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!

Annoyingly my own photos also died a sad death on a deceased Blackberry so many thanks to Wilkinson again for use of their excellent  images.

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”.

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sun hwang kim – pages from ki-da rilke at wilkinson

25 October 2012 § 1 Comment

Having talked about the upsurge in Korean art in the review of Minhong Pyo at High House another artist on the way up Sun Hwan Kim. His show has recently opened at the Wilkinson Gallery in Vyner Street and he has recently appeared at such august Instititions as the Kunsthalle Basel and the Tanks at Tate Modern (where work related to this exhibition is shown).

The – rather awkward I feel – premise of this exhibition is from the phrase ‘ki da rilke‘ which in Korean means ‘I will wait’. He has then drawn an association with the Poet Rainer Marie Rilke and made transcripts of some poems and made drawings in response to them.

The results, for me, are mixed. The texture and mark making is delicate and interesting. Using a wide variety of products in each work – one example: Parchment paper, paper, acetate sheets, making tape, photo tape, artist tape, pencil, poster paint marker (water base), marker (xylene base) and gel pen – there is an ethereal and delicate quality to the works. Fantastical figures and flowing organic shapes that wouldn’t be out of place in a Glastonbury shop window – or a modernists sketch pad for that matter – drift in and out of focus amongst the layers of paper and acetate. He draws on Rilke’ for a poetical approach and where the metamorphosis of person and object is the theme.

They are interesting to look at but there doesn’t seem to be much substance and although this is largely deliberate the drawings don’t amount to much. The most interesting part here is the adventurous approach to framing – where the wooden frames are sometimes folded back upon themselves, stretched up the wall or absent altogether – and hanging where they are may be propped up against the wall or hung at different levels. Both reflect Kim’s experimental approach to 

Playful, wistful, experimental and spiritual are other words to attach to this show that will appeal to many, if not to me on that day. Maybe I should go and read some more Rilke and try again?

Sung Hwan Kim – pages from Ka-di Rilke until 11 November 2012

Images courtesy of Wilkinson Gallery

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