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Friday 2 September 2011

Opens Today | Briefly Yours | Maria & Natalia Petschatnikov | WAGNER + PARTNER | Berlin

There are some things we only own for a while, without even noticing it. Following on from the acclaimed installation Sidewalk (2009) WAGNER + PARTNER is proud to present the latest exhibition from Maria & Natalia Petschatnikov Briefly Yours. The exhibition connects paintings and objects from three of the Petschatnikovs most recent series, all which subtly investigate the notion of possession and ownership. As so often in their work it is the banal everyday things that are artistically explored and viewed from new angles.

City dogs and their owners, retractable leashes and the obligatory pile on the sidewalk. These are all things that are part of our everyday lives. The installation Dogs is a room full of stylised dogs and a network of leashes where the common becomes comical. Whose leash is leading whom here? Although each individual dog is abstract, when they are considered together, Dogs presents the viewer with many questions.

With Cash, a small-format painted series of banknotes, this idea is developed further. Rolled, creased, piled and in a multitude of variations, these notes mutate into colourful craft paper. Like still lives, these absurd arrangements in oil on parchment tell many stories. In the process the monetary worth becomes secondary. 

In U8, a series of paintings of the 24 stations of the Berlin U8 underground line, the investigation expands into urban space: moving across the city, getting out of “ones” station, or commuting to work. Temporarily we own the public space, only to forget it as quickly after use.

Briefly Yours reveals a disregarded phenomenon, an ever-present, fleeting process of appropriation that the artists make playfully known in this, their latest exhibition.

Briefly Yours:Maria & Natalia Petschatnikov continues until 22 October and will be accompanied by an Artist Talk with Dr. Lars Mextorf, writer and curator on Thursday 29 September at 7pm.


Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoy 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. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Image: Maria & Natalia Petschatnikov
Exhibition views: Briefly Yours
Courtesy WAGNER + PARTNER, Berlin

Shift | The Arts University College Bournemouth Postgraduate Show Opens Today

Opening today, the highly anticipated Arts University College at Bournemouth postgraduate show features graduates from fine art, photography, graphic design, and many more, runs until the 8 September. The exhibition, entitled Shift, reflects the interdisciplinary nature of postgraduate study and represents the culmination of a meaningful, transformative and personal journey for the students involved.

Work in the show features Yves Findling who uses screen prints from the Internet and YouTube which, even if they reflect the production run of the mass-production of goods in the industry, have a hand-made character and a unique connection to the illustrator as the creator of the artworks; and Araki Shiro who investigates the complexity between architectural form and surreal sculpture and assemblage, creating objects by hand that resemble organic form using inorganic material such as carbon fibre and glass fibre, looking at the relationships between objects and the body in a subconscious form.

Shift also features the work of Noelle Barnett who’s ethereal and emotive series of oil paints investigate the depiction of skin in painting producing images that eliminate unnecessary detail and leave more breathing space for the viewer to work in their own interpretations and Isobel Browse who's practice relates to the domestic interior, a space that exists between house and home. Aesthetica spoke to Noelle and Isobel about their work and what the future holds for them after AUBC.

What has the preparation process for Shift been like?

NB: Studying part-time has meant that I experienced last year’s show, and was aware that we should plan for it earlier than the previous year. I have worked alongside another student, Isobel Browse, and we canvassed the group to establish a title for the show so it could be professionally ‘branded’ with a uniform quality of information to distribute as early as possible. I particularly wanted to advertise outside of Bournemouth and try to get people coming to visit from London! To be honest, I was really disappointed with the general lack of initial enthusiasm for the show from other students. I feel it is a really important aspect of any course, and one can learn such a great deal from the process. I hoped it would build an element of team spirit prior to installing the show in August. Nevertheless, a small working group was established with others joining later.

IB: Absolutely, working with Noelle on a show with such a diverse set of disciplines has been a fantastic experience. We couldn't have done it without the fantastic core group of students working hard on all the details of the show.

With such a broad variety of media on display, curating the show must be a challenge. Who is responsible for curatorial decisions and is there an overall theme?

NB: Last year, as the group was small, they had a lot of space and the curatorial decisions for the Course Leader were easier. This year due to a higher number of students, the show is being held in the AUCB Gallery and Fine Art Studios and the decisions are more complex. Due to the nature of the course philosophy there is no overall conceptual theme to the show. Each of our individual practices is supported and recognised in their particular diversity. However, similar concepts and ideas have emerged and traverse the pathways, and for me this aspect serves to demonstrate the excellent qualities of the course.

IB: One of the exciting aspects of the course is the diverse disciplines you find yourself working alongside. I don’t have curatorial experience but I had a strong idea of where I would like to place the work and it is quite site specific. We worked collaboratively with Ronnie Inglis, MA Course Leader and it has been fantastic watching the spaces come together. The nature of the course determines that there is not an overall concept, simply a strong desire to show all the work at its absolute best, enhanced by the pieces around it. I certainly have more experience than I did previously and I hope to be involved in many more exhibitions in the future.

Could you talk us through your work on the MA? What pieces will you be showing in Shift?

NB: I started the MA after completing a five-year, part time, BA in Fine Art at the AUCB. I had reached a point where I knew I wanted to take my work much further, and am so glad I had the opportunity and support to achieve this. My initial aims were to develop my painting skills and knowledge as far as possible, to increase my confidence in my practice and to research how skin was depicted within painting. Going back to look at Renaissance painters and looking at techniques and issues of representation of beauty and ugliness, led me to more in depth research about peoples attitudes to their own and others skin, taking into account advertising and media pressures. I used various techniques within my practice to back up this research, such as digital scanning and watercolour studies. The final phase of the MA took this research into the studio and the development of a series of oil paintings. These works are a response to the research and I have deliberately moved away from representation into an abstract and ambiguous depiction. They are quieter and more reflective, and offer a glimpse of the ephemeral, the experience of the body within the world. I am showing the final three pieces I made, as they mark both a conclusion and departure point within my practice.

IB: My practice relates to the domestic interior: the space that exists between house and home. Initially, I drew inspiration from an archive of my family’s photographs that I inherited, muddled in boxes with hardly any contextual information. I began to question whether our surroundings and possessions shape or mask our identities. Using phenomenology and anthropology, I investigate our response to our domestic space. Architectural motifs and preoccupied figures explore the transient and the permanent, serving to alienate and distance the viewer. Opposing themes of the interior and the exterior, cropped simplicity and pattern, create a sense of dislocation and unease: a series of frozen moments, psychological remoteness evoking elements of the uncanny. I work both in the traditional and digital darkroom and many of my images are initially taken using a view camera. The pieces I have chosen to show in Shift are images that reflect all aspects of my work on the MA, showing a synthesis of both method and methodology. 

What has been your main source of inspiration for this body of work?

NB: My main inspiration is skin. I have read so much about it over the past two years, and looked at so much, it almost became obsessive, staring at people in the supermarket and wanting to photograph them! The concept that skin is a two-way membrane is really important- and that it is our interface with the world. We experience so much through touch, and skin memory intrigues me - how far can we remove our touch yet still feel the surface we were touching- like the meniscus on water? The fact we shed our skin, and that it makes up 90% of house dust, means it is in the air we breathe, so the whole world can be understood as skin. I want to capture the equivalent of our existence in the world, what we experience, and how we feel.

IB: I draw inspiration from a variety of sources but throughout my time on the MA, Hammershoi, Hopper and the painters of the Dutch Golden Age have continually influenced my practice.

What’s next for you after you graduate?

NB: I want to take a short time out to consider my options, but would really like to continue with further research. I will be looking at what options are available for the following year. I have work in an Art Fair in London this October, the Parallax Art Fair at La Galleria, Pall Mall, 14-16 October, and hope to get work into exhibitions in London in the future. I would also like to do some teaching, as I am very passionate about encouraging people into education.

IB: I am going to concentrate on exposure initially. I will continue to make new work and I already feel an intense pull to continue my practice and research at the next level.

Shift will be open daily from 10 – 4:30pm with a late night opening until 8pm on Thursday 8 September.


Aesthetica Magazine We hope you enjoy 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. 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

Thursday 1 September 2011

The Fragile Beauty of Existence | Mathilde Rosier: Necklace of Fake Teeth | Camden Arts Centre | London

Text by Matt Swain

Camden Arts Centre hosts the first solo exhibition in the UK by French artist Mathilde Rosier (b. 1973). Renowned for creating visual embodiments of dreamlike objects and haunting animal presences, here Rosier creates atmospheric environments drawing on her interest in ancient rites and rituals. The gallery is transformed into a series of rooms, containing paintings, sculptural assemblages and film, representing the journey between conscious and unconscious states.

Rosier's work addresses the fear of death particularly in western society and it's rejection of rituals because of their link with religion. She frequently uses archaeological objects as a metaphor for the human mind and there is a clear exploration of the human psyche and a search for material that is repressed. Deeply buried objects or memories are brought back from another time, another world.

It is no surprise then that influences for the work include Sigmund Freud, Howard Carter's excavation of Tutankhamen's tomb and Jean Rouch's controversial film Les Maitres Fous (1955). Freud interpreted dreams as unfulfilled wishes or unconscious desires and Rosier recognises the paradox that you cannot dream and fulfil your wish in the same realm of consciousness. If we assume however that we are viewing the unfulfilled wish, then as the viewer we are also the dreamer becoming part of the installations.

The watercolour and photo collage that is animal mask Regard, dont le jaune (2011) possesses an avant garde minimalism that is soft but startling, revealing an uncertainty in the way that it is presented. There is a strong link to nature although it is troubled and destabilised and there is a sense of the unfinished or unresolved.

In Présentation des ronds jaunes (2011), and Plié, dressé(2011), two dancers interact in a dreamlike sequence, attempting to place time in a timeless state where technology does not exist. The muted colours in Figure rond noir 1 (2011) and Figure rond noir 2 (2011) contain elements of desire and intrigue rather than pure, ritualistic beauty but the impact is the same.

Corps vitrés (2011) is the most dramatic visual display of Rosier's other-worldly consciousness. This mysterious figure dominates the exhibition, cloaked in a dark gown with branches replacing the head and arms which protrude from a glass case as birds rest hidden beneath the branches. A framed but broken photograph of moonlight on trees sits in an armchair close by adding to the mystery and providing a sense of the occult.

The filmed performance Cruising on the Deck (2011) is part of a surreal social experiment. The opening night of the exhibition saw a performance by Rosier in which participants were invited to wear masks, becoming part of a mysterious ritual ceremony. It is these conch-shaped masks that are in the exhibition film as a relic of the performance. The audience chat with each other while wearing the masks, a ritual ceremony resembling, in Rosier’s own words, a "secret society".

There is no doubting the conviction with which Rosier has absolute belief in her ideas. There is a sense that the darkness could be darker - at times it is almost tainted by the dreamlike beauty - but then not all dreams are nightmares and it does give the feeling of being mid-state between the waking world and whatever lies beyond. Taken as a whole, the exhibition seeks a new visual language for dreaming and the unconscious and succeeds in doing so. Most significantly it gives a new perspective on death and the concept that death is not necessarily about dying. It is about moving through phases and losing a sense of space and time, which is all part of a learning process. In doing so it forms a unique connection with the outside world, highlighting the fragile beauty of existence.

Mathilde Rosier: Necklace of Fake Teeth continues at Camden Arts Centre, London until 25 September.


Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoy 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. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Mathilde Rosier Find Circumstances in the Antechamber (2010)
Installation view at Musée Jeu de Paume, Paris
Courtesy Galerie Kadel Willborn and Galleria Raffaella Cortese

Wednesday 31 August 2011

Signs of a Struggle: Photography in the Wake of Postmodernism | V&A | London

Text by Matt Swain

This display, which is a forerunner for the V&A's forthcoming exhibition Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990, explores photographs that make reference to themselves as well as other media, demonstrating the longevity and pervading influence of Postmodernist photography over a 30 year period starting in the 1970s. You can read a preview of the upcoming show in the current issue of Aesthetica which is available here.

The images, which can initially seem superficial, link eras and media ensuring that there is a translation beyond surface depth. They all carry a strong sense of individual style with the duality of connection, this being the crucial link to their place in time as well as the here and now. Scenarios are built or staged and then quite wilfully destroyed, existing only for the purposes of that photograph. The works here, almost 40 photographs, are loosely arranged by theme and are by some of the most influential Postmodernist artists, demonstrating a wide variety of styles and techniques.

David Hockney's Photography is Dead, Long Live Painting (1995) successfully sets the tone, showing a Get Well Soon card containing a photograph of sunflowers next to Hockney's painting of them, effectively posing the question as to whether a painting of something can ever be more beautiful than a photograph. Richard Prince, who has been taking sections of advertising images from posters and magazines since the 1970s and making "re-photographs", is represented here with the Marlboro man in Untitled (Cowboys) (1986), questioning consumerism and the environment in which such advertisements are seen.

Cindy Sherman's renowned conceptual self-portraiture is exemplified in Untitled (1979) featuring Sherman as a Marilyn-style Hollywood star, captured on camera by the paparazzi. It is a defining moment in what it seeks to be, representing femininity in popular culture and displaying a typically classic sense of modernity. One Flesh (1985) by Helen Chadwick also addresses femininity albeit it from a different perspective, showing mother and baby with a golden placenta floating above, a Renaissance-style collage on cheaply produced photocopies in red, gold and blue, confronting conventional ideas about the human body, the sacred and the feminine.

Throughout, styles clash and mingle. The component parts are familiar but we see them reassembled in new ways, giving them new meaning or multiple meanings and forcing reappraisal, igniting our imagination and suspicion. Peter Kennard's Haywain with Cruise Missiles (1980) invades Constable's idyllic vision with a missile launcher on top of the horse-drawn cart. Tess Hurrell's Chaology no 1 (2006) effectively shows a flimsy, handmade model from cotton wool and talcum powder imitating a nuclear explosion. Ann Hardy took months to create her post-party scene for Untitled IV (2005), and then subsequently destroyed it. The interpretation of the creation remains on the surface, discarded urban objects contrasting with balloons, an unsettling, unfinished and recently vacated chaos.

Arguably the most effective work here is Claire Strand's Signs of a Struggle (2003), from which the display takes its title. This series of images fascinatingly builds scenes in living rooms, streets and gardens, an allegory of potentially paranormal activity and faked police crime scenes, staged yet utterly convincing. It is this authenticity that makes this real but fun. You are the outsider looking in with the clear knowledge that it is staged.

The later images possess a certain subtlety and humour not always apparent in some of the earlier works but it all somehow feels contemporary, raising questions about how photography is represented and about the meanings within the various layers. Almost without noticing, we are all becoming more accustomed to the idea of looking at two or more irreconcilable ideas as one and making sense of them. Despite some recent debate to the contrary, Postmodernism is alive and well. Who knew that obvious artifice, beautiful fakery and pastiche could be so enticing?

Signs of a Struggle: Photography in the Wake of Postmodernism continues at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London until 27 November 2011


Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoy 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. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Untitled IV (balloons) Ann Hardy (2005) Courtesy Anne Hardy, courtesy Maureen Paley, London and ArtSway

Tuesday 30 August 2011

Last Week | Haegue Yang & Felix Gonzalez-Torres | The Sea Wall | Arnolfini | Bristol

Text by Regina Papachlimitzou

Setting the haunting installations of Berlin-based Korean artist Haegue Yang against the shimmering undulations of the work of late Cuban artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres, The Sea Wall presents an intriguing conversation between the two artists’ distinctive practices. Employing domestic materials stripped of their everyday use is a common thread running through the works of both Yang and Gonzalez-Torres, unexpectedly obliterating the demarcation between the artistic and private realms.

Gonzalez-Torres’s work Untitled (Water) (1995) proliferates throughout the galleries of Arnolfini. Upon entering the ground floor gallery, the visitor is confronted with possibly the largest of the work’s manifestations in the exhibition: a towering curtain of iridescent beads powerfully evocative of the sea, serves as a permeable boundary which the viewer is invited to appreciate on a visual, tactile, and auditory level. Dividing the gallery space about a third of the way in, the work half invites-half commands the viewer to experience it by walking through it, by running his or her fingers along it and listening to its constituent beads softly murmuring as they rub against each other. In the process, the personal becomes the social and eventually the political, when the work is considered through the filter of its position inside the Arnolfini, the Arnolfini’s strategic location in Bristol’s Floating Harbour, and the socio-historic connection between Bristol and sea-trade.

In contrast to Gonzalez-Torres’s invitingly sensual work, Yang’s 186.16m3/372.32m3 sharing the same gallery is forbidding in its near-intangible frailty. Consisting of equally-spaced threads so thin they almost disappear into the background work, this seemingly vulnerable installation nonetheless commands the gallery space by restricting access to it; and even though the threads could easily be torn apart by a careless visitor, the work nonetheless exudes an air of latent violence, reminiscent as it is of barbed wire enclosing space, forcibly keeping people out or in.

Several of Yang’s works showcased as part of The Sea Wall share this quality of quietly dividing, enclosing, and predicating space. To a significantly higher extent than other artists exhibiting at the Arnolfini, Yang very much inhabits the gallery spaces with her works –works in which the previously empty space they are situated in is as critically a part of the work as the material it consists of. The main gallery of the first floor is entirely taken up by Yang’s VIP’s Union, 2001-2011, a piece for which she personally contacted a number of VIPs belonging to the Bristol artistic and cultural sectors (including Nick Park of Aardman Animations, Arnolfini’s own Nav Haq, and even the Mayor of Bristol), to request for a temporary donation of a piece of their own furniture. This ragtag assortment of tables and chairs, arranged in small groups, thus transforms the gallery space into a silently heaving congregation: the furniture used is both pointedly empty and strangely animated, the close proximity of the chairs implying intimate conversation which is nonetheless countered by the obvious absence that inheres in the work as a whole.

In the smaller gallery to the left, Mirror Series plays with a similar, though inverted, use of space. The series comprises a number of mirror works that stubbornly reject passive reflection in favour of active response, while offering unanticipated alternatives in place of reflected image. Works such as Eyes Off, 2007, Back, 2006, and Ulterior Thought, 2007, each in its own way, defy the space they are situated in by either presenting their own, entirely unrelated image, or by refusing to reflect any image whatsoever. Consequently, the viewer expecting to see their own reflection is thus confronted with an abandoned room dotted with origami flowers, or with a mirror that seemingly prefers to reflect the wall. None of the mirrors in the series quite does what a mirror is expected to do, thus creating an unsettling feeling of doubt in the viewer, an impression of his or her presence being somehow called into question – the very validity of the viewer’s presence in the gallery challenged.

The Sea Wall brings together two artists who, through works of varying interactivity, invite the viewer to explore the role liminal spaces play in the subjective construction of identity. The space occupied by absence or defined by transience thus becomes as much a function of the viewer as a creation of the artist.

The Sea Wall: Haegue Yang with an inclusion by Felix Gonzalez-Torres continues until 4 September.


Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoy 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. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!


Felix Gonzalez-Torres “Untitled” (Water) (1995)
Blue, clear and silver plastic beads, metal hanging rod.
Rue Saint-BenoÎt, 2008
Installation of eight sculptures
Installation shot, Arnolfini 2011
Photo: Jamie Woodley

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