Ryan Gander Fieldwork, Lisson Gallery, London

17 November 2015 § Leave a comment

The title Fieldwork hints at some sort of preparatory work of rough ideas taken from the world at large – the resultant notes, plans and sketches not necessarily drawn in to a final form. This is indeed the format that it takes with an exhibition of interlinking new works by the artist, each offering a glimpse of the inspirations that feed his practice.

Ryan Gander Fieldwork, Lisson Gallery, London

Encompassing everything from a kitchen sink (literally!), the exhibition presents an eclectic selection that includes for example a year’s worth of skies, the clothes of absentee statues, a tent, a helium balloon, the artist’s phone number and a pebble beach. As ever with Gander’s art, the forms convened in Fieldwork are elliptic and opaque, starting stories for the viewer to invent or complete.

Ryan Gander Fieldwork, Lisson Gallery, LondonOccupying the entire back gallery, the titular work Fieldwork 2015 opens a window onto the revolving touchstones of Gander’s art presented on a Generation Game style conveyor belt. Objects from the artist’s collection glide slowly past a window in the gallery wall and unsurprisingly including a ‘Cuddly Toy’ – this is a bear however that has seemingly been ‘tortured’.

Ryan Gander Fieldwork, Lisson Gallery, London

Each piece is seemingly found but on closer inspection uniquely crafted. A National Trust sign proclaims ‘Culturefield’, the artists imaginary artistic utopia. Here there’s a baseball bat covered in nails, a pair of dead pigeons, a chocolate bar swoosh… This is a memory game of strange associations and a prism of connections (a chess set, a tortured teddy bear, a dead chick served on a plate with a napkin signed by Picasso…) through which to consider the rest of the exhibition.

Ryan Gander Fieldwork, Lisson Gallery, London

Perhaps because of the the fact that Ryan Gander’s work is not always self- explanatory, much of its appeal lies in trying to work out what it is all about. Full understanding does often however require a gander (sorry) at the exhibition catalogue: a modern stick for example, has an arrow head attached. It is not self-evident that it is a selfie-stick with a genuine neolithic stone head, the object being cleverly reduced back to what it basically is – a stick that could have been used for example as a weapon in millennia past.

Ryan Gander Fieldwork, Lisson Gallery, LondonPreparation is everything is a work composed of 365 daily attempts to mix the exact colour of the sky in acrylic paint, while the installation Never enough – a shingle beach filling the entirety of the downstairs gallery – likewise refers to the seascape near Gander’s home, the endless pebbles reference an alleged punishment for smugglers: to seal up the perpetrator’s storage cellar with stones.

Ryan Gander Fieldwork, Lisson Gallery, LondonThe entire exhibition is one that deliberately teases, presenting sealed-off worlds and frustrating knowledge. Enigmatic objects on the conveyer belt are tantalisingly out of reach, the cellar of pebbles can be seen but not accessed, in a sealed courtyard space is an internally lit, semi-transparent fibreglass tent while stuck, out of reach, high on a gallery ceiling is what appears to be a helium balloon.

Ryan Gander Fieldwork, Lisson Gallery, London

Some other sculptural works seem to have disappeared entirely and are only suggested through the discarded items that remain while I be… (i) and I be… (ii) are dust-sheeted mirrors as might be found in a closed-up stately home, the sheets however are of marble, the mirrors reflections sealed forever.


Outside the gallery, a giant billboard announces Gander’s phone number to the public. We called the number to receive an apology from Gander for not answering his ‘second phone’ and requesting a message. In the playful spirit of the show we left a message apologising for not being available and asked Gander to leave us a message. We are still waiting!

Ryan Gander Fieldwork, Lisson Gallery, London

Ryan Gander Fieldwork is at the Lisson Gallery until 31 October 2015

Images by CELLOPHANELAND* and Lisson Gallery.

The Human Factor: The Figure in Contemporary Sculpture at The Hayward

25 August 2014 § Leave a comment

If there is one reassuring constant of sculpture over the ages it is the  repeated attempts at representations of the human form. The Hayward has brought together major works by twenty or so leading artists from the last quarter of a century and reflects on how we represent the ‘human’ today.

The Human Factor at Hayward Gallery, London.  Photo by Linda Nylind. 14/6/2014.They suggest that the exhibition  ‘pointedly revisits and update classical traditions of sculpture…  inventively remixing past and present’ but the visitor would be hard pressed to find the classical here, overwhelmed as it is by more Duchampian reworking of more modern movements. Grouping works thematically, and not always successfully, curator Ralph Rugoff addresses themes like consumerism, physical perfection, violence, religion, sex and death.

The Human Factor at The Hayward Gallery
The least successful works involve the cliched use of shop mannequins. John Miller’s eroticised male mannequin poses in a pile of horse-shit, plaster on cheek whilst Isa Genzken’s are dressed with cheap charity shop sundries. Thomas Hirschhorn’s, 4 Women has them in a glass showcase, numbered one to four to represent increasing levels of alienation and violence.
The Human Factor at The Hayward Gallery
Much better are Yinka Shonibare and Ryan Gander who both re-imagine Edgar Degas’s Little Dancer. In Shonibare’s version, the (headless) dancer has a surprise in store – in a fetching ethnic print dress she carefully clutches a pistol behind her back.
The Human Factor at The Hayward Gallery
Ryan Gander versions have a more witty take. In one Degas’s dancer has taken a break from her plinth and sits behind on the floor enjoying a quick fag, whilst in another version stands on tiptoes to peer through a window.
The Human Factor at The Hayward Gallery
I also liked Martin Honert’s sculptures. Based on personal photographs, the best has himself as a child sat at a table and painted with exaggerated light and shadow and faded ektachrome colours it has the eerie quality of memories somehow brought to life.
The Human Factor Cattelan
In an otherwise empty gallery is Maurizio Cattelan’s Him. From behind we approach a young boy on his knees in prayer. In a moment of shocking realisation you see it is actually Hitler. Eyes upwards is he penitent or simply pensive? A less successful work in another room features an unblemished John Kennedy lying in state. 
Mark Wallinger’s statue of christ, Ecce Homo, which once graced the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, is shown here on a low plinth, but still effective and whilst talking of Trafalgar Square Katharina Fritsch, of  blue cockerel fame, has three strong works exhibited. Each tableaux comprises a monochrome figure before a blown up photograph. In one a blown-up religious kitsch black Madonna stands in front of a photographic wall of ivy, another features a yellow chef and nondescript German roadside Inn.
The Human Factor at Hayward Gallery, London.  Photo by Linda Nylind. 14/6/2014.
For more kitsch what better than Bear and Policeman (1988) by Jeff Koons – actually the oldest work in the show. An oversize toy bear with child-like stripy pullover and popping eyes, grasps a bobby’s whistle. Cute at first glance, but the grasp of the whistle hints at a deeper meaning – it is actually a metaphor for sexual humiliation.

Out on one of the terraces Pierre Huyghe has reworked a traditional reclining nude. In place of its head is a open hive, the bees busily swarming around whilst on another Rebecca Warren’s three lumpy women are tall, unrecognisable and totem-like.

The Human Factor at The Hayward Gallery

Last but not least Paul McCarthy’s That Girl (T.G. Awake) is a diversion from his more familiar lumpy and vivid pink latex grotesques. He has turned to Hollywood experts to create three lifelike casts of the actress Elyse Poppers. Naked, exposed and legs apart they sit on glass-topped trestle tables. They are so disturbingly lifelike it is hard to escape the notion, however impossible, that they will somehow come to life.

There are omissions but to complain about missing artists or the few lesser works would be churlish. This is an excellent overview of the current – pretty healthy – state of figurative sculpture.

The Human Factor: The Figure in Contemporary Sculpture until 7 September 2014

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