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Friday 18 November 2011

Bo Christian Larsson | Run To The Hills | Steinle Contemporary | Munich

Swedish artist, Bo Christian Larsson combines sculpture, video, and works on paper. Larsson's previous exhibitions have featured a central work - often a large-scale installation or a performance remnant yet with Run To The Hills, Larsson instead presents a collection of smaller works that interrelate and build upon one another.

In this, and many other works, Larsson employs a wide frame of reference from Western Art History and classical iconography to pop culture and folklore (the title of the exhibition is taken from an Iron Maiden song). Larsson even goes as far as to source his materials from the flea markets and used book stores that surround his working environments. These referential differences are displayed most emphatically in the pairing of two works: Imaginary Raft of Medusa and Pygmalion.

The first of these works takes a poster from the Louvre of Géricault's famous Raft of Medusa painting and multiplies the bodies, collaging the copied figures onto each other. The original picture is exaggerated to the point of absurdity, but at first glance it is hard to say whether it looks familiar because we known the work, or because we have become so accustomed to these scenes of mass violence and destruction in the media. Alongside this collage, and literally illuminating the exhibition is a blue neon work that reads Pygmalion, a reference to the Greek myth of the sculptor who fell in love with his own creation. Produced as if written with a shaky hand, Larsson is acknowledging the loaded subject matter, pulling the focus away from the myth itself, using the contemporary, and often commercial, material to highlight society's fixation with perfection, trying to create something at such high speed that it becomes inhuman.

Bo Christian Larsson: Run To The Hills continues until 17 December at Steinle Contemporary, Munich.


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Thursday 17 November 2011

Last Chance To See | ING Discerning Eye | The Mall Galleries | London

ING Discerning Eye is an exhibition of small works independently selected by six prominent figures from the art world. This year's selector are: Artists, Eileen Cooper RA and Lisa Wright, Collectors, John Pluthero (Chairman, Cable & Wireless Worldwide and founder of abstract critical) and John Deston (The Mall Galleries, London) and critics, Ossian Ward (Visual Arts Editor, Time Out, London), and Brian Sewell (Art Critic, Evening Standard. Each selector has curated one section of the exhibition, drawing their own selection from works submitted by artists and the work of artists they have personally invited to exhibit. The result is an unmissable collection of six smaller exhibitions within one, each with very distinct personalities.

The uniqueness of having each work chosen by an eminent individual, unlike in a group selected show, has earned the exhibition an excellent reputation among art lovers and collectors alike. Speaking about his selection of British landscape work, Ossian Ward said that he "wanted to discover whether there still existed as strong a seam of British landscape art being made in the U.K. as there ever was, given that this genre has not been deemed fashionable since the late 1960s. Thankfully, looking at the hundreds of works submitted for selection to the Discerning Eye exhibition, it seems my suspicions were well founded...The beauty of this open submission show is that not only do all the judges have to pick separately and wrangle over pieces if more than one of us is keen on something, but it allows for differing tastes and aesthetic patterns to emerge."

The charm of The ING Discering Eye exhibition lies in the unpredictably and variety of the selectors' choices. Works of lesser-known artists hang alongside those of more established artists helping to connect hundreds of new artists with new audiences.

A total of 611 works of all mediums including print, paintings, drawing, sculpture and photography, by approximately 300 artists have been selected for the 2011 exhibition. The exhibition continues until Sunday 20 November. Don't miss it.


Carolyn Gowdy, Bird Woman
Joby Williamson, Field
Anna Gardiner, Mauve Morn
All images courtesy the artist

Altea Grau Vidal: Marcant Paraules | Ards Arts Centre | Newtownards | Northern Ireland

Text by Angela Darby

The International Residency programme at Seacourt Print Workshop offers a selected artist the opportunity to work in a new environment and share their knowledge during a three-month stay at the groups print facility in Bangor, Northern Ireland. Over the past 11 years recipients have included artists from Japan, Canada, USA and across Europe. Altea Grau Vidal from Valencia, Spain is the present recipient and her exhibition, Marchant Parules, contains a selection of combined processes including intaglio, relief, screen-printing, handmade paper and sculptural objects formed from rusted printing plates. The artist identifies the works under four separate headings; Because I know that the dreams are always corrupt, Object Poems, Object Books and Visual Poem.

The number of works, attention to detail and quality of production reveal an intensity of purpose that might benefit from being placed in a larger space. Each work is immaculately crafted with processes allowed an importance uncommon in contemporary practice. Line, mark and gesture combine in rich displays of tone and muted colour. Across the picture plane, repeated rectangular forms compete for dominance with scribbled textures as if the artist is revealing her own struggle between defining structure and free expression; between rules and liberty.

This dynamic also plays out in relation to text and our understanding of its meaning. Poems in poetry books have been rendered illegible through the stitching of thread entangled with wool. Written words may have assigned meanings but they are not the things they describe. They rely on the pre knowledge of the reader to decipher an understanding from what is really only the shadow of an empty shell. The creative re-interpretation of the words by the reader is the essential element in decoding meaning and in the process the reader can be transformed. It is this alteration of consciousness that Grau Vidal’s meditative works celebrates. It does this by being infused with ‘time spent’ and is made more remarkable for having been produced over a two-month period.

Several works are particularly striking. Mi tiempo entre dos olas and El mar sigue moviéndose incorporate the same form echoing an inverted arch. In the first version this is a velvet black form on white, whilst the second is a negative rendition; white on grey. Hovering above the black form are small squares of thin paper scattered with the empty rectangles and scribbled notation described above. Across the white form are marks suggestive of calligraphic strokes imposed on pale indigo rectangles. These rectangles imply the absences of words, their meanings replaced by a shimmering, transcendent colour. Aquí seguimos, a pesar de los humos presents white glyphic symbols on a stark, black background. These personal ideograms communicate in spite of being unreadable in the usual sense. They convey an energetic belief that thought conveyed through writing is an essential element of what it is to be human.

Altea Grau Vidal: Marchant Parules continues at Ards Arts Centre, Newtownards until 2 December.


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We hope you enjoy reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary art 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!

Courtesy the artist

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Tactile & Sensory Exploration | Jaume Plensa | Yorkshire Sculpture Park | Wakefield

Text by Daniel Potts

Jaume Plensa has had a good year; Echo, his first public art project in New York City was extended for an extra month by the Madison Square Park Conservancy, in the UK, Chichester Cathedral announced Plensa's winning proposal for the Hussey Memorial Commission, Together, expected to be unveiled in the Cathedral in 2012. All the more reason to take the time to visit Plensa's open-air exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park which is on show until 22 January 2012.

Jaume Plensa (b.1955) describes his current exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park as the most complete exhibition to date. His work deals with the subject of humanity, using the human body – either stating it explicitly or implying it by its absence – in a figurative way. The setting of Yorkshire Sculpture Park creates a sanctuary for the urban visitor from the harsher realities of a post-industrial milieu, with a tweaked and manicured rusticity, on the rural outskirts of Wakefield. On entering, visitors first encounter Plensa's La Llarga Nit (Blind) (2010) – an illuminated figure seated atop a tall pole, the hands covering the eyes. One of the ideas behind this large-scale, outdoor exhibit draws on the early Byzantine phenomenon of the Pillar Saints – Christian ascetics who resided on platforms in pursuit of spiritual fulfilment. Another idea drawn on by this work is that of the artist-guardian, interpreting a society's problems and character and acting as a guiding beacon – literally, in the case of this work. That the eyes of the figure are covered by the hands endows it with a certain sort of anonymity (or rather robs it of identity) which, because it can then be read to be a sort of universal representative of humanity, heightens the sense of spirituality intended in the work. This sense is compounded by the seated pose of the figure, which invokes the idea of meditation. In the daylight, when the figure is not illuminated, the matt finish to the skin - reminiscent of carved stone – further conveys the spiritual with a glimpse at eternity in the sense of permanence.

Near to the entrance of the park, not far from La Llarga Nit (Blind), stands Spiegel (2010). In German, the title means 'mirror'. The work consists of two large-scale sculptures in the form of two seated figures facing one another. The figures are, again, anonymous and therefore speak of universality: no individual identity is discernible in the physiognomies. The sculptures are hollow, thus allowing the visitor to enter them physically. They are constructed from a highly intricate interlacing of metal letters, taken from eight different alphabets. Thus the idea of human communication is introduced and we realise that the figures facing one another are in dialogue. By walking into the hollow sculptures there is a sense, perhaps, of a bridging of the gap: that the visitor animates a silent, universal dialogue, divesting the figures of their separateness. However, what is most striking is the precision and intricacy of the small-scale construction of the letters translated into the large-scale contours of the figures. In this way, it is possible for the visitor to be moved by gaining the sense that the aggregation of all human communication is a universal dialogue. This method, in which letters are used to form the small-scale structure of the contours of a large-scale anonymous, universal figure is used again in House of Knowledge (2008) and Yorkshire Souls I, II & III (2009). These outdoor sculptures allow the surrounding environment to pierce, play and interact with them. It is most effective when bright sunlight is reflected from the metallic letters, creating moments of dazzling beauty.

The indoor exhibits continue these themes of human communication and universality conveyed through anonymity. In the latter case,Alabaster Heads (2008-2010) is, perhaps, most successful in its execution. Here, we find eleven large-scale heads of young females carved from alabaster, arranged and though not regularly placed, facing in the same direction. The universality, again, comes from anonymity: although they are portraits, they have been robbed of individual, physical identity by being elongated. In being so, the universality is heightened by the sense of spiritual dignity this brings – a bridging of the gap between heaven and earth seems to be imparted by it - and this is further reinforced by the eyes being closed, apparently in meditative contemplation. The size and weight of the heads lends extra charisma to the sense of permanence created in the use of material. It feels like entering a temple when they are first encountered. Plensa makes a clear distinction between male and female characteristics. His belief that male traits have caused many of society's problems, and that the future ought to have a more female emphasis, makes this serene, contemplative work one of great optimism.

In a documentary about Plensa shown on a loop in the main building at YSP, we find that one of his concerns is the time of his birth – the middle of a century – and how, because of this, he has to bridge the gap between entirely different ranges of discourses of ideas and trends. With this in mind, it is possible read the universal, spirituality of the human body evident in his work as testimony to the influence of the nineteenth century idea of art-as-religion, or kunstreligion; and the use of text in his work as testimony to the influence of Western logocentrism. Perhaps, their marriage, in Plensa's work is a solution to the problems inherent in both trends. Whatever the case, for the scale of the works and the charisma exuded by them owing to the technical execution, it is possible to engage with them in a very moving, spiritual way.

Jaume Plensa continues at Yorkshire Sculpture Park until 22 January 2012.


Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoy reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary art 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!

Jaume Plensa, Song of Songs III, IV (2004)
Photo: José Luis Gutierrez

New Cultural Identities | The Salsali Private Museum | Dubai

Exceptional numbers of contemporary art collectors are building private museums to display works that they currently store in warehouses. The latest in a long line of these museums is The Salsali Private Museum (SPM) where current exhibition SHOW OFF! features works from Ramin Salsali’s private collection by artists such as Jonathan Messe, Reza Derakshani, Max Sheler, Amir Hossein Zanjani and the specially commissioned A Door to Heaven and Hell from Philip Muller.

SPM aims to contribute to the UAE’s effervescent art scene by being the first space to enable the collaboration between local and international collectors, public, museums and foundations to exhibit a challenging exhibition programme.

Aesthetica caught up with founder of the SPM, Ramin Salsali to find out more about the project.

Where did the idea for the SPM come from?

I believe that art is a global tool for creating tolerance, peace and dialogue and is a natural and logical conclusion of the work of a group of people who support the development of Dubai as a hub for arts and culture in the UAE region. When I arrived in Dubai, I asked my friends, “where can I meet other art collectors?” Nobody could really answer as there was no platform as such. I have always wanted to create a space where local emerging, established and travelling collectors can meet each other and exchange ideas and views.

The museum is billed as private? Considering this, how will the space function for both collectors and the general public?

We have built a dedicated conference room which will provide space for art collectors to meet but all visitors will be able to view a rich programme of exhibitions through our collaborations with other art collectors, museums and foundations. I’m particularly excited about The Magic of Persia, a show which highlights the unique contribution of Persian culture to society which will open in the gallery in 2012.

Could you talk us through some of the key works in the inaugural exhibition?

Absolutely. The collection consists of artworks by Iranian, Middle Eastern and European artists. It’s so difficult to pick the key works because I am very passionate about the collection as a whole. SHOW OFF! features a new work by Reza Derakhshani and another by Philip Muller which visitors should not miss.

SHOW OFF! runs until 14 January 2012.


Courtesy The Salsali Private Museum
Photography by James Harvey

Tuesday 15 November 2011

A Ghost Story for the Digital Age | Dark Matters | Whitworth Art Gallery | Manchester

Text by Liz Buckley

It is by the ghostly light of Daniel Rozin’s Snow Mirror that visitors enters Dark Matters at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester. This haunting new exhibition is an amalgamation of digital installations, paintings, film and a variety of other media, all of which have a dark and mysterious undertone. All the works explore themes of shadows, memory, solitude, loss, mystery and magic, as well as how mechanical and scientific developments are increasingly impacting upon visual culture. What could once only be experienced by a paranormal encounter can now be recreated with technology. However, the major pieces within the Dark Matters exhibition still maintain that initial magic and wonder that came with the first optical inventions.

Away from the glow of the atrium, the viewer is immersed in darkness. As mentioned the first piece is Daniel Rozin’s Snow Mirror (2006), a large scale projection on silk, which gives the first room of the exhibit an ethereal glow. As people pass, their images are conjured in the screen’s snowy static; a spectacle that could only be experienced by seeing it for oneself. This digital installation begins a thread of several quite unnerving pieces throughout the rest of the gallery, such as: Francis Bacon’s Portrait of Lucien Freud (1951), a leaning man immersed in black and silver whose suited body almost becomes part of the shadows behind him; Pascal Grandmaison’s Fake Imagery of a World Upside Down (2009), a disturbing ultrachrome image of a man falling into black depths; and Pavel Büchler’s Short Stories: Human Breath (2002), a shaded in outline of somebody’s breath on a surface, exploring the often chilling traces that human life can leave behind.

There is an overwhelming feeling of what once was in this exhibition, many of the pieces suggest loss, and that which is just out of reach. Idris Khan’s illuminated digital prints show the blurred pages of important literary texts. These are just blurred enough that we cannot make out the words, reminiscent of a memory which is almost forgotten. The viewer is barely able to make out the ghostly figures behind the texts, perhaps symbolising the translucent presence in our minds of those who are gone. The second room holds a host of pieces from the major exhibiting artists. Another by Daniel Rozin entitled Peg Mirror (2007), a large circle of wooden pieces which create the viewers’ silhouette as they pass, by flickering slightly. This for me was perhaps the most playful and fascinating piece of the exhibition, and like Rozin’s other installation in Dark Matters, the piece requires the viewer’s participation to be complete. Also in this room one can find several pieces by Elin O’Hara Slavick. Her photographic negatives are related to Hiroshima, and show objects damaged by the atom bomb. These works highlight the relation between impressions not only left by an image in a camera but by horrific events on a community. Other artists to be found in this part of the gallery include Ja-Young Ku, and the haunting video installations of Hiraki Sawa and R. Luke DuBois.

The third part of the exhibition is dedicated to the work of Barnaby Hosking. In the centre of the room visitors are confronted by Black Flood (2006), a daunting installation consisting of four ceiling-high screens of black carpet creating a cube of dark space. Projected on the inner walls are bands of light which move in a way that makes the carpet appear to be black water, filling the space and highlighting darkness as a place of uncertainty, which may or may not swallow us up. Stepping inside the space is indeed intimidating, as the high walls are dark and consuming. However Hosking’s piece shows that, like others within Dark Matters, using different mediums to create a piece, as well as involving the viewers, can change our ways of perceiving art.

Around the walls of the room holding Black Flood, are small butterfly wings made of bronze, copper, brass and stainless steel. These butterflies make up another piece by Hosking entitled Thoughts: Butterflies (2010), and by creating both shadows and light on the wall with the use of materials, shows the contrast of both the negative and positive aspects of human identity.

Upstairs holds a large group of paintings, drawings and prints from the Whitworth’s existing collection, all of which embody the themes that are dominant within dark matters. Such artists include Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Henry Spencer Moore, William Hogarth, Paul Morrison, Anthony Gormley and Colin Self, among many others. While many of these pieces have religious connotations I feel this entire exhibition is not a matter of Science vs. Religion but in fact Science vs. Superstition. The ingenious way in which artists like Daniel Rozin have incorporated both technological advances with what turns out to be quite a ghostly experience is what makes this exhibition so innovative. The chilling silhouettes and velvety darkness of Dark Matters certainly does create a ghost story for the digital age.

Dark Matters continues at the Whitworth Gallery, Manchester, until the 15 January 2012.

Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoy reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary art 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!

Snow Mirror
Daniel Rozin
Photo by John Berens
Image courtesy Bitform Gallery NYC

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