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Saturday, 11 June 2011

The Quiet Man of the YBAs: Angus Fairhurst, Westfaelischer Kunstverein, Münster, Germany


Angus Fairhurst (1966-2008) was one of the most influential members of the group of artists associated with London’s Goldsmiths College in the late 1980s. Fairhurst participated in the seminal exhibition, Freeze, in 1988, which introduced the world to a generation who became known as the Young British Artists, setting the tone for contemporary art in the UK over the next two decades. The retrospective at Westfälischer Kunstverein is the first major exhibition of his work in Germany.

Angus Fairhurst’s work eludes straightforward categorisation, encompassing sculpture, painting, performance, photography, video, music, printmaking, drawing and collage. Over more than 20 years he engaged with specific formal and thematic motifs including blank spaces, gorillas, cycles and repetitions. His work touches on themes such as selfhood, desire, advertising and mass reproduction, his combination of conceptual strategies merging into an idiosyncratic and subtle formal vocabulary.

The artist found a source for his complex collages in advertising, with its constantly repeated paradigms of female beauty and diverse design concepts. By freeing these from their representative function, Fairhurst enabled them to take on a new form which revealing his fascination with the aesthetics of surfaces, while their palimpsest-style array of layers dramatises the idea of mass reproduction. Much of Fairhurst’s activity centres in this way on repetition and dichotomy: evoking the spirit of Samuel Beckett or Bruce Nauman, he explored the way in which loops and superimposition serve as metaphors for the absurdity of everyday life. The works’ ostensible meanings are constantly confronted by a sense of their own travesty or subversion: “It’s like saying a word over and over again until it loses its meaning, and then it gets it back again“ (Fairhurst).

Although the artist’s oeuvre is complete due to his early death there are many conceivable possibilities for continuation inherent in it. Drawing upon art-historical references including Romanticism and Dada, it simultaneously has its roots in more recent conceptual trends. This retrospective provides Westalischer Kunstverein with an opportunity to honour one of the most innovative and individual figures in British art of the last three decades.

To find out more about Fairhurst's work see our article, A Retrospective of the Quiet Man of the YBAS, available here.

Angus Fairhurst: Retrospective opens today until 4 September.

westfaelischer-kunstverein.de

Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoying reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary arts and culture you should read us in print too. In the spirit of celebration, Issue 41 includes a piece on Guggenheimn Bilbao where the Luminous Interval features internationally acclaimed artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith and Damien Hirst, ArtAngel's new commission at MIF, Bruce Nauman's retrospective at The Kunsthalle Mannheim and Cory Arcangel's Pro Tools at the Whitney in NYC. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Image:
Angus Fairhurst
The Great Ecstasy (2008)
Courtesy the Estate of Angus Fairhurst and
Sadie Coles HQ, London

Friday, 10 June 2011

Broadening Access to the Visual Arts: Q&A with Nathan Engelbrecht, Director of EB&Flow Gallery, London.


Interview by Bethany Rex

EB&Flow opened this spring in Shoreditch with an aim to build long term relationships with artists from a formative stage in their career and as their practice develops. The gallery aims to increase access to the visual arts by running an education programme on collecting, curatorial practice, and artist professional development, as well as artists talks and guest curated projects. The inaugural show, Since Tomorrow, celebrated the core group of EB&Flow artists and the new show, which opens today, focuses on the work of one of the EB&Flow artists – Katie Louise Surridge (b.1985).

Voo-Dology will be Surridge’s first solo exhibition in London, and features large structural installations from a selection of ephemeral objects sourced by the artist on scavenging missions. Presenting a new, large scale installation entitled Live Through This, which incorporates Victorian tobacco clay pipes sourced from the banks of the Thames, Shire horse collars and a cattle feeder, Voo-Dology explores the process of discovery and development integaral to Surridge’s work.

We caught up with galley director, Nathan Engelbrecht to find out more about the gallery, its aims and objectives and who we should be on the look out for this year.

Firstly, what was your background prior to opening the gallery? What motivated you to open EB&Flow at this time?
My business partner, Margherita Berloni, and I studied at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, completing our MA in Art Business. From there, it was the usual intern wilderness; I completed an internship at Phillips de Pury and ArtTactic. Fortunately I was offered the role of art market analyst at ArtTactic, which consisted of me researching many different art markets such as China, India, and Brazil, as well as areas like Photography and Design.

In terms of motivation, Margherita and I had decided to open our own gallery very early on during our studies. We started studying just after the Lehman brothers collapse, and as such we were always taught that our future was in our hands rather than boom time corporations. We were very fortunate to find our space and this space really exhilarated our business plans and investment pitches.

The gallery aims to increase access to the visual arts with its education programme, could you tell us a bit more about this?
We have always been very anti against the idea of a gallery, being a cold sterile place which begrudgingly lets the public in, while they only care about collectors. The education programme is one of our rebellions against this, and we seek to be a place where ideas about visual art and the art market can be explored. We will be starting after summer with three seminars, aimed at different groups within this art world: Artists, curators and collectors.

Could you tell us a bit more about your current show, Katie Louise Surridge: Voo-Dology?
Katie is one of those special artists, where the art begins way before completion or execution. Katie produces her installations in the gallery from discarded materials; be it old butcher’s bones from the Thames, rusted cattle feeders or stuffed red squirrels. Katie forms unlikely links between objects and weaves them into some not only visually exciting but intellectually profound.

You’re presenting Alessandro Librio’s Palermo in Venice at Venice this year. That’s impressive for a gallery in its inaugural year. How did this collaboration come about?
We were very lucky! Fortunately we had spent so much time researching and meeting different artists and curators that it gave us access to artists that other galleries might have missed. So when one of our favourite curators Attilia Fattori Franchini suggested Librio, we were delighted and of course very eager to work with him. We were fortunate to be working with him and once Venice came into the picture we threw everything we had at the project to see it realised.

You’ve spoken about providing a platform for ‘our generation’ of artists. Could you expand on this? How would you say our generation of artists differs from the last?
This generational aspect goes back to one of our founding principals; that we wanted to show contemporary art that was contemporary, not something produced in the 70s that one sees at auction. In doing so we sought to find artists that were forming their own niches within the contemporary world. This process was further complicated by another founding principal of that we didn’t want to have art that was so conceptual that it’s audience was only art history PHDs, and therefore we sought to find contemporary artists who displayed universal range.

In terms of this generation, it is often said that it is the generation of self, where online and social existences have made islands of people. Of course you would expect art to represent this, but what we found, in the artists we chose, was that they were interested not by self but by space and time. It was reaction which interested us the most and something we find very contemporary and generational.

With degree shows gathering pace and Free Range in full swing, it’s an exciting time of year for galleries looking for new talent, have you seen any work that has caught your eye? Anyone we should look out for?
I must be honest; with Venice, Basel and 2 solo shows going on within 2 weeks, we have missed out on one of favourite activities of scouting for new talent… We have been invited by various art schools to come through to their grad shows in the coming weeks and we look forward to finding something special. Watch this space!

Katie Louise Surridge Voo-Dology is on until 26 August

ebandflowgallery.com

Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoying reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary arts and culture you should read us in print too. In the spirit of celebration, Issue 41 includes a piece on Guggenheimn Bilbao where the Luminous Interval features internationally acclaimed artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith and Damien Hirst, ArtAngel's new commission at MIF, Bruce Nauman's retrospective at The Kunsthalle Mannheim and Cory Arcangel's Pro Tools at the Whitney in NYC. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Image:
So Over, Mixed Media (2010)
Courtesy the artist

Degree Shows 2011: Aesthetica's Round-Up

Fiona Shaw, MA Sculpture - Royal College of Art

Our June/July issue has just hit the shelves, which covers the latest opening at the Guggenheim Bilbao, ArtAngel’s new commission at MIF and features Bruce Nauman’s retrospective at The Kunsthalle Mannheim and Cory Arcangel’s new show Pro Tools at the Whitney in NYC. These are all big names and important cultural institutions but every artist, performer, and practitioner needs to start somewhere. Every June, when the invites to graduation shows start landing on our desks, one word springs to mind – potential. It’s exciting to think about the work on display at these exhibitions, especially considering where these graduates might end up. Looking back to 1988, 16 young artists from Goldsmiths took part in their graduation show. Organised mainly by Damien Hirst, Freeze showcased the work of a number of artists whose names have become part of our cultural vocabulary – Sarah Lucas, Ian Davenport and Richard Patterson amongst others.

Much has changed since then, but what remains is the quality of the work on display and the opportunity for visitors to discover all aspects of contemporary art, design and architecture practice in a unique exhibition environment. We’ve included a selection of the brightest and best Degree Shows– who knows who you might discover?

If you're show is not on here, please let us know using the comment box below.

Central Saint Martins
14 June – 2 July
csm.arts.ac.uk

Edinburgh College of Art
9 - 19 June
eca.ac.uk

University of Salford
5 June – 8 June
salford.ac.uk

University Campus Suffolk
9 – 19 June
ucs.ac.uk

The Hull School of Art & Design
3 - 8 June
artdesignhull.ac.uk

The Glasgow School of Art
11 - 18 June
gsa.ac.uk

The Arts University College at Bournemouth
23 June - 30 June
aucb.ac.uk

Slade School of Fine Art
28 May - 22 June
ucl.ac.uk/slade/

Royal College of Art
24 June - 3 July
rca.ac.uk

Goldsmiths
23 - 27 June (Undergraduate)
14 - 18 July (Postgraduate)
gold.ac.uk

University Of Lincoln
4 - 17 June
lincoln.ac.uk

Norwich University College of the Arts
22 - 28 June
nuca.ac.uk

University of Falmouth
17 - 24 June
falmouth.ac.uk

Free Range
31 May - 25 July
free-range.org.uk

Sheffield Hallam University
11 - 25 June
shu.ac.uk

Bath Spa University
June 11 - ­15
artbathspa.com

University of Brighton
June 4 - 9
arts.brighton.ac.uk/graduate-show

Brunel University
June 9 - 11
madeinbrunel.com

Camberwell College of Art
June 21 - 25
camberwell.arts.ac.uk

Cardiff School of Art and Design
June 18 - 25
csad.uwic.ac.uk

University for the Creative Arts: Canterbury, Farnham, Maidstone and Rochester
June 3 - 24 (various dates)
www.ucreative.ac.uk/degreeshows

Chelsea College of Art and Design
June 18 - 25
chelsea.arts.ac.uk

Coventry University
June 4 - 9
coventry.ac.uk

University of Derby
June 3 - 11
derby.ac.uk/ansynthesis

Kingston University
June 5 - 10
kingston.ac.uk/degreeshow2011

Lancaster University
June 22 - 29
liveatlica.org

London College of Communication
June 3 - July 8 (various dates)
lcc.arts.ac.uk

London Metropolitan University
June 16 - 20
londonmet.ac.uk

Manchester Metropolitan University
June 18 - 22
mmu.ac.uk/degreeshow11

Nottingham Trent University
June 2 - 12
ntu.ac.uk/degreean11

University of Plymouth
June 11 - 23
plymouth.ac.uk

University of Portsmouth
June 6 - 11
port.ac.uk

Stockport College
June 14 - 30
stockport.ac.uk

University of the West of England
June 11 - 16
uwe.ac.uk

University of Westminster
June 9 - 14
westminster.ac.uk

Wimbledon College of Art
June 17 - 23
wimbledon.arts.ac.uk

University of Wolverhampton
June 6 - 10
wlv.ac.uk/artanddesign
.
Image:
Fiona Shaw - MA Sculpture - Royal College of Art - Show Battersea

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Visual Puzzles: Hannah Starkey, Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast.

Review by Angela Darby

Without a doubt, Hannah Starkey, is a prolific and accomplished artist. Her solo exhibition at the Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast presents a back catalogue of nearly 30 photographs which fill all four gallery spaces. The rooms in the gallery are crowded, and the works would benefit from more space to allow the narrative of the individual images the chance to reveal their personal stories without the pictorial influence of neighbouring works. However the scale of the exhibition allows for an overview of Starkey’s practice since 1997 with more recent photographs accompanying the familiar works that have been featured in cultural magazines.

The formal arrangement of a Starkey image is generally composed of a female figure or small group of female figures meticulously positioned within a carefully selected environment. To manage the carefully staged scenes the artist is renowned for her use of actors. Her subjects are captured in an endless moment of frozen, expressionless stares, sometimes gazing or being gazed at within an expansive space. They sit or stand transfixed, pensively waiting in a timeless limbo, lost in introspection.

Starkey’s frequent use of mirrors as both props and psychological metaphors are a customary feature in the arrangement of her settings. The mirror represents a place for self-analysis, vanity and contemplation. In conversation, Starkey stated that, "Mirror reflections for me are a really good analogy for my photography because they picture the interior and exterior on one plane…reflections are the only way we see ourselves in the world outside photography." More recent works seem to rely less on this as a pictorial device relying rather on light itself as the medium on which meaning is carried. In Untitled –June 2008 a female figure sits alone in a cafe, her form dissected by a glass beaded curtain hung in the window. Sun light filters through the transparent prismatic beads projecting a broken rainbow effect back onto the interior. The curtain also deconstructs the exterior reflection on the window glass. This dual reflection of the exterior and interior symbolically captures our individual powerlessness to make whole our fractured reality. This stunning image is Starkey at her best; the shot appears spontaneous and natural as though captured by chance.

Dissonance is also captured in Untitled –November 2007. A well dressed lady with a yellow scarf stands waiting on a grid of concrete paving slabs. Her scarf and hair colour co-ordinate with the autumnal leaves strewn on the ground. Beside her another figure stands with a yellow carrier bag the same hue as the women’s scarf and hair. Contrary to the picture’s harmonious composition the two figures appear divided and disconnected. The women’s body language is rigid as she stands facing in the opposite direction. Her mouth is taut; her hands clamped together like a vice. She seems uncomfortable in this location and in this company. It is a poignant, cinematic moment that holds your attention and draws you into the women’s world.

The artist’s choice of location and backdrop are never mundane or banal. Interior shots in particular are visually stunning. A large mural of a city map lends itself as the locale for Untitled- June 2007.The scale of the mural engulfs a mother and baby who sit waiting perhaps for a bus or train. The map’s web-like veins of routes and housing grids seems to have trapped both commuters in a motionless state. The image paradoxically captures the polarised views held by our society. Has motherhood suspended the woman’s life journey or has she arrived at her destination? Motherhood is an overwhelming situation and Starkey approaches this theme in such a successful way - the passing of time is altered when you become the carer of another person. For the most part the young women featured throughout Starkey’s work can afford the luxury of time by themselves, the inclusion of a mother with her role defined through dependency is an interesting departure.

Hannah Starkey continues until 9 July.

ormeaubaths.co.uk

Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoying reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary arts and culture you should read us in print too. In the spirit of celebration, Issue 41 includes a piece on Guggenheimn Bilbao where the Luminous Interval features internationally acclaimed artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith and Damien Hirst, ArtAngel's new commission at MIF, Bruce Nauman's retrospective at The Kunsthalle Mannheim and Cory Arcangel's Pro Tools at the Whitney in NYC. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Image:
Hannah Starkey
Untitled, August 1999
Courtesy Maureen Paley, London

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Absence of External Frames: Florian Meisenberg, Kate MacGarry, London


Review by Mallory Nanny, a candidate for the MA in Art History at Richmond the American International University in London.

Currently on view at Kate MacGarry is an exhibition of painting and mixed media by contemporary German artist, Florian Meisenberg. Immediately upon eyeing the collection, we recognise the artist’s interest in vibrant colours and free-floating forms that infiltrate the white gallery space. The absence of external frames in a number of pieces correlates to the emphasis that the artist wields toward lightness.

This air of lightness encompassing Meisenberg’s work, however, finds perceptual opposition in his incorporation of text. For example, in Meisenberg’s The Vision of Tomorrow, Today (2008), the warm multi-coloured background contrasts to the startling text that reads: “I have pain everywhere. My pure existence hurts. My eyes feel as if they would like to pop out of their orbits. My penis wants to shrink and grow inwardly.” While the message expressed is rather pain-staking, the visual display of words communicates a sensation quite the opposite: cheerful fortuitousness. The letters are illustrated individually – changing in size, colour, boldness, lower and upper cases – essentially communicating a sense of child-like whimsicality when viewing the phrase collectively. Also visible is an absence of punctuation that actually benefits the animated alphabet by giving it fluidity. These aspects indicate a sign of immaturity, which, coupled with the poetic proclamation concerning bodily discomfort, offers a conflicted interpretation. What is seen and what is read are perceived as contradictory relationships, like playfulness vs. severity, ecstasy vs. suffering, and lightness vs. weight. The stark differences between the visual and the verbal may offer insight into the confusion of adolescence.

Another piece shown to the right depicts a giant nose from the profile view. Confined in the centre of a white composition, it is only accompanied by words. “Life” appears in black cursive where the slope of the nose begins, whereas “Death” is separated into pairs of letters surrounding the tip. A dotted line descends down the right side of the painting, colliding with the tip of the nose. Again, yet through different subject matter, Meisenberg illustrates his awareness of age, using the downward slope of the nose as a metaphor for human life. Interestingly enough, the human nose never stops growing throughout one’s life. Though uncertain whether the artist is aware of this trivia or not, the nose remains a common attribute in his oeuvre, like the eye or the moustache, as it is evocative of a clown-like disguise. Similar to the previous painting, this work contains ambiguous meanings. While the nose as subject matter is perceived as playful and witty, it simultaneously functions as a memento mori.

The most interesting display of Meisenberg’s art is viewed in his series of coloured fabric paintings entitled Some Little Artistic Attitude, Even After All, which hang like flags in the lofty interior beneath the gallery’s skylights. The series consists of two pairs of work extending outward from parallel walls over the centre of the gallery aisle. Rather than the use of a traditional pole, each painting suspends from a broom that is attached by its head to the wall. Unlike the previously-discussed work, the opposing relationships here pertain moreover to the matters of display. The brooms appear light-hearted and comical, even harking back to the dream-like oddities of Surrealism; while, on the other hand, the height, symmetry, and innovative role of paintings as flags grant the overall installation a commanding presence. The subject matter of the paintings also differs from one another. While one piece exhibits a random pattern of rolling eyeballs, another contains facial features and material trappings in a hurried arrangement, as the positions of nose and eyeballs are reversed. The artist’s gentle portrayal of silliness and peculiarity insinuates the importance of humour in a contemporary Western culture that is so often governed by political and social issues. Whether his double-coded meanings are intended to challenge us or to demonstrate a co-existence of different expressions is uncertain. They do, however, remind us to perceive conflicting ideas equally, at face value. Those who fancy the psychological and often humorous oddities of Surrealism are likely to find Meisenberg’s art refreshing and thought-provoking.

Florian Meisenberg continues at Kate MacGarry until 9 July.

katemacgarry.com

Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoying reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary arts and culture you should read us in print too. In the spirit of celebration, Issue 41 includes a piece on Guggenheimn Bilbao where the Luminous Interval features internationally acclaimed artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith and Damien Hirst, ArtAngel's new commission at MIF, Bruce Nauman's retrospective at The Kunsthalle Mannheim and Cory Arcangel's Pro Tools at the Whitney in NYC. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Image:
Courtesy the artist and Kate MacGarry, London.
Photo: Andy Stagg

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Celebrating Latin American Art: PINTA Art Fair, 6 - 9 June, London.


PINTA, the Latin American Art Show opened on Monday 5 June at Earls Court Exhibition Centre. Presenting the very best in modern and contemporary Latin American art, the show follows last week's record sale of Latin American art at Sotheby's, New York. Launched in New York City in 2007, PINTA will bring to London over 50 galleries from the Americas and Europe Guillermo de Osma Galería and Distrito 4 from Madrid; Maddox Arts from London; Ruth Benzacar Galería de Arte from Buenos Aires; Lucia de la Puente from Peru, Galería Enrique Guerrero from Mexico, Galeria Nara Roesler from São Paulo, Aninat Isabel from Santiago, Chile and Durban Segnini and Sammer Gallery from Miami. We caught up with PINTA's chairman, Alejandro Zaia to chat about role of the fair in a global marketplace.

2011 marks PINTA’s second year in London and there’s already a lot of excitement around it. Can you tell me something about how the show started and its development over time?
PINTA LONDON was in our dreams from the very beginning. When we started our project in NY in 2007, we always had London as our second stop. The response we got last year was a fantastic start and has certainly encouraged us to do it again, and better.

PINTA showcases the best in contemporary Latin American art; what, for you, makes this form of art particularly special and distinctive from others?
PINTA showcases the best in contemporary but also in modern Latin American art. With so many fantastic art fairs on the calendar, it is difficult to say what is distinctive about PINTA. What I would say is that we love our art, all the management team at PINTA are also collectors and have a great passion for this. PINTA`s director, Diego Costa Peuser ran a Latin American art magazine for 30 years and our other director is an active member of the Latin American Committee at MoMA and Tate. As a region, we believe that we have a great background in art, strong artists, and yet perhaps a weak commercial system. This is the gap that we want to bridge, by trying to bring our artists into the two big world capitals, London and New York.

Can you identify any specific trends in current contemporary Latin American art and, if so, how are these reflected through the work on show at PINTA this year?
In established art, it's about the marvellous geometrical abstraction from the 1950s and 60s, and all the conceptual artists from the 1970s and 80s. This is what the museums and institutions are collecting these days. In contemporary art, our artists are operate in the same way as their contemporaries in Germany, Italy, the UK and so on. They have most of the same concerns, pains, wishes, fears, happy moments and motivations. Despite this, you find some themes subjects that are very much associated with the region: violence, inequality, and poverty. In other cases these are more abstract and those characteristics are less visible, but even these ones have some flavour of their own identity.

What do you anticipate will be some of the highlights of this year’s show?
The four solo shows with established artists (Regina Silveira, Waltercio Caldas, Felipe Ehrenberg and Eduardo Costa), and all the eleven emerging artists, curated by Pablo de la Barra. We are also excited about the Solo Projects section, which runs alongside the main show. This will feature the best of the best in the Latin American live art scene, with works from the 1970s and 80s displayed alongside new works. They are amazing.

Can you tell me more about the PINTA London Museums Acquisition Programme?
Absolutely. It's an initiative generated from Mauro Herlitzka, Institutional Director at PINTA. The programme invites selected museums interested in Latin American art to buy artworks from the fair by receiving special funds from PINTA which they must match or exceed in order to purchase the works. This year the programme will include Tate Modern, the Centre Georges Pompidou, the University of Essex Collection of Latin American Art, and the MUSAC. The mechanism is very simple and to an extent, it has become part of the PINTA’s brand over the years. It's a win-win programme for everyone, the museums, the curators, the galleries, and the artists, and us!

As PINTA has really taken off here in the UK, what are your plans for the future and development of the show in London?
I could say: to be better, to be bigger, offer the best quality as possible to the visitors, get respect within the very competitive art world here, and continuing bringing this platform for our artists and their galleries. But – honestly- the only development that I can see in the near future is a very well deserved vacation with my wife and children, immediately after PINTA!

PINTA continues at Earls Court Exhibition Centre until 9 June.

pintaart.com

Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoying reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary arts and culture you should read us in print too. In the spirit of celebration, Issue 41 includes a piece on Guggenheimn Bilbao where the Luminous Interval features internationally acclaimed artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith and Damien Hirst, ArtAngel's new commission at MIF, Bruce Nauman's retrospective at The Kunsthalle Mannheim and Cory Arcangel's Pro Tools at the Whitney in NYC. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Image:
José Miguel Pereñíguez
Coro, 2009
Courtesy of Galería Rafael Ortiz, Spain

Mark Leckey's Fusion of Technology and Theatricality: SEE, WE ASSEMBLE, Serpentine Gallery, London.

Mark Leckey SEE, WE ASSEMBLE, Serpentine Gallery

Review by Mallory Nanny, a candidate for the MA in Art History at Richmond the American International University in London

Turner Prize winner of 2008, Mark Leckey, currently hosts an exhibition entitled SEE, WE ASSEMBLE, at the Serpentine Gallery until 26 June. Upon entering the first gallery, we are introduced with the main objectives of the exhibition, products of Fiorucci, Henry Moore, and Samsung, as well as how each corresponds with the following stages of time: Past, Past and Present, and Future. Although the artist claims that the former subjects have impacted him in one way or another, he portrays a popular commodity of each in the tradition of advertising; thus bridging the gap between high culture and mass media almost immediately. Leckey incorporates sculpture, sound, film and performance equally throughout the exhibition to give the viewer a particularly unique visual and audio experience in postmodernist art.

Leckey conceptualises the past and present through his “performance” piece entitled Sound Systems, an on-going project since 2001. In the central space of the gallery, a tall bronze sculpture by Henry Moore faces a large stack of speakers, which appear to mimic the sculpture in terms of height and verticality. It seems as if Leckey has purported to match the present with the elegance of the past, as the arrangement of the erected sculptures assume an authoritative presence in the otherwise, empty gallery. The only other piece exhibited is a small poster that functions to inform visitors of the upcoming dates of performances, for the sound art changes week to week. The performance aspect of Sound Systems relies on the sound emanating from the speakers that aims to elicit a response from the Moore sculpture. The sound I experienced was irregular and menacing, reminiscent of the immense roar emitted by furnace/exhaust. It was however, very sporadic, often occurring in fifteen-minute intervals. Between the moments of vibratory clamor were low grumbles and humming that verified its animate existence. While occasionally unpleasant, the inclusion of sound, particularly in relation to the sculpture, achieves a theatrical presence that renders a true sense of chemistry in the communication between past and present.

While its status as a performance piece could be debated, Leckey’s final installation entitled GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction also exhibits aspects of theatricality. The temporary transformation of the gallery into a green screen not only provides a visual connection to the grassy fields of Kensington Gardens, but it also served as the backdrop in the production of the film that is exhibited here on two mounted flat screens. Located between them is the focal point of the work, the black Samsung “smart” refrigerator. Both the fridge and the Samsung name appear almost constantly throughout the film, whether seen against a natural landscape or viewed internally, in a scientifically-charged description that concerns its inner workings. The fridge not only stars in the video, it narrates it as well, in a muffled, robotic voice. The artist has reinvented the concept of the readymade by conveying its animate status in connection to the worldly, and out-of-worldly, environments. While Leckey’s elevation of the object to cult status may be interpreted as wildly propagandistic, it could conversely be interpreted as a commentary on technological advancements, particularly “smart” products which possess the abilities to think and function on their own in correspondence to the needs of its user. Thus not only do we become more dependent on these objects, but we form relationships with them as well. GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction may be understood as Leckey’s prediction of the future of technology in our lives, as well as its effects on the art world.

The installation that best represents the past is most likely an earlier piece from 1999 called Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, located in the gallery off the right of the entrance. The darkened interior contains a large set of speakers and a video projection that provides a look into the underground UK club scene from the 1970s to the early 1990s. Adding interest to the installation is the soundtrack, which Leckey produced using similar experimental techniques that were popular in the subculture portrayed in the film. There exists, however, a sinister quality in the combined experience of the soundtrack with the grainy quality of the film. Compared to the previously-discussed works which evoke technology, communication and theatricality as common postmodern themes, Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore appears rather detached in the broader scope of the exhibition.

Mark Leckey SEE, WE ASSEMBLE continues until 26 June 2011.

serpentinegallery.org

Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoying reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary arts and culture you should read us in print too. In the spirit of celebration, Issue 41 includes a piece on Guggenheimn Bilbao where the Luminous Interval features internationally acclaimed artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith and Damien Hirst, ArtAngel's new commission at MIF, Bruce Nauman's retrospective at The Kunsthalle Mannheim and Cory Arcangel's Pro Tools at the Whitney in NYC. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Image:
Mark Leckey
Installation view, Serpentine Gallery, London
(19 May – 26 June 2011)
© 2011 Mark Blower

Monday, 6 June 2011

Clare Mitten, Cara Nahaul and Corinna Till: Jerwood Painting Fellowships, Jerwood Visual Arts, London.

Jerwood Painting Fellowships 2011
Review by Laura Bushell

Jerwood Visual Arts’ support for painters has morphed over the years from an annual cash prize through to the group show format of Jerwood Contemporary Painters to the inauguration of the Jerwood Painting Fellowships this year. These awards afford three selected early career painters the time, funds, guidance and exposure to undertake some sustained professional progression, developing and contextualizing their practice under the guidance of a mentor before exhibiting their work. Jerwood have sought to address exactly what it is today’s upcoming painters need to progress, and the results are now on display. As such, this collection of works by the three graduates - Clare Mitten, Cara Nahaul and Corinna Till – does feel slightly disparate. Walking into the gallery we encounter three separate mini solo shows, each to be encountered each in their own right. This will obviously be coloured by the viewer’s familiarity (or lack thereof) with the artists’ work, deciding whether the work displayed is viewed as a product influenced by the Fellowship’s developmental aims or as a snapshot of an upcoming artist deemed outstanding enough to receive the award.

Cara Nahaul’s stripped back portraits of people hailing from her father’s homeland of India line the bright open space of the Jerwood foyer. There’s a recognizable image of Benazir Bhutto along with family portraits and a group of men lined up as if for a school photo. Each face is pared down to minimal strokes of pale thin layers of oils and contrasting inky darks for hair and eyes. Up close the edges look feathered, the planes of the face undefined, yet from afar they resolve into high-contrast visages with striking gazes all looking in on the viewer - flashes of warm orange in Nahaul’s otherwise subdued palette uniting them across the walls of the gallery. Although Nahaul’s decision-making when it comes to palette and paint application is distinctly subjective, the images themselves, or at least the sense that they came from photography, lend a documentary form to the works.

Clare Mitten takes recognizable mechanical forms – a watch, a car, a tank – and utilises painterly representation to process them into abstraction. Her paper and card maquettes ditch the slickness of their mechanical counterparts in favour of a characterful handmade cardboard construction and soft, dirty pastel hues. The form of these objects is then abstracted again into flat planes of colour; blown up and modified to create wall-sized collages that displace their source material into geometry whilst still retaining just enough formal resonance of their original. Less indexical to the real world than Nahaul’s paintings from photographs, Mitten’s collages deal with the notion of equivalence in the flattened representation of the painted paper surface. There’s no shading, texture or visible brush marks to be found here, it’s more about the shape of the painted plane and the interplay of colour.

Corinna Till’s painted representations of front gates don’t actually appear in the exhibition. Instead, the painted image is repositioned back into the site of its inspiration, held in place between the two gateposts by a person crouching behind it with only their fingertips giving them away. A photograph is taken and these are displayed, large scale and propped against the walls of her space. Nearby, a desk, complete with reading lamp, invites viewers to sit and flick through a sketchbook of ideas that eventually occupied those spaces between posts, inspired by the suburban architecture that divides public thoroughfares from private property, marking the threshold to a person’s territory. Thresholds, both metaphorically in her work and also stylistically between the media she uses, are mutable in Till’s work as she slides between the real and the represented material world.

The Jerwood Painting Fellowships exhibition is really a portrait in itself of three contemporary practitioners rather than a show on a theme. It radiates with ideas, some of which cross over between artists, others that don’t, and of course some which are stronger than others. Only time will tell what happens to these three after the award, as more painters fill the ranks of Fellowship graduates, and it’s an exciting prospect both for painters and those who enjoy looking at their work.

Jerwood Painting Fellowships is on display until 26 June.

jerwoodvisualarts.org

Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoying reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary arts and culture you should read us in print too. In the spirit of celebration, Issue 41 includes a piece on Guggenheimn Bilbao where the Luminous Interval features internationally acclaimed artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith and Damien Hirst, ArtAngel's new commission at MIF, Bruce Nauman's retrospective at The Kunsthalle Mannheim and Cory Arcangel's Pro Tools at the Whitney in NYC. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Image:
Surrogate A, 2011 by Corinna Till

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Re-examined Territories: the British Council present Mike Nelson, Venice Biennale


Venice is the biggest date in the art world diary and Mike Nelson’s installation, conceived and created in the British Pavilion is no different. Nelson has been working in Venice for a period of three months and the completed work was launched to the press on 1 June and will be open to the public for the duration of the exhibition from 4 June – 27 November.

Born in Loughborough in 1967, Nelson has already received considerable international acclaim for his meticulous installations and his work has been presented in major group and solo exhibitions throughout the world from the ICA (London), CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art (San Francisco) and at the Statens Museum for Kunst (Copenhagen). A recipient of Paul Hamlyn Award in 2001, Nelson has twice been short-listed for the Tuner Prize. One of his large-scale installations, The Coral Reef, originally convceived for Matt’s Gallery, London (2000), was acquired by Tate in 2008 and is currently on show as part of the Collection Displays at Tate Britain.

Nelson's large-scale sculptural installations immerse the viewer in an unfolding narrative which develops through a sequence of meticulously realised spatial structures. The weaving of fact and fiction are fundamental to Nelson’s practice, and his constructs are steeped in both literary and historic references, whilst drawing upon the geography and cultural context of their location. Throughout his career, Nelson has constantly returned to and re-examined territories within his own practice, and his new exhibition for the British Pavilion follows the success of his first major solo presentation in Venice in 2001, The Deliverance and the Patience, which was shown as part of the collateral programme at the 49th edition of the Biennale.

Nelson’s, I, Imposter takes as its starting point another of the artist’s key works from the past decade, Magazin: Büyük Valide Han, originally build for the 8th International Istanbul Biennial in 2003. By relocating and re-working this earlier installation for Venice, Nelson has both created a link between the two former great mercantile centres of the east-west/west-east axes, and drawn upon his own histories with the cities and their respective biennials.

Magazin: Büyük Valide Han was housed in a cell-like space within the vast complex of the Büyük Valide Han, a 17th century caravanserai situated in the Mercan area of Istanbul. It comprised a darkroom on split levels filled with black and white photographic images of the courtyards and dome structures of the exterior of the caravanserai in addition to the immediate surrounding area of the building. Nelson has referred to the work for Istanbul as being a parasitical installation that had lodged itself into a 17th century building. Based on the photographic memory of the earlier work, with I, Imposter, Nelson has not only rebuilt the original darkroom but sections of the caravanserai itself, so that now a building, from another time and place, exists inside the late 19th century British Pavilion in Venice.

The British Pavilion is open to the public until 27 November. Keep an eye on their Twitter for up-to-date information on queues and opening times: @BCVisualArts

venicebiennale.britishcouncil.org

Image:
Mike Nelson: To the Memory of HP Lovecraft 3 London, 2008.
Photograph by Steve White

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