mark alexander – ground & unground – at wilkinson
8 November 2012 § 1 Comment
Upstairs from the Sung Hwan Kim exhibition in the airy Vyner Street spaces of the Wilkinson Galleryis the first UK solo exhibition from Mark Alexander. For those familiar with his work you will realise how extraordinary to see more than a couple of pieces at a time. Prolific is not one of the words usually associated with Alexander’s output and the previous time I saw a work – a reworked Hieronymus Bosch pictured below entitled All Watched Over by Machines of Infinite Loving Grace – at Frieze 2012 – it was only two-thirds complete.It is a real treat then to be in a room with eight works at the same time. It is much easier to get a feeling of what he is trying to do with work that, viewed occasionally, may (falsely) seem to be disparate and unconnected.
Alexander’s most recent works have been in bright renaissance shades but here he switches to brown. This would normally be a colour that artists avoid, presumably on the basis that brighter colours catch the eye , but here every work has been carefully created in multiple shades of earthy browns. The inspiration here is the skin colour – and texture – of ‘bog bodies‘. Usually found in central and northern Europe the moisture preserves those unfortunates who met a swampy demise and were uniquely preserved. They have become almost timeless and represent a point somewhere between death and permanence, beauty and the grotesque.
The metaphor here is the bog – transforming bodies into artefact – which Alexander uses in his vision of reinventing icons of the past. He has effectively ‘buried’ and dug up from his own bog elements from works like Paul Egell’s Mannheim Alter Piece, 1739-41, Van Gogh’s Reaper with Sickle (after Millet), 1889, Jean-François Millet’s original The Sower, 1850, Caravaggio’s Narcissus, circa 1597-99, and Durer’s Praying Hands, circa 1508.
These paintings are given a strange new life – at the same time attractive and repellent. A striking body of work and well worth visiting before it closes. You may never again see as many Alexander works together!
The exhibition has just been extended until 18 November 2012. Wilkinson Gallery, Vyner Street.
The exhibition’s title alludes to the mystical writings of the sixteenth- century German thinker Jakob Boehme. “For I saw and knew the Being of all beings,” Boehme wrote, “the ground and the unground”.
- sun hwang kim – pages from ki-da rilke at wilkinson (akickupthearts.wordpress.com)