Daniel Buren Catch as Catch Can – The Baltic Centre

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.

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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 .

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

turner contemporary at margate

31 August 2011 § Leave a comment

If you liked this post please make a comment or like it. If you like the blog please subscribe for regular updates (top right of page). Many thanks akuta

The old town centre of Margate has been somewhat revived by the arrival of the adjacent Turner Contemporary. Cafes selling frosted cup-cakes jostle for space with art galleries, vintage shops and boutiques in the historic lanes, old warehouses on the harbour wall are now artists studios. All very pleasant.

Over on the seafront, built on the precise former location of the eponymous landscape painter’s former lodgings, lies the striking new gallery. Dominating the seafront it is an impressive, white angular edifice.

Entering from a courtyard with an attractive cafe there is a feeling of space – there are high ceilings and vast windows overlook the sea with the reflected light that Turner so admired. Daniel Buren has here created a striking striped porthole through which the view can be enjoyed, but there is little more to commend.

Apparently ‘exploring themes of imagination, discovery, wonder and the creative spirit’ inspired by Turner’s painting The Eruption of the Souffrier Mountains Douglas Gordon makes some tedious word-play up the stairs to the gallery, globes from Russell Crotty reflect his ‘experience walking many different coastlines’, Conrad Shawcross’ installation is on the theme of a musical chord whilst Teresita Fernandez’s two works ‘explore the relationship between interior space and landscape’ .

Connections with Turner are tenuous to say the least, although Ellen Harvey’s work is rather more relevant and interesting with illuminated copies of Turner engravings created as scenes of contemporary Margate arranged in a darkened space and entitled Arcadia using fairground lettering.

The curators have wasted the momentum of the publicity gained by the new opening on a largely uninspiring display of mediocre work. Here was an opportunity to introduce the very best of contemporary art to a previously under-served area, instead the locals – including the ones I spoke to – are more inclined to call it a gigantic white elephant. Hopefully the next exhibition will be better.

Revealed: Turner Contemporary until 4 September 2011

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