could make you think of a precise sense of cinematography, in the vein of Wes Anderson and his latest film Grand Budapest Hotel, where everything is whimsical and light, yet where this quirky nature is acheived through a methodic, formulaic execution.

The exhibition would not be complete without Creed’s paintings complementing his sculptures and installations. Either portrayed as huge murals covering each surface or as small A4-sized portrait or abtract pattern of colour. Expressive and vivid, child-like, they seem to downplay the solemnity of some of Creed’s more minimalistic and conceptual works where what we see plays as much an important part as what we read. They also play an interesting part in pitting one notion of ‘art’ against the other for the naysayers who would ask for the “point”…portrait versus installation, physical paint versus the conceptual.

Martin Creed at Hayward Gallery, London. Photo by Linda Nylind. 26/1/2014.
Installation view,Work No. 1806, 2014, Martin Creed What’s the point of it, Hayward Gallery. © the artist. Photo Linda Nylind

I did appreciate this exhibition immensely…and perhaps more than I thought I would. It was more than the sheer entertainment of the objects and spaces and the intricate absurdity they provided. It was overall a strange sense of honesty felt on behalf of the artist, and of a world turned upside down but still strangely messy and relateable…as messy and disordered as ourselves and our bodies, and yet still fitting within a certain scheme. Pinpointing an answer is not what the exhibition is about…it is about looking for it, giving it up and retaining a great deal of lightheartedness in the process.

The idea of a colourful pop-up book comes to mind, with its to and fro repetitive movement and surprises, apparent childlessness and superficiality merging into a sensitive, three-dimensional reflection that never takes itself too seriously nevertheless. Watch out for the balloons and mind your head, but visit this exhibition and see for yourself while you can at the Hayward Gallery in the Southbank Centre until the 5th of May.

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Exhibition review London Ongoing exhibitions

Miroslaw Balka at White Cube Masons’ Yard

I read the Interpretation of Dreams by Freud a few years ago and became completely obssessed with this apparent all-encompassing keys that could unlock our hidden motives and desires throughout our dreams. I then made the naive mistake of sharing this enthusiasm with a Jungian who berated me on liking one of “the greatest impostures of the 20th century.” Now I still enjoy the Interpretation of Dreams but less for its answer to a question and listing of a series of references than its literary, historical and psychological appeal in relation to our subconcious and ourselves…and our constant need for clear responses.

Miroslaw Balka’s exhibition DIE TRAUMDEUTUNG 25,31m AMSL at White Cube Masons’ Yard, using both the building’s measurements and the original German title of Freud’s work, seems to treat this question in relation to works throughout the exhibition that he dissiminates with reference to Freud’s own life and his relation to the war that shook its very foundations. As a Polish artist, Balka weaves through different spaces and lets both surface and literary substance create an overall effect of melancholy and uncertainly over the space at Masons’ Yard. A second exhibition at the Freud Museum acts as a perfect complement to this one, like dispersed fragments that all together create meaning like the pieces of a puzzle. But do they, ultimately?

In the first room, a large plinth-like sculpture, 100x100x20 (2014), through which a feeble light shines through complements a large trapezohedron tipped to the side and opened. It would almost appear as though one sculpture had toppled off the other and rolled to the side, an asymmetrical and instable composition despite its clean-cut execution. The plinth remains both a humorous and chilling mystery. Was it meant to present a figure that has been erased? Or was this figure conspicuously absent to begin with? Is the light shining through a small hole at its centre a sign of hope or of imprisonment?

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Miroslaw Balka 100 x 100 x 20, TTT 2014 Concrete and LED Dimensions variable © Miroslaw Balka Photo: Jack Hems

The geometrical sculpture, TTT (2014), makes up for the plinth’s elusiveness with a complex layer of references. The trapezohedron featured in Durer’s engraving Melancholia I…itself at the centre of an immense amount of diverse interpretations regarding the accumulation of detail and possible symbols within the image. From the angel to the hourglass through to the scales, it is possible to pore over the details endlessly trying to search its true meaning. It seems to refer back smoothly to the Interpretation of Dreams by Freud, a book where interpretation is scientific yet ultimately subjective to Freud and the way he wants to make all dream-objects conform to his specific thesis. The trapezohedron is empty; does this make it empty of meaning as well, or empty in the sense in which it is ultimately a reference to a reference? Ultimately, the trapezohedron is just as elusive in the end. And that is not even going into the references to Wagner’s opera Das Rheingold in which a dwarf wears a hemlet of the same shape…and Wagner’s added associations with Nazism.

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Dürer, Melancholia I (1514)

Down towards the lower grounds, the dimly lit staircase and corridors create a architectural canvas for the whistling that echoes off the walls, to the theme of ‘The Great Escape’. This could be seen as more than slightly jarring, especially in relation to the next part of the exhibition at the Freud Museum. There, a letter by a German officer details the materials needed for the construction of the Treblinka concentration camp, in which Freud lost his three sisters; while he managed to escape to London to 1938, he lost them to the war he left behind.

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Miroslaw Balka The Great Escape 2014 Audio Duration: 6.48 (looped) © Miroslaw Balka Photo: Jack Hems

This is juxtaposed to a set of sculptures that appear as empty crates and devoid of meaning…until it is realized that their mesurements correspond to the amount of material detailed in the letter. Simple numbers become personal tragedies. In the same way The Great Escape is inspired by a true story…one that is still commemorated in Poland, on the 24th of March. Out of the 76 Allied prisoners of war to flee the Stalag Luft III camp, 73 were recaptured and among those, 50 were shot. Only three managed to escape successfully. Three lives against three deaths in this exhibition; between inspiration and interpretation from these events, the notion of collective histories and memories is poignantly and soberly rendered in abstract terms.

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Miroslaw Balka Above your head 2014 Steel Dimensions vaiable © Miroslaw Balka Photo: Jack Hems

Above your head (2014) comprises of a steel meshed, fence-like ceiling that, low slung across the ceiling, as though ready to crush the visitors beneath, or at least limit their movements, as though we were trapped behind a barrier and the entire space warped, flipped horizintally. The effect is undeniably meant to be smothering, oppressive, an all-too clear reference to imprisonment and freedom, as the celing and to a larger extent the sky seem barred to us. Yet when I visited there was almost a peaceful, soothing quality to the work as well, in its purely formal qualities. Perhaps it was the fact that the space itself, despite the drastic lowering of the ceiling, was still large enough to allow a sense of movement and of the freedom that we were meant to miss. However I would not really see this as the work failing to acheive its aims but rather creating ambivalent reactions and emotions. The muted lights and shadow on the ground, the particular, pleasant smell that seemed to linger there create a sense of comfort that we might want to confront within ourself: how is it possible to become accustomed to evolving in a space with a huge fence-prison sword of Damocles above our heads?

I’m raising a lot of questions here, but so does the exhibition in itself. The Interpretation of Dreams is highly unlikely and unsatisfactory if you see it as a documentary means to an end in “decoding” dreams rather than a piece of literature that was a testimony to our desire to uncover the inner workings of our subconscious. The exhibition ends outside the confined space with, during the opening, the presentation of Y-Chromosomal Adam, an elongated piece of black fabric through which a rush of air is brutally funnelled, making it reach towards the sky in rippling, ominous and undeniably phallic movements.

Miroslaw Balka’s assessment and handling of the references that are dotted throughout the exhibition is made through abstraction and lightness, the minimalism of the works thelselves leaving enough space for the weighty concepts surrounding them. It contrasted for me with Christian Jankowski’s recent Heavy Weight History exhibition at Lisson Gallery, in which the physical, palpable weight of history and memory was rendered by athletes attempting to lift the historical landmarks of Warsaw. Powerful but fleeting, Balka’s work is perhaps less an interpretations of dreams than one of memory, and the way in which we try to piece history back into place from the fragments we receive from the past, between undeniable fact and powerful, overwhelming emotion.

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Exhibition review London Ongoing exhibitions

Alex Katz at Timothy Taylor Gallery

Fashion, glamorous images and movie icons. The inspiration and appeal is universal, whether in order to expression fascination, criticism or even rejection.So universal that it could sometimes become tired or repetitive…so I was reassured to encounter a refreshing perspective during the Alex Katz exhibition at Timothy Taylor Gallery, at its opening last week. This was but a fragment of a long and impressive career; Alex Katz started working as an artist in the 60s and his distinctive style, figurative yet minimalistic, with his particular treatment of both portraiture and landscape has been seen in countless exhibitions throughout the years.

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(Image source: Courtesy Timothy Taylor Gallery, Todd White Art Photography, London)

This is Alex Katz’s sixth solo exhibition at Timothy Taylor Gallery, and the sense of proximity with the artists and his works is palpable. It does not bite off more than it can chew, focusing upon specific works from the 70s, 80s and 90s that alternate between large portrait of fashionable yet introspective women, large open landscapes contrasting with dark grey city blocks.

Katz’s works focuses on flatness and superficiliality, working the surface without any attempt to create volume or thickness but rather a sense of magazine-cover glossiness and vibrancy of colour. The arrangement of the exhibition itself was not unlike a neat and sleek magazine layout, with one work per wall apart from the smaller works neatly juxtapozed at the entrance, spacious and light, drawing the eye in a slow and casual manner.

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(Image source: Courtesy Timothy Taylor Gallery, Todd White Art Photography, London)

In a sense, his work reminded me a lot of comics…but not in the Roy Lichtenstein sense of the term. Rather, I’m thinking of the “ligne claire” bandes dessinees that were – and still are – a part of the Franco-Belgian style of comics, such as Hergé or Loustal.

This ensures as the name suggests a clear and thin line, a streamlined type of representation and overall simplicity of tones and colour…which does not make these works any less complex. The language of comics adds itself to that of fashion illustration…but also of cinema. A careful crop of the faces and storyboard aesthetic gives a careful and studied sense of composition to each work. Despite their static nature, a sense of time and duration is given to Ada Ada, from 1991, by creating a larger space in one of the vignettes representing his wife.

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(Image source: Courtesy Timothy Taylor Gallery, Todd White Art Photography, London)

There is a distinct lack of dynamism throughout these portraits, and hardly any interaction from the characters themselves; however, is not one that falls short from the artist’s intentions but one that specifically corresponds to his aims. Expressivity and movement are left aside in favour of flatness and projection onto the canvas of a certain ideal of beauty and glamour that Katz started looking for ever since the 50s in movie stills and snapshots. Despite this fact most of these individuals remain both beautiful and anonymous faces, save for a few notable and intimate exceptions, such as the portrait of his wife, Ada. The contradiction of a type of portraiture taking known faces and making them universal and superficial? Perhaps, yet this does not take any of the charm away from these images whose even layering of pigment on the canvas draws the eye in with fascination Simplicity is mingled with small detail; a stylized face with a neat row of eyelashes, or the lustrous finish of a lipstick.

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(Image source: Courtesy Timothy Taylor Gallery, Todd White Art Photography, London)

The paintings create an immobile, contemplative balance and the dynamism comes from Katz’s performace. In a video in one of the rooms, we are therefore witnesses to the elaborate creation of one of his largest works within the exhibition. The smooth gestures of the brushstrokes and elaborate, almost mesmerising layering of the  would appear almost as a studious performance. It allows us to return to the painting as see it as more than a purely static screen.

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(Image source: Courtesy Timothy Taylor Gallery, Todd White Art Photography, London)

I did not particularly prefer the landscapes or cityscapes such as Windows (1994) or Three Cows (1991), veering away from this elegant and sensitive type of portraiture, yet they did create a breathing space between the large faces dominating the room, superposing themselves to the overall theme of feminine poise and fashion. Next to the cows themselves, the best work to demonstrate this was Black Stockings (1987). Its series of elegant women walking in the same direction, looking towards us as if looking towards a camera has a mix of catwalk and The Sartorialist corresponding to the ever-present trend of fashionable people being captured in a street snapshot.

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(Image source: Courtesy Timothy Taylor Gallery, Todd White Art Photography, London)

The panels hanging off the walls like a lavish and epurated fashion collage create a contrast between their nature as paintings and as cardboard-cutout like figures. And by walking alongside them while looking, we complement their immobile, meditative quality. All of this retains a taste for fashion and attitude that captures its time beautifully and clearly. As Katz puts so himself, when he was interviewed by Martin Clark, ” (…) I think style is the content of my painting, and style belongs to fashion. Fashion is in the immediate present, and that’s really what I am after in my work.”

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(Image source: Courtesy Timothy Taylor Gallery, Todd White Art Photography, London)

This may be largely due to my newfound interest in fashion and its history…but regardless, this was one of my favourite exhibitions this month. I think that, paradoxically, works that centre to such an extent around their own flatness and two-dimensional nature can not always be flattered in publications – seeing them up close is the best way to grasp them. Therefore, I highly recommend visiting the exhibition lasting until the 17th of April at Timothy Taylor Gallery.

 

 

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Exhibition review London Ongoing exhibitions

Study from the Human Body at Stephen Friedman Gallery

This new exhibition at Stephen Friedman Gallery aims, in its own terms, to pay homage both to Henry Moore and Francis Bacon and their own ‘Study of the Human Body’. This could appear as an aim that is both ambitious and likely to create a very scattered effect – between sculptural and painterly, the transformed body and the body performing in a particular space. In a sense that is quite true of the exhibition in general, which chooses to focus on all mediums and remains open to all kinds of interpretations of what this “human body” may look like. The result is an eclectic mix of different mediums and aspects from a vast array of artists. And does the exhibition pull it off? Well, my views are a bit mixed.

The first part of the exhibition plunged us straight into a life drawing class of a particular kind…notably, David Shrigley’s Turner Prize-winning Life Drawing. Particular because in this case our model was a large cartoonish naked sculpture residing in the center of the room. Maintaining a pose was therefore not a problem for our “model”…aside from the occaisional blinking and ‘urinating’ in a bucket befors its pedestal. Surrounding it were easels, all the material and paper neccessary in order to get down to drawing, and the audience becoming momentarily artists for an instant as they put their own particular viewpoint on the paper…then on the wall, which already showed previous participations. These were extremely spontaneous and diverse – the pressure lifted on representing a caricature of the body rather than a ‘real’ body, people felt more free to experiment with different genres and styles. More than in any ‘real’ life drawing I have ever attended in any case. This was only encouraged by the helpful and friendly assistants present during the evening itself.

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Life Model, David Shrigley, 2014.
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Past contributions…
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…and mine!

Exploration, the grostesque and the body transformed; the tone is set in a participative, dynamic humorous way for the rest of the exhibition that shows different, varied representations of the human body. I loved the Moore sculpture and their relation to Paul Mc Devitt’s Notes to Self sketches, exploring the transitions anf between the drawing and the three-dimensional, form and substance. They complemented each other beautifully and probably were the best testimony to these links with Moore and Bacon that the exhibition wished to acheive.

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Henry Moore
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Paul Mc Devitt, Notes to Self, 2010-2014
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Yinka Shonibare, MBE Fire, 2010

The second part of the exhibition is quieter than the hubbub created by Shrigley but interesting, showcasing many different artists of the gallery and their mediums…but attempting to unite them all under not only one theme of the human body but specifically the human body according to Moore and Bacon is perhaps too much of a stretch, an attempt to create a strenuous link between objects that do not neccessarily have any need for this extra layer of interpretation. Trying to reattach works amongst themselves with something as universal as the human body and then made to fit into perceptions of two very different artists and their own different views does not work out well, in my opinion.

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Huma Bhabha, Chain of Missing Links, 2012

I did enjoy the works that I saw however, with their diversity of materials and medium. Maybe that is the point, ultimately: they did not neccessarily need the link to Bacon and Moore to create questions and tensions among themselves. Where does the body start and where does it end? A silhouette made psychedelic like Yinka Shonibare’s MBE Fire sculpture challenges Being, by Tom Friedman, made entirely of styrofoam balls and paint roughly aggregated into a colossal silhouette like a combination of atoms forming a body.

Huma Bhabha’s Chain of Missing Links furthermore questions this with a ‘body’ or its grostesque likeness constituted of materialistic, physical but artificial elements like styrofoam, clay or plexiglass. Do these works challenge the organic nature of the human body or emphasize it? Kendell Geers’s Flesh of the Spirit seems to embody this through its very title, while criticizing the attitudes of Western art towards African sculpture. The human body becomes a performance, in the two large works by Catherine Opie, Divinity Fudge and Vaginal Davis, where gender and clothing become a way of transfiguring her subjects. The kitschy but striking Death of Chatterton by Kehinde Wiley, reinterpreting the Pre-Raphaelite theme by Henry Wallis, contrasted with Julien, the caricatural but sensitive portrait by Yoshitomo Nara.

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Kehinde Wiley, Death of Chatterton

And after facing the fleshy, intense smudges of paint of Bacon’s Study of the Human Body, we confront the human body in its absence of physical presence, through Shadow. The concentration around a figurative, physical representation of our bodies and what they represent, revolving around sculpture, painting and photography as well as two prominent artists, made this exhibition lack some overall coherence. However, this did not detract me from the works themselves, and the installation by Shrigley instilled a feeling of interaction and experimentation throughout the entire exhibition.

Categories
Exhibition review London Ongoing exhibitions

Dale Chihuly: Beyond the Object at Halcyon Gallery

Glasswork possesses a fine reputation as a decorative art. Only last year, Musee Maillol in Paris was dedicating an exhibition to the famous venetian glassworks of Venice, particularly those of Murano. The appeal of these delicate glass ornaments blown into different shapes, marbled and coloured brighly could almost appear to us as candied rock – indeed they sometimes take this form as well, as small fragile wrapped sweets.

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Salviati, Chalice (Image source: Museo Vetro in Venice,http://museovetro.visitmuve.it )

Everything is created in these Venetian industries on every scale – fron the smaller trinkets popular with tourists…to greater pieces, notably chandeliers, that still have their places within great stately homes and private collections. Sadly, this industry is waning due to a very traditional craftsmanship versus a decrease in demand.

Yet the attraction to beautifully crafted glassworks is universal, and contemporary art, with its diversity of mediums, could hardly stay away from it.

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Javier Pérez, Carrona, 2011. Photograph by Francesco Allegretto (Image source: toutelaculture.com),

Yet whereas some artists certainly use glass within their work, Dale Chihuly’s career centers entirely around it…and it is hardly surprising that after studying at the Rhode Art School of Design he continued this education within a Venetian glass-blowing factory, in the seventies. Since then, he has been working within this craft while promoting it to the ranks of contemporary art, with the co-foundation of the Pilchuck Glass School. He also started the International Studio Glass Movement in the 1960s with the same intentions. After a large number of successful exhibitions, including the V&A in 2001 and the Tower of David museum in 1999, this is Chihuly’s second exhibition at the Halcyon Gallery.

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Dale Chihuly has mentioned beforehand that he was obsessed with colour and never saw one that he did not like; facing the effusion of them as I enter the gallery, I will not contradict him on that point. The effect is the same as wandering amindst a coral reef refurbished into an elegant hotel.

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Aero Blue Chandelier with Cerise Pink Reeds, hand-blown glass (Image credit: Claire Mead)

Dale Chihuly’s bright colours and extravagant forms could yield a problem when such a large quantity of them are assembled in a single exhibition: an over-saturated, cluttered effect. Even a single work such as his V&A chandelier can fill up a space, so could a solo exhibition create an overload of colour? Thankfully, here, a balance is acheived between space and sculptures. Their rococo-like nature has been complemented by a minimalist and airy installation space. The works alternate between the larger chandeliers, furniture (such as a very Art Deco dinner table) and smaller glass sculptures.

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These are complemented by Chihuly’s paintings, vibrant two dimensional counterparts to his glassworks. The lighting showcased the glass beautifully, against completely white walls. In fact, looking back, I do wonder how the exhibition would have looked like with some rooms in darker tones and different light. But in a way, the subtleties of the glassworks and paintings already create those changes.

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White and Orange Sunrise persian set, hand-blown glass (Image credit: Claire Mead)

Here, Art Deco aesthetics seem to mingle with references to organic underwater life, with perhaps passing references to Georgia O’ Keefe’s flowers, in the delicate folds of the glass works that appear at times soft and malleable, at others weightless. His interest for the botanic is furthermore emphasized by the titles of his work that always allude to a plant life and nature. However this interest never becomes too documentary or attempts to imitate its sources of inspiration too closely. Rather, Chihuly channels his interest in the bizarre and beautiful forms that nature creates  and uses them to create objects that confuse our senses in their changes in form and substance…making them truly objects “beyond the object.” This sense of the bizarre and the irregular inspired by the natural is not so far from the concerns of the baroque…a style that has been vehiculated by Murano glass works. And this unique perception is formed by an entire group of glass-blowers led by Chihuly to acheive the final, stunning result. Between artistic practice and traditional craftsmanship, baroque and the contemporary, the line is sometimes thin…and as fragile as glass.

Dale Chihuly: Beyond the Object at Halcyon Gallery until the 5th of April.