11 April 2014 § Leave a comment
The knowing title of Martin Creed’s solo show at the Hayward, What’s the Point of It? offers an immediate hint at the content whilst also suggesting a potential response. This is undoubtedly an exhibition that will split the audience somewhere down the middle in a ‘Marmite’ reaction of love and hate.
A piece of blu-tac pressed against the wall, a screwed up ball of paper, cardboard boxes piled ziggurat-style and a row of nails are examples of some of Creed’s works, each carefully and sequentially numbered and to which the titular What’s the point? will clearly often be directed. One soon realises that Creed too is asking the same question of himself and life in general.
My last encounter with Creed was at a lecture – the word ‘lecture ‘s this case being a very loose description of what took place. He decided to start with a song with his guitar. For twenty minutes, in true comic style, his hand frequently hovered over the strings of his battered instrument, before frustratingly moving away as he drifted off in to a random point, reminiscence or story. The song when it eventually arrived was short, minimalist and funny.
The exhibition is very much like the song and its build up: Creed’s has a hesitant and agonised interaction with a modern life that for him is simply too complex and disordered – he struggles to bring order to this troublesome chaos – and eventually produces something quite simple, thoughtful and often amusing.
This quest for order is the source of his numbering system too. Here’s what he – hesitatingly – had to say about that for the Tate Magazine:
Yeah… I started numbering the things I made… because I wasn’t happy with some of the titles that I’d used, and I just wanted a way for them all…and, aye, I didn’t want titled and I didn’t want untitled… I wanted a way to try to treat them all the same whether they were a big thing or a small thing or a piece of music or whatever…and I like numbers… It’s difficult to start, I mean it’s often difficult to begin things… and in that respect numbers can be very useful. I mean one, to me, is a good start, and to continue, two’s good too… but… aye, it was to try to treat things all the same and… eh, not worry about titles, not worry about words… I just, you know, the numbers, you know the numbers, I don’t think they’re a particularly important, eh, thing, because basically all… many… most things are numbered, you know, with catalogue numbers or serial numbers… (read the whole interview here)
Decision-making for Creed is similarly agonisingly difficult and behind each work is an extended process where he attempts to decide by ‘not deciding’, or selecting by ‘not selecting’.
Piled boxes are stacked in decreasing sizes, nails in size order are hammered in the wall, a piano is played note by note up and down the keyboard in never ending arpeggios. Supermarket packets of brushes allow Creed to paint his trademark pyramids without the need for him to select brush sizes. For other artworks he picks every different size of ball, every colour of tape and a sequential array of cacti – each to avoid ‘choosing’.
The process brings its inevitable hits and misses. The best, seen upon entering the exhibition, is a vast and rapidly spinning neon. Spelling MOTHERS it is mounted on a huge iron girder as big as the room which threatens to decapitate anyone much over six foot tall. Mothers were of course dominating, protective and big in Creed’s childhood mind and the work here is equally intimidating. Another success is Half the air in a given space (work 360) – a room half filled with balloons is at the same time claustrophobic and exhilarating. I found a wall of hundreds of broccoli prints rather dull and am not sure that I learn much from watching film of people defecating but on the whole these are minor complaints.
As one would expect of an artist with a band and a cd release to coincide with the show there is plenty of sonic accompaniment too. The ticking of dozens of metronomes each set at a different rhythm accompanies Mothers whilst there is the piano, random farting noises from a corner, ascending sounds in the lift and sniggering laughs outside the toilet.
This is effectively an all encompassing tour of Martin Creed’s singular mind – in sound, light, paint and experience – that is in turns thoughtful, amusing and provocative. Love it or hate it, this is a show that deserves to be seen.
Martin Creed: What is the Point of It at The Hayward, London until 27 April 2014
10 April 2014 § Leave a comment
White Cube’s latest exhibition at their Masons’ Yard space is Miroslaw Balka’s DIE TRAUMDEUTUNG 25,31m AMSL. The title refers both to the building’s altitude above sea level and the original German title of Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams – the exhibition running concurrently with another at London’s Freud Museum (73,32m AMSL).
The title immediately suggests a connection with mental landscapes whilst – as with his vast steel box construction, How It Is, which occupied the Tate Modern turbine hall a couple of years ago – Balka’s work also is strongly connected with the body, materials and the physical.
The ground floor gallery houses just two minimalist concrete sculptures. The first, entitled 100 x 100 x 20 TTT, is a flat structure from which an internal light shines. Is it a plinth, a grave or perhaps a trapdoor to a subterranean space? Alongside is a trapezohedron, open at one side, that is inspired by the mysterious object in Abrecht Durer’s Melancolia 1 (1514) and matches the magic ‘invisibility’ helmet from Wagner’s Das Rheingold.
In the basement space Balka has installed Above your Head - a steel mesh canopy (chicken wire to you and me) fixed just above head height. He has added to this dim lighting and the whistled soundtrack of the Great Escape theme tune ‘to continue the theme of refuge and confinement’.
This all relates to recurring Balka references that cover topics like Polish history and the holocaust. Unfortunately it doesn’t work. The White Cube space looks like – well – a big space with a chicken wire ceiling and doesn’t invoke the claustrophobia and sense of confinement that it is meant to. The whistled tune is annoying and obvious whilst the ‘escape hatch’ sculpture of the upper gallery is far too simplistic.
The attempt at some sort of mystery supposedly introduced by the enigmatic tarpezohedron seems just a little desperate and the whole is far too literal. Perhaps the second exhibition at the Freud Museum makes more sense, but I won’t personally be finding out.
9 April 2014 § Leave a comment
I’m not sure whether Phyllida Barlow’s Duveen commission dock (reviews by AKUTA here) was scheduled before Ruin Lust but on the surface this looks like an intelligent pairing of exhibitions. With Barlow’s wonderful, monumental constructions of industrial ‘debris’ filling the central parts of the building, an exhibition that looks at our fascination with the subject should be rich with possibilities. The words Ruin Lust, by the way, deriving from the German word Ruinenlust, an obsession with, or taking pleasure in, decay.
It all starts promisingly with John Martin’s magnificent Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum and Jane and Louise Wilson’s imposing wartime bunker, Azeville. Not unexpectedly we then find plenty of 19th century romantic visions of classical ruins amongst idealised landscapes. We have John Sell Cotman and JMW Turner’s wonderful Tintern Abbey for example.
Less expected are works from others like Eduardo Paolozzi, Patrick Caulfield and John Stezaker. Just how were these artists obsessed with decay? John Stezaker has exactly zero connection with the subject of this exhibition, his inclusion down to the fact that the featured works happened to collage a couple of old postcards of photogenic ruins on to his trademark film publicity photos, creating new meanings. And Paolozzi? Caulfield?
Next comes Tacita Dean and Kodak. Less about ruin and decay this is more a self-reverential elegy to the medium of film and is only marginally relevant to the exhibitions subject.
At this point I have to admit I switched off for the remaining, less than attention-grabbing, four rooms. It was crystal clear that the curators were starting with a catchy title to then shoe-horn artworks with superficial relevance to then claim they were part of a greater whole.
Furthermore the choice of artists haphazard, the selection of work poor, many selected pieces downright dreadful and the hanging almost random. To rub salt in to the wound the accompanying exhibition book was equally low quality.
To me this was a shallow and poorly conceived exhibition with many mediocre works amongst a handful of interesting ones. I beg you not to waste £10 – see Phyllida Barlow and spend your hard-earned tenner in the cafe instead.
7 April 2014 § Leave a comment
The latest commission for the imposing Duveen Gallery at Tate Britain is by sculptor Phyllida Barlow. Anyone who visited her impressive exhibition RIG, for Hauser & Wirth‘s Piccadilly gallery, would have been greatly impressed at how she was able to so totally take over such a selection of varied spaces. Using inexpensive, everyday materials such as cardboard, fabric, timber, polystyrene and plaster she created bold and colourful three-dimensional collages that utterly transformed the whole building – from the grand main gallery to the tiny former bank safe in the basement (AKUTA review here).
At the time this was her finest achievement. Not only is this better but quite amazingly she manages once again to completely command the space despite its vast dimensions. Seven distinct works somehow take over this pompous neo-classical space in one glorious, over the top, bricolage of industrial debris inspired of course by London’s docklands.
Stretching to the roof, tumbling across the floor, hanging from the ceiling and even encapsulating part of the structure Barlow’s dock has made the Duveen its own.
Ambitious and exuberant it is hard not to laugh out loud and the audacious transformation. Upon entering huge wooden boxes hang from a lofty timber construction. Partially broken open they reveal broken pink polystyrene foam which tumbles out whilst on the reverse painted cardboard makes a wonderfully modernistic collage.
Farther on a pile of broken pallets climbs up towards the rotunda whilst more broken and painted timbers, strewn with coloured canvas and assorted debris climbs up the wall. Opposite a grand romanesque pillar – as if an ugly embarrassment to be hidden away – is encased with cardboard and sealed with brightly coloured tape.
Finally, what can only be described as the cardboard core of a giant toilet roll is suspended from another gantry as a the display’s ultimate sculptural statement.
This is an ambitious work that truly works. Joyful and transformative it is a delightful contrast to self-regarding works of the world of old-fashioned and male dominated sculptural pomposity. Don’t miss.
Phyllida Barlow dock at Tate Britain, Millbank, London until 19 October 2014. Free.
29 March 2014 § Leave a comment
It is not often that an exhibition impresses as much as this one. The new Richard Hamilton retrospective at Tate Modern, London, is one that could genuinely make the art world reassess just how important and influential a figure was, not only amongst British artists but within 20th century art history in general. The title of Hal Foster’s excellent new book: The First Pop Age: Painting and Subjectivity in the Art of Hamilton, Lichtenstein, Warhol, Richter and Ruscha shows that even this hugely important critic puts Hamilton in the same league as the greatest artists of the late 20th Century and this exhibition reinforces that view.
Hamiltons greatest legacy is of course as the widely acknowledged founder of Pop Art. His collage Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? is considered the first work of the genre and the groundbreaking exhibition in which it featured – This is Tomorrow at the Whitechapel Gallery – Pop Art’s first exhibition. The movement over the pond followed on later led by the likes of Lichtenstein, Oldenburg and Warhol and was only getting under full steam by the early sixties.
In a note to Alison and Peter Smithson he jotted the following, worth repeating in full as a brilliant example of a memorable, off the cuff, manifesto for a movement: Pop Art is: Popular (designed for a mass audience), Transient (short-term solution), Expendable (easily forgotten), Low Cost, Mass-Produced, Young (aimed at youth), Witty, Sexy, Gimmicky, Glamorous, Big Business.
If Hamilton has, up to now, perhaps been less recognised than he should it may be because the British Pop Art scene was quickly submerged by the bigger, brasher and bolder works from the States, his time in history just a brief interlude before being overwhelmed – perhaps by mass production and big business?
The chronological hang at the Tate however allows groups of his early, and later, works to be shown together and lets us better assess Hamilton as an artist. We are first taken though rooms of pieces, often heavily influenced by Marcel Duchamp, who he admired to the point of taking two years out to oversee reproduction of the Brides Stripped Bare… (Large Glass), shown in this show and other works from the 1960 Duchamp retrospective at the Tate.
It moves on past his impressive and telling multiple Marilyn portraits on to a eclectic series of works that often incorporate and pastiche the world of advertising, such as Slip it to Me – a giant American Badge and a number of works where Richard replaces the Ricard of French Pastis fame.
Blink and you miss the tiny Just What is it… before a series of the famous Swingeing London images featuring a handcuffed Mick Jagger – Hamilton often worked in series repeating and varying works as part of his practice.
Later works, often revisiting earlier themes, are hit and miss but it is notable that right in to his eighties he produced dynamic and impressive works that still had the ability to find a target – often political – his Venice Biennale Northern Irish triptych The Citizen/The Subject/The State being particularly noteworthy.
Make sure you visit and perhaps go after 17 April to catch Henri Matisse: The Cut-outs at the same time!
Richard Hamilton is on at the Tate Modern until 26 May 2014
24 March 2014 § Leave a comment
For its latest offering the august institution of the Royal Academy of Arts leaps in to the realms of architecture. In a brave departure from the more usual art historical exhibition they are setting out to ‘evoke the experience and power of architecture within a traditional gallery environment.’
One might think perhaps it is because the artistic merits of the structures that that surrounds us has become increasingly evident in recent years: the eye catching work of for example Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry or Renzo Piano springing to mind. It is no longer satisfactory for important buildings to be simply functional, they are required to make a statement, stand out from the crowded skylines or push the boundaries of what is possible or expected.
However this exhibition does not take the easy route but cleverly looks at architecture not from exterior appearances but according to the nature of the internal physical spaces and our own emotional response to them. We are invited to step in to the galleries to experience for example the manipulation of the light, mass and structure or the transformations brought about by our use and interaction with the structures.
Seven architects from Africa, South America, Europe and Asia were selected and asked to explore the potential of architecture within the neo-classical surroundings of the RA. The result is an exciting exploration of what architecture can do as a physical rather than purely visual experience as well as a refreshing new look at the actual gallery space itself, which is blissfully uncluttered.
The most striking piece is from Chilean group Pezo von Ellrichshausen – a four-legged tower of plain wood which stands monumentally at the end of one of the larger galleries. You soon come to discover that these legs contain spiral staircases leading to a high level platform. This lies right under the spectacular glass canopy ceiling and brings you eye to eye with the gilt angels and decoration of the cornice.
The works are nicely contrasting. Japanese architect Kengo Kuma has created a wonderful and peaceful scented room with a gently illuminated structure of fine bamboo that rises towards the ceiling. Meanwhile Li Xiaodong has used his theme from the Liyuan library in China to create a delightful labyrinth of wooden screens including an illuminated floor and pebbled courtyard.
Eduardo Souto de Moura has created arches from moulds of the RA’s giant doorways and Grafton architects successfully alternate a light and dark space using panels hung above head height.
The least successful installation is where Diebedo Francis Kere has joined two galleries with a tunnel of honeycomb plastic. Visitors are meant to insert coloured plastic straws into the honeycomb to create something new. The obvious has of course happened – the public didn’t add to the architects vision but attempted to create their own and the result is an installation that is an untidy tangled web of straws.
One does note the fact that the invited architects have created ‘architecture’ that has no other function or use – in other words there is a question whether it is actually architecture rather than say, art. Despite this the show serves its purpose very well and one leaves having been reminded how architecture has the power to provoke experience and to enrich our daily lives. Hopefully the RA will continue to stretch the boundaries with future exhibitions .
Sensing Spaces – Architecture Reimagined is on at the RA, Piccadilly, London until 6 April 2014
11 January 2014 § Leave a comment
A weekend in Paris allowed me the opportunity to visit this breathtaking exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, as well as enjoy some excellent art, interesting sights and fine food counterposed by rude service, lousy cappuchinos and overpriced coffee and bread (or petit dejeuner as the French imaginatively call it).
There shouldn’t be a better place than Paris for an exhibition on Surrealism, the movement being founded here in 1924 having developed out the more international influences of Dada. The Pompidou Centre have proved that this is indeed the case, with this mightily impressive exhibition bringing together a remarkable collection of almost every conceivable iconic object or sculpture connected to the movement.
Alongside the roll call of iconic pieces like Hans Bellmer’s Poupee, Marcel Duchamp’s Bottlerack, Salvador Dali’s Lobster Telephone, Alberto Giacometti’s Suspended Ball are photographs from the likes of Man Ray, collections of works gathered plus a selection of more recent surrealist-influenced works by the likes of Mark Dion, Paul McCarthy, Ed Ruscha and Cindy Sherman exhibited under the title ‘Echoes of the Surrealist Object’.
The exhibition starts with ‘Ready-mades and Mannequins’, a section led by two great influences of the movement – Giorgio de Chirico and Marcel Duchamp who respectively brought the mannequin and object to the fore.
Subsequent rooms focus on ‘Objects with a Symbolic Function, Alberto Giacometti, Hans Bellmer’s Doll (an extraordinarily powerful object in real-life, and also larger than one imagines), five rooms each dedicated to iconic exhibitions from the famous ‘Exposition Internationale de Surrealisme’ in 1933 to ‘Eros’ in 1959/60.
Each room is well curated and nicely laid out with admirable logic, careful thought and atmospheric lighting.
This opportunity to view so many of Surrealisms iconic objects together plus the insight in to the movement that can be gained from the experience well worth a trip to Paris on its own. Just take your own breakfast.
Le Surrealisme et l’Objet runs until the 3 March 2014 at the Pompidou Centre, Paris.
18 December 2013 § Leave a comment
Following on from the Griffin Art Prize 2013 Exhibition – which is now on the road around the South of England for a few months (see post) – the Griffin Gallery are transferring Saatchi’s Showdown from the virtual online world in to reality.
The winner of the prize has been announced as Miguel Laino for his simple but expressive small oil painting shown here, winning over a very high quality – and truly international – final ten. The remaining finalists were: Chris Stevens, Casper Verborg (illustrated middle left), Stephane Villafane, Kristina Alisauskaite (middle right), Sergey Dyomin, Fiona Maclean, Minas Halaj, Maurice Sapiro, Daniel Gonzalez Coves (bottom).
Painted Faces is one phase of a continuing Saatchi Online competition that provides artists from anywhere in the world a showcase for their work. Chantal Joffe was the judge for this event. Previous judges have been equally big names of the contemporary art world and Barnaby Furnas, Ged Quinn, Wangechi Mutu and Dexter Dalwood have for example run their eyes over entries.
For the first time the works of the 10 Showdown finalists are being shown at the Griffin Gallery, from 5- 20 December with the winner and runner-up receiving art materials to the value of £1000 and £500 respectively – not bad I’d say.
The competition is being run in partnership with Winsor & Newton and is on at the West London Griffin Gallery until 20th December 2013. This is an excellent small show which is a short stroll from Westfield shopping centre – why not take a break from the Christmas shopping and drop in for an artistic break – or a more arty gift? All works are on sale and modestly priced.
For more details about the competition please go to www.saatchionline.com/showdown
- The Griffin Art Prize 2013 winners – Luke George & Elizabeth Rose (akickupthearts.wordpress.com)
- Saatchi Online, The World’s Leading Online Art Gallery, Appoints Veteran Business Executive Sean Moriarty As CEO (virtual-strategy.com)
16 December 2013 § Leave a comment
I always enjoy a trip to the Design Museum. Located on the riverside alleyways and old wharves of Bermondsey it’s a great place to visit whilst taking advantage of a Thames path stroll past (or via) the Tate, Globe Theatre and even Fashion Museum. The Museum itself is also quiet and pleasant with a nice little cafe with river views. Stop off at the shop for some gifts (another gift idea here) or cards – Christmas or otherwise and it is a perfect half day out.
This exhibition takes you into the world of fashion designer Paul Smith, celebrating his career to date and charting the rise of a true British name that has become one of the world’s leading brands.
The show takes up the first floor of the Museum and begins with a recreation of Smith’s notoriously crowded office space, packed to the gills with an eclectic collection of nick-nacks, photographs, models, CDs, boxes, books (piled perilously high) and even a bicycle.
The wide central aisle is lined floor to ceiling with wildly varied artworks from his own collection whilst other rooms recreate his first shop space (minuscule!), the first collection promotion (in a hotel room), a room of mirrors (not sure why that was there?), a selection of his design influences and products, a film and a long space with a selection of his fashion creations.
With Smith’s varied output his primary focus in men’s fashion is lost in this exhibition which looks rather more broadly at his life and influences. It is nevertheless an enjoyable, charming and interesting, if lightweight, exhibition.
Hello, My Name is Paul Smith runs until 9 March 2014. Details at www.designmuseum.org
Opens daily 10am – 5.45pm. Open on all bank and national holidays, except 25 and 26 December.
- Paul Smith design showcase is ‘absolutely not a retrospective’ (theguardian.com)
- Hello , My name is Paul Smith (disobeyingthebrief.wordpress.com)
- Review: Hello, My Name Is Paul Smith – A must-see for anyone interested in design and creativity (metro.co.uk)