phoebe unwin at the corridor reykjavik

20 October 2012 § 1 Comment

“It isn’t in London” I hear you cry. Well, I know but I just could not resist and in any case there are plenty of London connections which I’ll come on to later on.

Recently nipped up to Reykjavik – one of my favourite cities – for a short break to watch Yoko Ono flick the switch for the dramatic Lennon Peace Tower. A narrow beam of laser light that shines infinitely in to space the Tower is Yoko’s contribution to Lennon’s memory as well as a bold statement on World Peace.

A few days before departure the excellent Wilkinson Gallery, quite coincidentally, sent me an invitation to visit the Phoebe Unwin exhibition at The Corridor (or its equivalent in Icelandic). The opportunity seemed too good to miss. For those not familiar with this particular gallery – everyone I would guess – you need to negotiate a convenient time to visit when the owner is home, drive to an apartment block on the outskirts of town, discover from a friendly local which buzzer is the right one and climb a few flights of stairs to Helgi Fridjonsson’s modest apartment.

Corridor is slightly inaccurate since the gallery space occupies a hallway and front room where works hang variously amongst rampant spider plants, behind sofas and over a desk. Helgi is himself an artist and has been running this modest space for some thirty years and seems to enjoy the experience. His exhibitor list over the years is very impressive: Ceal Floyer, Fischli & Weiss and Per Kirkeby are amongst those many artists who have exhibited here, often before they became more well-known.

I have always been a fan of Phoebe’s dreamy acrylics that cleverly express a variety of emotions and feelings as much as person or place and the selection of works here are a good representation of her work.

A lovely little show – no end date is noted on the Wilkinson or Galleri Gangur (thats Corridor to you) websites – so who knows/ It may still be running the next time you’re in Iceland!

The Corridor (Galleri Gangur), Rekagrandi 8, Reykjavik 15, Iceland

yoko ono: to the light – at the serpentine gallery

21 July 2012 § 1 Comment

This is a must-see for all those who like Yoko Ono. It is also a must-see for those who quite like or even dislike her. For most of her career Ono – in the UK at least –  has been pilloried as the woman who broke up the Beatles, ridiculed for being somewhat ‘bonkers’ whilst all the time being disgracefully ignored as a world-class artist.

In recent years she has become more widely recognised for her talents and this exhibition hopefully puts all the negativity behind and reinforces her admission in to the list of the best and most influential of 20th century artists.

One enters the exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery via a lobby where a brief documentary on the Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland plays. The creation of this tower of light  – first posited in 1965 before being eventually realised in 2007 – neatly encapsulates Ono’s work. Stunningly simple – a single beam of light asks us to reconsider our existence. It asks to appreciate and enjoy the essential purity of life.

These deep messages, simply executed are at the heart of Ono’s genius, regularly and consistently repeated over the last 50 years to a largely unappreciative world. At the Serpentine the works are not ordered chronologically but rather have been assembled thematically, placing works that are similar – or occasionally repeated – together to reinforce the consistency of the work over time whilst  at the same time illustrating the variations.

What is most striking is the reminder as to just how ground-breaking she was as a conceptual, video and performance artist. The first room for example has three piles of earth placed simply along the floor whilst either side soldiers helmets, filled with jigsaw pieces of sky, hang from the ceiling. This sort of presentation now almost de rigeur for any student degree show was unheard of in the early 1960’s. Then it was daring, imaginative and new. The whole Fluxus movement, of which she was a vital part, infact ripping up the white cube rule book for what was acceptable as art and its method of presentation.

In subsequent galleries one first encounters a piece of dirty canvas – no longer of course in a frame or on a wall – lying on a floor for us to walk over. There is a mirror ahead so we can see ourselves literally trampling on the previous history of art. 

There are more iconic works: bronzes of everyday objects oozing with blood, films in ultra slow motion of eyes blinking or Lennon smiling, a glass maze, words in pencil scrawled on walls on floors asking us to imagine another reality. From the famed Indica Gallery show – where Lennon and Ono met – there is also the famed stepladder with magnifying glass attached leading to a ceiling where the word ‘yes’ is framed. John always said that if it had said ‘no or f**k you’, he would have taken little notice, but the word yes hooked him and changed the rest of his life – for better or worse.

Despite being a little brief and sparse this is a ‘yes’ exhibition which really should make us all appreciate Ono that bit more.

 Until 9 September 2012.

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