jean-luc moulene at modern art oxford

30 September 2012 § 2 Comments

Following the tragic suicide of Mike Stanley – the dynamic and inspirational director of Modern Art Oxford – I felt that I had to make the quick trip to Oxford for the preview of this, his last exhibition.

On this years Turner Prize committee the 37 year old MAO director was considered to be one of an exciting new breed of adventurous curators, pushing boundaries and not scared of being radical.

The exhibition by Jean-Luc  Moulene is typically adventurous. This is an artist with a low public profile in the UK (and probably most places?) but nevertheless well-regarded within the art world. His work encompasses photography, object-making, printing, painting and sketching whilst making complex theoretical examination of the relationship between image and object.

The exhibition looks at some of his work from the last twenty years together with pieces specifically made for the show. It commences in the Upper Galleries of the MAO spaces with a series of closely spaced ‘objects’ (he doesn’t like the connotations of the word ‘sculpture’) surrounded by photographs, collages and drawings. The objects are nondescript bronze and glass ‘knots’ which act as ‘cohesive exploration of the knot as a potential tool for understanding’. 

If you did not know what you were in for before arriving you are therefore thrown in at the deep end. ‘The bronze knots are expired whilst the glass knots are inspired’ Moulene states. Aha – obviously! Got it now? No, me neither.

In another work Rich 2010 Moulene places a bottle of water beside a fire. It reacts to the uneveness of the floor and heat of the fire – constantly changing. A diamond on the top suggests a decanter and questions materiality and perceptions of value. Sorry to be a philistine, but I don’t want to read an essay before looking at an artwork.

More interesting are his huge monochromes in the next, darkened, John Piper Gallery. Made from BIC pen ink applied with a palette knife the colour is amazingly vibrant and deep and reflects the blue, black, red and green colours of standard biros. Across the end wall is The Three Graces 2012 – a film work or three nude sisters atop a windy hilltop near Oxford that nicely references the familiar classical subject. Apologies for the absence of photos, but none allowed at the gallery.

This is the (French?) thinking mans artist and whilst a visit to the exhibition may prove moderately engaging to the casual visitor it really requires a background of art theory and a more than passing knowledge of the French philosophers to really enjoy it and for anyone to say that they really understand what Moulene is really up to with these works.

Please do go, but either book now for the talk on 25th October – where Moulene talks with Chris Dercon – or read as much as you can about Moulene before you go!

Oh yes, and take a minute to enjoy a coffee on the Richard Woods commissioned furniture in the cafe.

Modern Art Oxford until 25 November 2012



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