6 November 2014 § Leave a comment
never been afraid of taking on the powerful. In the library, for example, is Weiwei’s extensive series “Study of Perspective”, dating back to the Nineties – blown up snapshots of the artist sticking his middle finger up at symbols of influence, from Big Ben to St Paul’s, the Tate Modern to a super-yacht.
The fun starts immediately upon entering the main house. A seventeen foot chandelier hangs from the vast baroque ceiling and looks remarkably at home. Ai is immediately questioning us – should not all his works be seen to sit on an equal cultural and aesthetic footing as all the incumbent pieces?
In the Red Drawing Room, a sea of porcelain crabs sit in front of the fireplace, each carefully hand made. In the Green Drawing Room ancient Han vases, each been painted in a different gaudy metallic car-body colour, sit ironically surrounded by Blenheim’s own ornate china collection.
In the First State Room is a wooden map of china carved from the wood of demolished Qing temples. A bowl of 250kg of freshwater pearls sits in a giant rice bowl in the centre of the Boulle Room right opposite a gold-crested casket by Louis XIV’s cabinetmaker.
In every room the tapestries heirlooms and paintings are interrupted by his provocative Duchampian installations. Golden zodiac heads are impressive in the Salon, his marble surveillance camera watches over us in the library, Han vases with Coca Cola logos are in the Great Hall where we find ourselves walking upon Soft Ground – a 45 metre long custom woven rug that replicates a muddy cart track.
Ironically Ai’s contemporary art that includes his own appropriation of antique vases and pieces of furniture allows us to realise that of course Blenheim’s own collection is not rooted in one era. Our appreciation of his own work is not only expanded but also is the quality of what is already there.
This is a truly liberating, irreverent, humorous and inspirational exhibition and surely the best of the year so far.
For more information visit www.blenheimpalace.com
16 October 2014 § Leave a comment
For their last exhibition of the current season, and neatly timed to coincide with the seasonal burst of gallery activity that marks the Frieze Art Fair, High House have adventurously selected an emerging young talent. Originally from Oxfordshire, Stephen Goodman is a graduate of Bath, now returning to his home county for this, his first solo show.
Goodman’s abstract paintings are the outcome of an open-ended process, where varied materials such as bitumen oil paint, acrylics and spray paint are combined in a sort of alchemical speculation. Using time, gravity, instability and chance Goodman applies varied materials liberally before allowing them to coagulate – an eventual arrangement being realised through the drying process where chance is allowed to play a large part in the outcome.
The end results are fascinating works that swirl and flow in an apparent 3D effect. Largely featuring combinations of black, white and blue the patterns created hold a significant affiliation with the geological and seismic occurrences of our planet. Goodman infact draws his own parallels to aerial photography of an imagined world that is ficticious and yet somehow familiar, and where he has begun to create his own particular mythology.
He has a particular affinity for Iceland, the place where these internal forces meet the external world in the most spectacular fashion. Here too myths and legends have been created in parallel as a means of human attempts at explanation. Similarly Goodman aims to connect and mediate between these two worlds manipulating his materials in his own attempts to control these conflicting forces.
His canvases hold a captivating beauty that alternately conceal and expose the extreme violence of the processes that they reflect – an eternal duality of destruction and re-creation also reflected in the world around us.
The results are attractive yet enigmatic – we need to be wary of their fragile beauty. Our desire to succumb to their charms is mitigated by our impending realisation of what these marks represent; it is a beauty found at the margins of violence and desire.
Of course time is the ultimate force and its unstoppable power is evident in Goodman’s artwork, as he continually engages with, and manipulates it as an aid for creation. We are unable to control time, but these paintings embrace this lack of control and embrace progression, a natural component of time, and the joy of the unknown.
Shown alongside, and unexpectedly perhaps, complementing Goodman’s work are a small series of beautifully executed works from one of Britain’s Modern masters, David Blackburn. Inspired by the landscape he is now accepted, in his 75th year, as one of the world’s leading exponents in the medium.
For more information please visit www.highhousegallery.com
15 October 2014 § Leave a comment
It is easy to think of Daniel Buren simplistically as the ‘stripe man’. Whilst it is useful for some to remember, and others to denigrate Buren by reference to his trademark wide stripes, there is of course much more to his art than that. As France’s leading conceptual artist he has punctuated the past 50 years with unforgettable interventions, controversial critical texts, thought-provoking public art projects and engaging collaborations.
In the sixties Buren developed a radical form of conceptual art, a ‘degree zero of painting’, creating works which drew attention to the relationship between art and context. Abandoning traditional painting he adopted a wide vertical stripe, used as a ‘visual tool’ to prompt a reading of the work’s surroundings as well as just the work itself. The stripes were variously made with paint, fabric, paper and tape often appearing outside the formal gallery space, made in situ, and responding to a particular location whilst appropriating and colouring the space .
For his latest exhibition at the Baltic Centre the work is best considered in two parts. In the level 3 galleries it is easy to see the development from his earlier, simpler work. The strong colours remain but here are not only stripes but geometric arrangements whilst their structure has also become more sculptural and architectural.
Fibre optic works from the Electric Light series unfurl down the walls, glowing sensuously. There are a selection of reliefs, paintings and sculptures which bend, zig zag or form 3D reliefs cleverly playing with depth, surface, colour and architectural space.
Arguably better still is the second part of the exhibition – a large-scale commission for the Level 4 gallery where Buren has coated the expansive skylight windows in geometric ‘gel’ panels of seven different colours.
The whole space has effectively been appropriated as an architectural canvas for the projected light. I giant kaleidoscope if you like. To heighten the effect a series of angled mirrors have been propped around the floor casting light throughout the space.
During our visit the sun popped back and forth from behind scudding clouds and alternately added even more colour to an already vivid display. One can imagine changing effects and sensations throughout the day.
Further coloured panels were also commissioned for the front of the building with a varying effect either from outdoors as you approach the space or indoors – in particular riding the glass sided lift past the arrangement.
For further information visit www.balticmill.com
13 June 2014 § Leave a comment
‘It’s a simple idea, and it’s perfect for the genre. The newspaper, that man-made butterfly that ends its brief but glorious day-long life in the bin, the gutter, or floating piecemeal through a Tube tunnel, is offered up for the kind of sober contemplation that it rarely, if ever, enjoys.’ Kate Quill (The Times)
Hugh Mendes has been painting images of newspaper clippings for about ten years now. Most recently he has been working on an ongoing, and never ending, series of obituaries where a life is condensed into a few column inches. Locating a hidden melancholy in our society awash with imagery the relentless stream of stories from the press is halted and everyday death is revealed beneath a grand narrative.
A single image, a scrap of newsprint, becomes a heavy token, a memento, even an icon, when rendered in paint. The act of seeing is frozen in time and the act of painting, and therefore sustained concentration, brings a degree of focus and depth to what otherwise would be a fleeting moment in the ephemeral daily press.
Also shown are a series of works commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Great War. Mendes was actually born on Armistice Day in a British military hospital in Germany: his mother a nurse and his father a British Intelligence code breaker. Using the same approach as with his Obituaries series ephemeral newspaper cuttings are elevated to poignant memorials for those who served and died.
A journey in to the Cotswolds is always enjoyable, and this is as good an excuse as any to drop in to High House Gallery – one of the few outposts where you can find real contemporary art outside London.
Hugh Mendes Obituaries & Other Works is at High House until 29 June 2014
12 June 2014 § Leave a comment
Following on from the excellent Yoshishige Saito exhibition (reviewed on AKUTA last month) Annely Juda are showing everyone’s favourite Yorkshire artist, David Hockney. Showing in the upstairs gallery are a series of sixteen bold and striking iPad drawings entitled The Arrival of Spring that the observant amongst you may have seen in the impressive Hockney show at the Royal Academy – A Bigger Picture (previously reviewed here).
When exhibited at the RA this series was shown in a darkened room on iPads mounted to the wall. Here they are an altogether different proposition blown up to nearly 5×4 ft (a selection of four are even larger) and filling the gallery. The increase in scale does not always work. There are some strange looking blobs and areas that seem unfinished but on the whole Hockneys’s eye for colour and form wins over and its hard not to admire his virtuosity on the small screen of the iPad.
The unerring digital brush strokes and the even coloration also work well in lending the landscapes a slightly unreal air. This slightly artificial look would be strange were the landscapes realistic but it works well with the strangely exotic colour schemes that Hockney’s keen eye draws from the subtle tones of the Yorkshire Wolds.
Amongst the iPad drawings the film Woldgate Woods, November 26th 2010 is also being shown: nine video monitors chart a slow progress through a snowy wooded landscape in East Yorkshire. Strangely hypnotic.
The second gallery space has been reserved for a series of new charcoal drawings which Hockney made in the Spring of 2013 following the RA show. Looking for a change from colour he stated “The Chinese say black and white contains colour, and so it can. They are five separate views of Woldgate, and with each one I had to wait for the changes to happen. Some were too close to the previous ones and I realised I was being impatient. I had to wait for a bigger change. I thought it was an exciting thing to do. It made me look much harder at what I was drawing.” (Guardian)
The absence of colour makes one look more closely at these pieces just as he looked harder drawing them. The effort is rewarded with an appreciation of his light touch and observant eye in these carefully observed sketches of leafy lanes and snowy woods.
David Hockney The Arrival of Spring at Annely Juda until 12 July 2014
The printed works are available in edition of 25. A further four prints have been printed in large format and mounted on dibond in an edition of 10.
6 June 2014 § Leave a comment
“If its covered in fabric it is part of the show” it was cheerily explained by the gallery attendant. I was arriving at the Manchester Art Gallery to view the latest offering by Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos and had asked where I could find the works.
One would usually find an exhibition relatively easily but this exhibition however does not just occupy its own space but is rather more of an artistic ‘intervention’ that infiltrates the entire building. Furthermore within the rather eclectic collection of the Manchester Art Gallery actually comprises almost anything from fine art to costume and contemporary design I wondered how I would spot all the pieces.
I need not have worried after all. Familiar with Vasconcelos’ extravagance and bright-colours and armed with an annotated floor plan, the works were – mostly -easy to spot. This major new show features over twenty of the Portuguese artist’s most significant sculptures, which fill the main exhibition spaces, adorn the outside of the building and permeate the whole gallery.
A monumental new textile work Britannia 2014 comprises richly coloured textile forms that cascade down three floors of the Gallery’s central atrium. The explosion of suspended, swelling forms, textures and colours contrast dramatically with the cold metal, glass and rigid order of the architecture.
The organic forms are composed of many fabric elements including knitting and crochet, fine silks, velvet, recycled clothes and industrially produced textiles, embellished with Portuguese tassels, crystals and beads in a dazzling patchwork of patterns, shapes and textures.
Other works enclose the lions of the main staircase, occupy gallery spaces or fill frames hung on the walls. It is an exhibition that is riot of colour, humour and spectacle. Exhuberant and varied this is a show that that is just perfect for the quirky collection and varied spaces of the Manchester Art Gallery and which is one that will cement Vasconcelos’ growing international reputation.
Joana Vasconcelos – Time Machine at The Manchester Art Gallery until 1 June 2014
5 June 2014 § Leave a comment
It does not seem many years ago that the late work of major artists was largely ignored. Large sections of an artists oeuvre were discounted as insignificant senile dabbling and considered to be critically irrelevant. There has however been a steady and distinct change to this view – largely led by the market who often looked at late works differently to the critics.
With the lack of quality pieces available to satisfy the increasing worldwide demand collectors were priced out of the market for many artists works. It didn’t take long for them to move on to, for example Picasso work in the sixties, and moving forward provoke critical reassessment from the art establishment.
The late work of Henri Matisse is a perfect example of this re-evaluation. Produced only in the last seventeen years of his life before his death in 1954 these works were initially seen as an interesting novelty only gradually being re-evaluated as being not only extraordinarily valuable but highly important.
Initially Matisse used the cut-out technique to plan his painted works, but in part due to his failing heath he turned totally to scissors in place of the brush. He had realised that he could simply create the artistic line directly with his scissors and as a result found that – like a sculptor he could literally carve his works directly from the coloured paper. This was a revelation and with the newly liberated freedom found a new era of creativity.
Indeed once he got started there was literally no stopping him. An assistant would help him arrange the cut fragments around his walls, over the ceiling, occupying his entire living spaces. Installation-like these works were all-encompassing and evolving: frequently they were re-arranged, added to or discarded.
An innovator to the last his work frequently seemed to anticipate future trends and even late in his life Matisse had an awareness of what he was doing. “It seems to me I am anticipating things to come,” he said. “It will only be much later that people will realise to what extent the work I am doing today is in step with the future.”
Arranged largely chronologically it is hugely comprehensive and even reunites some works for the first time since they left the artists studio. This exhibition – if rather late in the day – provides a spectacular overview of the cut-outs, affirming them as his finest work – a perfect coda to a life of genius.
Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs is at Tate Modern until 17 September 2014
Adrian Searles review in the Guardian
Brian Sewell review in the Standard
Richard Dorment review in the Telegraph