We've moved


The Aesthetica Blog has moved:


Friday, 15 July 2011

Inverting Preconceptions of Materials, Ideas and Craft: Jerwood Makers Open, JVA, London.


Review by Kara Magid, a candidate for the MA in Art History at Richmond, The American International University in London.

Jerwood Makers Open is a new open-submission initiative designed to support and showcase emerging artists working in the applied arts. This annual exhibition series offers significant bursaries to four makers to create new works, which are then exhibited as part of the Jerwood Visual Arts programme. This year, the exhibition features four very different artists; Farah Bandookwala, Emmanuel Boos, Heike Brachlow, and Keith Harrison.

It’s a refreshing exhibition as it flawlessly merges together technology and raw materials. By combining together materials that derive from the most advanced technological endeavours and pure substances from the earth, these works scream out that they have finally accepted the role that technology plays in our environments. These works do not refuse technology, rather they boast about its presence and use technology as a vehicle to make these objects appear artistically tasteful. As a whole, these artists produce works with intriguing and imaginary forms.

It is clear that all of these artists have big ideas, and this is most definitely true of Keith Harrison’s work. One narrow hallway of Jerwood Space holds his piece entitled Float (2011). Made up of clay, wood, metal and audio equipment, Harrison combines materials we would not assume to go together and the result is delightful. He claims that this work was inspired by a scene in Warner Herzog’s film Fitzcarraldo (1982) where the main character playing Caruso travels up the Pachitea River whilst simultaneously emitting recordings of indigenous tribes so that he can call out to the inhabitants of the Peruvian jungle. This is interesting when one considers how much time the character saved himself by simply bringing recordings of a language with him instead of taking lessons and learning an indigenous language in what one might call ‘the old fashion way.‘ This is a subtle acceptance of technology – if you can not beat it, join it, and use it to your advantage! And that is what Keith Harrison does. His sketches for Float show he never strayed far from his initial idea. The piece that stands before us today is almost identical to his blueprints that hang nearby. Harrison built this sound system using wood and metal. Audio equipment sits perched at the top of this wooden, metal structure, waiting for the master to control it. The ladder attached to the piece, at first provocative to a viewer, has been left only for Harrison to climb.

At the opening of this exhibition, crowds wait to hear him speak. He comes out calm, cool, collected – in a white Adidas track suit. He settles himself down toward the audio equipment and begins changing the initial static sound that came from this piece. From his touch, classical music fills the hallways, crowds sip their wine and adhere to the beautiful melodies. In time Harrison gets up, nods, and walks away. This was his ‘talk’ and it was brilliant. Words would have taken away from this piece. Harrison wants these objects to speak for themselves. The audio speakers of this structure are filled with clay and because the clay has dried, each looks like leftover pancake batter. However if the sounds being emitted from the speakers are too loud, the clay could crack and break – Not only do these objects have their own voice, they are also delicate, made up of specific parts adhering to a whole.

Farah Bandookwala, Emmanuel Boos, and Heike Brachlow also provide their materials with a sense of life. Bandookwala grew up in India and New Zealand and claims that both of these places have influenced her art. She is fascinated by how materials are received differently from different cultures. She invites viewers to touch – to grab her sculptures reminiscent of sea anemone that will vibrate in their hands. A sign warning viewers of this vibration demands each viewer treat these materials delicately, putting all else aside and really considering their forms. She desires this tactile intrigue from her viewers but there is also an irony here. While these sculptures resemble species in nature, they are carried out using rapid prototyped nylon, glass, electronics and paint. In this same room, Heike Brachlow has taken her idea from children’s toys, those that balance themselves on a pivoting point, begging children provocatively to push them off kilter so that they can find balance once again. Although she takes this concept, she applies it to glass, testing old notions but applying them to new materials. Her glass sculptures succeed in balancing themselves on a pivotal point and they change colours as light is emitted through them. This emphasizes the thick proportions of glass used in order to carry them out.

Lastly, Emmanuel Boos’ pieces exhibit his search for depth in ceramic glaze. Starting in 2009, he developed a palette of glazes and began testing them out on slip-casted porcelain cobblestones. As his palette expands, so too does the amount of cobblestones. Many of these stones are exhibited on what looks like a staircase that is made up of extended horizontal planes. This setup gives these objects movement as if they have the free-will to continue climbing up themselves. What is most interesting though are the paper porcelain slabs Boos has hung on the wall. One piece in particular must rest on a cubicle because it has been dismantled from its holding equipment. However the observer is left inclined to attach this piece to its place on the wall. A shiny gold knob looks out provocatively at the viewer as if to say‘please hang my piece back up.’ This is another example of how the materials currently at Jerwood Space all seem rather alluring. But it is the way that the porcelain slabs are treated by Boos that makes the difference. Some are inverted, reminiscent of curled manta-rays, others are cracked and dry, offering up no depth underneath their surface display. In this way these objects are able to speak for themselves.

There are intense and powerful expressions coming from the materials that are currently being displayed at Jerwood Space and therefore they are worth viewing. For each speaks through its own unique form.

Jerwood Makers Open runs until 28 August.

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:
Keith Harrison Float
Courtesy the artist
Photography by Tomas Rydin

Thursday, 14 July 2011

My Hands are Tied: You Seem The Same Always, The Common Guild, Glasgow


Review by Alistair Q

Vince Lombardi, the 1960s American Football coach once said “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand,” and a very apt quote it is for marking the successes of the subtly original show running at the Common Guild this summer until 30 July. The exhibition is a large group show of 6 internationally recognised artists and is both a serious and at times humorous inquiry into that most invaluable of appendages: the hand. It marks the various conceptual forms the hand can take within art, having been the tool to make the tools throughout human evolution, the hand can seem comical for all it’s bendy cartoonish wriggling as well as marking itself as a powerful symbol in the form of propaganda posters for protest and upheaval. With all these concepts in mind the show itself investigates primarily with the former, the ways in which hands (specifically artists hands) have investigated this most useful prehensile.

After having someone turn a handle to let me in, the start of the show is a comical and absurd wall drawing by David Shrigley, the school boy Glasgow based artist, who not too long ago launched his coffee-table book What The Hell Are You Doing? (2010) It sets the standard for the more humorous works on show by joking with science’s obsession with labels and replaces these with ridiculous titles such as “The Tit” etc. An impressive and well-conceived feature of the show throughout is the hand written titles and names too, written in a soft light pencil, making it feel like a well conceived and curated show.

On the ground floor, around the corner from Shrigley’s work, a loud projector welcomes you, churning through a video reel by Kate Davis in which she mimics a ceramicist’s hands in the process of moulding a lump of clay in a sensual and effeminate way, slowly padding and squeezing the invisible. The title for the show is taken from Davis’ work, conjuring ideas of the hand being changed by the way we look at it, yet remaining the same as always and the use of it’s actions in terms of art making with the innate demand to create.

One of the most interesting and well-placed collections of work on show, both downstairs and up is Hans-Peter Feldmann’s reproductions of early 1930s psychologist Charlotte Wolff’s handprint studies. Wolff worked as a palm reader but found considerable scientific recognition for her research into the hand as a sort of map of the mind; her emphasis being that the mind expresses itself in the hand and that successful assessment of schizophrenics, manic depressives and “imbeciles” could be found upon study of the hand. However the works on display are all from the rich-in-culture characters of 1930s Paris and London: Aldous Huxley, André Breton, Paul Éluard, Alberto Giacometti, etc. However from here, from the climb up the stairs (holding the banister for support as you go), passing the impressive impromptu choreography of Yvonne Rainer’s Hand Movie (1966) the hand begins to come to life, to gain character and personality. Who could have known that Aldous Huxley had such an impressive heavy paw compared to Madame Nijinski’s light slender triangle? How is Douglas Gordon’s fat hairy finger beckoning you not hilariously stupid and timed like a comedians one-liners?

In connection with video works like Rainer and Gordon’s is Olafur Eliasson’s The Moving Museum (2009), an amazingly well choreographed black backdrop video, akin to the “Daft Hands” phenomenon that stormed Youtube years ago. The hands move in a witty dance of a strange poetic sign language where they act like an Ikea instruction manual: turn twice, pivot, clamp and return to stage 1. A funny spectacle compared to Gordon’s other dry photos.

Two pieces that relate to a more masculine stereotype of strength and power within the context of hands are Richard Serra’s Hand Catching Lead, Hands Tied, Hands Scraping (all 1968) and Gabriel Orozco’s My Hands Are My Heart (1991). Serra’s videos are all about dirt, manipulation and struggling with a medium, be it lead, rope or coal. They seem imbued with the strength his more famous sculptural works suggest, while Orozco’s photo, though seemingly soft and gentle, still has the muscular arms, which holds the newly sculpted clay heart and implies a back-to-basics form of moulding and hand crafting works.

The show leaves a lasting impression. At times you will raise your palm to your face and look at those lines. What can you see? A well travelled hand with the thick skin of work and wear or a supple clean slate waiting for adventures? As you leave, you can appreciate the handles texture on your palm on your way out of the door.

You Seem The Same As Always runs until 30 July.

thecommonguild.org.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:
Courtesy the artist
Photography by Kendall Koppe

Sibylle Bergemann: The Poetry of Polaroids: C/O Berlin.


Review by Katerina Valdivia Bruch

Quoting Susan Sontag in her book On Photography (1977), “All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person's (or thing's) mortality, vulnerability, mutability“: polaroids are the medium par excellence to enter these doors of privacy and intimacy. This summer, C/O Berlin pays homage to Sibylle Bergemann, one of the most exciting German photographers of the last decade, who died from cancer in November 2010. The solo exhibition Polaroids, presents for the first time 140 polaroids taken by the artist and in them, it reveals part of Bergemann’s private dreams: young girls with red coloured lips starring at the camera, a plastic ballerina turning in front of a mirror, a small rabbit behind a tree, models in romantic costumes or Soviet emblems in a cryptic atmosphere. All these are blurred and dream-like moments of poetic nostalgia, that the photographer caught with her polaroid camera, as a hunter of vanishing moments. Her photographs transport us to timeless spaces, as if the moment could be endless and last forever. The sensitive eye of Sibylle Bergemann captured moments of intimacy, and delicate, symbolic landscapes, such as a man sitting in a tram in East Berlin or a train passing in front of a man somewhere in the streets of Lisbon.

Brought up in former East Berlin, Sibylle Bergemann worked in the editorial department of the East German periodical Das Magazin. Her career as a photographer began in 1966 after she met photographer Arno Fischer, who became both her mentor and her life companion. In 1967, she joined the photographer´s collective Direkt, a group that was linked to documentary photography, concentrating its work on showing things as they were without any make-up or particular staging.

Yet Sibylle Bergemann’s photographs got attention in a mostly editorial setting, due to her regular contributions to the magazine Sibylle, an acclaimed fashion magazine based in East Germany. In fact, working as a fashion photographer in the German Democractic Republic was not an easy task, as most of the photographers had to justify their image selection to the Central Committee. One of the characteristics of her work at this period was her patience and attention to detail. An example of this is the series of photographs about the construction of the Marx-Engels monument behind the Palast der Republik (Palace of the Republic), which she documented between 1975 and 1986.

In 1990, Bergemann was a founding member of Ostkreuz, a photography agency focussing on author photography with a similar model of organisation and cooperative work as the Parisian photo agency Magnum. In 1994, she became member of the Akademie der Künste (German Academy for the Arts). Sibylle Bergemann was a regular collaborator of the magazines Geo, Stern and Spiegel, for which she did commissioned works.

Since 2000, C/O Berlin – International Forum for Visual Dialogues has offered an international platform for photography, design and architecture. It is also a place for discussion on current issues on photography and art criticism. The institution gives young emerging photographers the opportunity to present their work alongside established photography artists, and renowned photographers such as Nan Goldin, Robert Mapplethorpe, Annie Leibovitz and the photo agency Magnum, who have exhibited their work there. The venue, the historical building of the former Postfuhramt (Post Office) in Berlin-Mitte, has been used for contemporary art exhibitions from 1997 until 2011.

2012 will see C/O Berlin move to another location, as the entire building will become a luxurious hotel and appartments. The future location is uncertain, but we hope that they find the appropriate venue and continue showing the best of the world of photography.

Sibylle Bergemann: Polaroids runs until 4 September.

co-berlin.info

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 Estate of Sibylle Bergemann & OSTKREUZ Agentur der Fotografen, Berlin

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

United by Difference: Michelangelo Pistoletto’s The Mirror of Judgement: Serpentine Gallery, London.


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

The Serpentine Gallery currently boasts an all-encompassing installation by Michelangelo Pistoletto, an artist renowned for his contribution to conceptual art, as well his founding role in the Arte Povera movement. The exhibition, entitled The Mirror of Judgement, incorporates various aspects from earlier works, such as Minus Objects (1966) and Third Paradise (2003-4), into a coherent and spiritual experience based on mathematical precision. The work focuses on our own perceptions of religion and culture, and thus depends on our participation as viewers.

A labyrinth, constructed from large pieces of loosely-folded, intertwining cardboard, runs throughout the course of the exhibition, effectively unifying the space while simultaneously changing how we perceive the architecture. The view above the undulating twists and folds in the collected mass of cardboard heightens the principle of motion, of which is already enforced by our own movement. The labyrinth is not intended to exist as a direct path, but a complicated one – one that slows our pace, and provides us time to conceptualize the exhibition as a personal experience. It serves as a spiritual journey towards knowledge, guiding us through four private chambers, each containing a sculpture or item associated with the prayer of a different religion. Pocketed in the side galleries of the Serpentine, these alcoves pertaining to Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Islam are exhibited with distance, yet banded together by the winding labyrinth. This is evident of the artist’s desire to unite people of divergent lifestyles through art. The objects tied to each religious practice are coupled with large mirrors, an instrumental feature in Pistoletto’s practice. Here, it functions as a self-reflective tool, for we must stand in front of it to judge ourselves. This is also the case for religion, each of which, the artist remarks are “placed in front of their own responsibility.” A strong metaphor exists in the correlation between the labyrinth and the mirrors; as the labyrinth offers different paths of direction, we must choose which path is best. If this path brings us to the mirror, per say, we must face ourselves before finding our way back.

In addition to their symbolic value, the mirrors also serve to contrast the space consumed by the cardboard labyrinth through creating more visual space within the alcoves. They also subvert the conventional ideas regarding figurative art through reflecting our own physical presences in the pieces, thus bridging a gap between art and life. The interactions we have with the mirrors are not only essential to understanding the exhibition, but necessary for the works to exist.

The performance aspect of this exhibition is heightened by his trumpet sculptures, the Trumpets of Judgement (1968), which is housed in the two connector galleries. The enlarged instruments are said to provide the opportunity to produce sound that would supposedly resonate through the other galleries; Pistoletto compares this to “Switzerland, where people communicate from one mountain to another.” The positions of the trumpets discourage this possibility; however, as two remain inverted while the other lies on the gallery floor. The contribution of sound now seems implausible in the trumpets’ lifeless state, which consequently exempts them from their role of enforcing judgement.

The artist draws on his previous Third Paradise series (2003-4) in the central gallery, through incorporating its signature, the New Infinity Sign (2005), a symbol of three circles intersecting twice that crowns the head of an obelisk, its body adorned with mirrored facades. The central circle of the sign represents the Third Paradise, a combination of the first and second paradises, alternatively known as the Earthly and the Artificial. These are represented by the smaller circles attached lengthwise to the larger circle between them. The mirrored facades of the vertical structure create an illusion of transparency by bringing forth the image of the black sculptural line, which would otherwise remain concealed behind the structure. As the mirrored section becomes mathematically aligned with the rest of the circle, its shape becomes a visual symbol of a womb, which, penetrated by the phallic obelisk, creates a double meaning for the new Third Paradise. In addition to its embodiment of nature and industry, the New Infinity Sign also represents the creation of a new humanity, one that inhabits an increasingly globalize society. Thus, while the Third Paradise symbolizes the position we choose in the future, it also reminds us of our moral obligation to protect the deterioration of the first paradise by its successor.

Michelangelo Pistoletto The Mirror of Judgement runs until 17 September.

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:
Image courtesy of Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella
Photograph: Enrico Amici

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Simplicity of Existence: Daisy Boman: Encounter: Halcyon Gallery, New Bond Street.


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

Daisy Boman’s second exhibition entitled Encounter featured 20 new works from the Tahrisquare series which was inspired by the recent events in Egypt. The defining feature of Boman’s oeuvre of work is the presence of her Bo-Men. All of these small, pocket-sized, faceless figures are hand made of clay by the artist without faces or differentiating identities. But over time, and during the process of creation, each figure acquires different cracks or marks of exposure that lends them uniqueness similar to the burden each person carries. Even within their anonymity, they are unified. All white in colour, there is no distinction between them because in the end, race should not matter and thus the colour is blank. Unified by their anonymity, they are additionally united by their square blockheads. The presence of these square heads further represents that we are each products of the same mould; the one society has deemed we should live in. These figures of Boman’s creation visually represent the binding thread of humanity and ask to be seen for what they are, not who they are, proving that we aren’t as separate as we think we are.

The Bo-Men are individualized in their unity, as they are each in a diverse variety of poses: sitting, standing, cheering, helping, watching, jeering or offering support. They can be viewed as helping or hindering each other and their actions are positive and negative, much like those of humanity. The common theme of each of Boman’s pieces is that all of her figures are moving upwards, striving towards a common goal or purpose. Rather than allow for their personal appearance of identification to define the work, the individual movements and actions of the Bo-Men in the situations that they are in, speaks for itself and defines the work as an expression of the simplicity of existence. As the Bo-Men traverse the surfaces on which they exist, the propel forward and upward while performing a variety of activities that often times break the expected limits of the picture plane. By breaking with the conventions of containment as applied to the production of art, Boman allows for her Bo-Men to come to life. In each of the pieces, the Bo-Men have given simple, minimalist obstacles to overcome and assist them on their journey from ladders to ropes and metal posts to assist with the climb, they always work together, watching out for each other and assisting with the task at hand.

In Anytime, Anywhere the ‘Bo-Men’ work together to assist each other in climbing up a ladder to reach the ledge of the picture plane. The figures can be seen as struggling against one another, but also helping to strive for the common goal and reach their unknown destination. There is a sense of struggling for the self, but also overcoming that selfish desire to work together, despite differences to achieve success through unity and climb the ladder. The ladder serves as a symbol of ascension, progress and achieving a goal, but also can symbolize a search for something outside of the material world. Ladders, grounded in the earth, reach upward, towards a spiritual, unknown realm and in doing so, the search for something more than the world consumerism has created for us is possible and possible just there, up the ladder and over the wall. And it is this message of ascension and hope that the Bo-Men, not only in this piece, but also in every piece, provide and convey.

Within these figures, there is a sense of utopia, what could be in a world where race, religion, beliefs or not, convictions and ideas no longer matter as we can see that we aren’t really as different as we believe we are. All striving towards the same common goals and desires, it is only through distinctions of humanity’s own creation that we separate ourselves. The Bo-Men, beautiful in their place as relief sculptures in the walls of a gallery, but the entire exhibition of Boman’s work is mean to teach us about ourselves and the struggles we are always attempting to overcome. Every day is a struggle to survive, to persevere, to achieve, to succeed or even to just get by. Even with the rather negative inspiration for the pieces being that of racism and violence, there is a sense of hope in humanity present in the work. As the figures struggle together, they seem to watch over one another, as they, like us, carries the burden of life in their being. The unified theme of moving upwards is a beacon of hope, and reminder to us all, that through uniting ourselves, we can achieve something better.

Daisy Boman, Encounter ran from 24 June - 7 July. Currently on show at Halcyon Gallery is Modern Master Prints and Works on Paper until 12 August.

halcyongallery.com
daisyboman.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:
Democratie – Tahrirsquare 4 (2011) (Detail)
Daisy Boman
Ceramic, Acrylic case
40 x 40 x 40 cm
Courtesy of Halcyon Gallery

Monday, 11 July 2011

The Brontës Went to Woolworths - Neil Shawcross: Penguins, The Naughton Gallery, Queen's University, Belfast.


Review by Angela Darby

The affordable Penguin paperback book, now in its 76th year of production, was originally created to bring literature to the masses, simultaneously crossing all age and class divides. Unlike any other publishing company of it’s time Penguin’s emphasis was on the brand, visually reassuring the reader that their choice was a quality purchase by packaging their books in distinctively designed covers. Neil Shawcross’ exhibition Penguins in The Naughton Gallery at Queen’s University, Belfast has been programmed to celebrate the company’s remarkable achievement. The artist has documented and re-interpreted his own private collection of Penguin publications in bright acrylic paint and hand written text, focusing on the classic three, horizontal band design created by Edward Young who also drew the first version of the Penguin logo.

Shawcross’ project is extensive and has been ongoing for the past two decades. His restricted palette is tied directly to the traditional colour codes that differentiate between the literary genres: green for crime, orange for fiction, dark blue for biography and so on. The gallery showcases eighteen large-scale paintings and one mono-print from this series. Executed in bold washes of royal marine, vermillion orange, sunset yellow and cerise, Shawcross defies the formal constraints of the original cover’s design. In a physical act of carefree abandonment a charcoal pencil scrawls the text in spindly writing and the famous logo is rendered with a quirky naivety.

This style of applying paint and text is the artist’s trademark, as instantly recognizable as Young’s logo. Through this distinctive reinterpretation Shawcross claims ownership of his own collection whilst at the same time paying homage to a literary champion. Working wet on wet, Shawcross encourages the pigments to bleed out of Young’s golden-section containers in an act of Modernist assertion. This is not an act of defilement however, simply a personal reframing. One of the paintings in particular, an autobiography of the English Impressionist painter Dame Laura Knight entitled Oil Paint and Grease Paint Volumes I II & III (pictured), captures the distinctive qualities of the exhibition and Penguins output. Not many books on female artists would have been freely available in the 1940s. Three volumes are quite extraordinary - even for someone who would become the official war artist at the Nuremberg Trials. This triptych forms a library of attractive surfaces that are devoid of their literary content, a mute beauty that intrigues and entices the viewer to search out the original publication. Just as a successful poster campaign can coax us to buy a product, the subliminal nature of the work encourages you to share Shawcross’ love for his collection. A majority of the paintings in The Naughton Gallery, eleven in total, are vermillion indicating that the artist’s reading habits may lean towards the fictional genre.

One of the paintings from the orange series entitled The Brontës Went to Woolworths by the author Rachel Ferguson intrigues with its play on two iconic names and the fact that, with the demise of one of the named institutions, it could not be written today. At a time when the physical is being superseded by the virtual, this exhibition both celebrates the materiality of existing books and the transcendental immaterial worlds they contain encouraging readers to seek out the books that have been highlighted.

Neil Shawcross Penguins The Naughton Gallery at Queen’s University Belfast runs until 28 August.

naughtongallery.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:
Neil Shawcross
Oil Paint and Grease Paint Volumes I, II & III(2004)
Courtesy the artist and The Naughton Gallery

Blog archive