White Cube Mason’s Yard presents new work by Colombian artist, Doris Salcedo. Well known for her creation of what have been termed, ‘memory sculptures’, Salcedo, works in her own words, ‘with materials that are already charged with significance, with meaning they have required in the practice of everyday life’. Often taking specific historical events as her point of departure, Salcedo is concerned in her work with the processes of remembering and forgetting, with the inconstancy, insubstantiality, impermanence and intransigence of memory and with memorialisation, commemoration.
Powerfully, hauntingly evocative, Salcedo’s sculptures/ installations combine past and present bringing about a process of material metamorphosis. In an interview with Charles Merewether in 1998, Salcedo expounded upon this notion of metamorphosis, describing the experience of the viewer with her own artistic reconnaissance and restoration of the past: “The silent contemplation of each viewer permits the life seen in the work to reappear. Change takes place, as if the experience of the victim were reaching out…The sculpture presents the experience as something present- a reality that resounds within the silence.”
For her exhibition at White Cube, Salcedo presents two new large-scale installations, ‘Plegaria Muda’ (2008-10), and ‘Flor de Piel’ (2012). ‘Plegaria Muda’ is a multi-piece sculpture made up of 45 units reminiscent of a collective burial site. Each unit consists of two oblong tables, one upturned and separated by a thick layer of earth. Surprisingly and somewhat incredibly, through the surface of the uppermost tables sprout delicate, vivid green shoots of grass in a radical reassertion of life.
Work on ‘Plegaria Muda’, loosely translated as ‘mute prayer’, functions as a memorial to 1500 young men found dead in Colombia in 2007. The men, all of whom were from very poor families, had been murdered, and yet their deaths were falsely presented as occurring in combat. Salcedo then, , One feels uncomfortable in the presence of Salcedo’s memorial acutely aware of its commemorative function as well as of the coffin’s inherently corporeal implications.
‘Flor de Piel’ (2012), on display in the ground floor gallery resembles a vast counterpane, ‘an ephemeral skin or shroud’ made up of thousands of suffocated rose petals. ‘Flor de Piel’ explores in the artist’s words, the ‘limits of the fragile and the most delicate within the frame of sculpture’, an incredibly affective piece, begun as an aesthetic articulation of the impossibility of making a flower offering to a victim of torture.
Salcedo’s sculptures function as material manifestations of memory and of memorialisation asserting themselves in the interstices between the realms of the public and the private, indeed as the artist has commented, these works ‘refer to something extremely private’ and yet they speak not only of the individual but of the group.
All images courtesy of White Cube c. Doris Salcedo.
Originally published by Who’s Jack Magazine at http://whosjack.org/doris-salcedo-at-white-cube/
Sadie Coles Gallery presents, ‘Rose Bush’, an exhibition of largely new work by Not So Young Anymore British Artist, Sarah Lucas in a space dedicated to her work on the first floor of the gallery.
‘Situation’ channels the spirit of the artist-led exhibitions of the late 1980s and 1990s with which Lucas and her contemporaries launched their careers. It is a wonderfully unpolished, starkly lit space that is sympathetic to and congruent with the nonchalant, unabashed and unapologetic quality of Lucas’ work.
Lucas has long made work in specific, sometimes remote and often unusual locations and ‘Untitled’ (2012), a vast pair of over the knee platform boots cast in concrete, is no exception as the installation shots, blown up and printed as wall paper, indicate. Lucas’ boots are brazenly, unashamedly fetishistic.
Equally brazen and yet subtly, semiotically suggestive is ‘Maggi’ (2012) composed of a coat hanger suspended from the ceiling attached to which are two lit light bulbs and the gaping hole of an excavated toilet bowl. It is shocking perhaps, how easily we convince ourselves of the representative quality of this crude construction of the female body. ’Maggi’ is only a woman because I see it/her to be so. Its formal concerns, the geometry of its sculpture, its wholeness in parts, endow the whole with meaning, thus light bulbs equal breasts and the vacant, endless, expectant depth of the toilet bowl equals a vagina. Both ‘Maggi’ and the boots seem at once to implicate and to defy a principally male erotic gaze, posing questions, they discomfit, disconcert and yet remain resolutely and frustratingly perhaps, reticent.
All images courtesy of Sadie Coles c. Sarah Lucas
Originally published by Who’s Jack Magazine at http://whosjack.org/review-sarah-lucas-rose-bush/
Bruce Lacey is one of Britain’s greatest visionary, exuberant and eccentric artists. His indefatigable pursuit of ‘making and doing’ has been a kind of personal psychotherapy or rather, a cathartic working-through of his life’s experiences, an approach which begun in his early 20s when whilst serving with the Royal Navy he was hospitalised and diagnosed with tuberculosis. It was during this time that Lacey began to draw macabre scenes and visions of childhood memories.
Co-curated by artist Jeremy Deller and art historian Professor David Alan Mellor, ‘The Bruce Lacey Experience’ is a celebration of the artist’s life, and provides a rich and diverse survey of a career which has spanned more than 60 years encompassing painting, sculpture, robotised assemblages and installations as well as community arts, theatrical and earth ritual performances.
Charting Lacey’s artistic development and reflecting the various stages of his life, ‘The Bruce Lacey Experience’ begins in Gallery 3 where Lacey has brought together an extraordinary collection of objects, images and multi-coloured costumes from his childhood years with paintings he made whilst studying at the Royal Academy in the 1950s. Objects such as a loveworn Indian doll Lacey took to bed every night as a young boy and cuddled, a miniature Japanese robot, the first ever manufactured, a little trike and a grubby plastic doll sitting placidly in a tiny toy pram are seen alongside a new work, the delightfully disconcerting, ‘Genetic Installation’ (2012) a visual representation of the artists family, consisting of a vast penis suspended from the ceiling spewing the artist’s nine children as baby dolls, spawn of former partner Jill Smith and current wife Pat Lacey.
Gallery 1 presents archival material relating to Lacey’s first forays as a performance artist, producing satirical stage acts and mechanical constructs, appearing alongside the likes of Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and The Alberts. He also famously appeared as George Harrison’s flute playing gardener in The Beatles’ film Help! Also on display in Gallery 1 is a motley crew of life size kinetic automatons, ‘electrical actors’, playing the parts of Old Moneybags, Clockface, Electric Man and Rosa Bosom. At once brilliant and terrifyingly, risibly bizarre Lacey referred to such absurd assemblages as ‘hate objects, fear objects and love objects, ‘totems and fetishes’ designed to illustrate how ‘I feel about life, about people’.
Fear of a frightening future, of the loss of man’s very individuality, and a desperate desire to regain a lost, even primitive sense of harmony with the rhythms of the natural world, help to explain Lacey’s self-immersion in the 1970s into the realm of ritual. Lacey revered pre-historic man in creating not for purely aesthetic ends but with the purpose of effecting change within the world around him. He committed himself to becoming a spiritual medium, aligned with the mysterious forces of nature. In the 1980s he returned to painting, creating shamanistic, cosmic inspired designs, visually effervescent and characterised by a kind of electric energy.
A remarkable exhibition by a truly unique British artist whose madcap maxim I wholeheartedly stand by: ‘the most important thing to remember is NEVER TO LOSE THE CHILD WITHIN YOU!’ (Bruce Lacey 2012)
‘The Bruce Lacey Experience’ runs until 16th September 2012 at the Camden Arts Centre
All images courtesy of the Camden Arts Centre copyright Bruce Lacey.
Originally published by Who’s Jack Magazine at www.whosjack.org/the-bruce-lacey-experience/
Excuse the anachronistic nature of the posts I am currently uploading, they are archived pieces originally written for Who’s Jack Magazine.
Ronchini Gallery London presents ‘The Uncanny’, an exhibition of recent work by Adeline de Monseignat and Berndnaut Smilde. Curated by James Putnam, ‘The Uncanny’ takes its title from Sigmund Freud’s completely compelling and yet ‘strange theoretical novel’ of the same name. Published in 1919 and intended as a mode of ‘aesthetic investigation’, ‘The Uncanny’ is unique not only within Freud’s own oeuvre but also within subsequent literary criticism and theorical output, prompting Harold Bloom in 1994 to declare, ‘it is the only major contribution that the twentieth century has made to the aesthetics of the sublime’. It is an example of one of rare instances in which ‘the psychoanalyst felt impelled to investigate the subject of the aesthetic’. Both artists seek in their work to evoke in the viewer a sense, or vision characteristic of the experience of the uncanny. Defined by Freud as ‘something which is familiar and old established in the mind and which has become alienated from it only through the process of repression’, the uncanny, (das Unheimliche), most disquietingly then has its origins in the homely and familiar, (das Heimlich).
Works by Adeline on display include hybrid creature-sculptures referred to by the artist as ‘creaptures’ or alternatively, on account of their physical appearance and uncomfortable symbolic potential, as ‘Hairy Eyeballs’. Silently seductive and tantalising in their tactility Adeline’s glass spheres filled with vintage fur are indupitably intriguing. Simultaneously (for many at least) attractive and repulsive, they seem to operate in the interstices between the animate and inanimate, neither fully subject nor object. Adeline’s creations turn compulsively on the paradox that life and death whilst seemingly insuperably separated are at the same time mere recto and verso of one another. Provoking in the viewer a sense of radical uncertainty, and in some cases, insecurity, concerning the distinctions between being alive and being dead, Adeline’s creaptures seem to inhabit, in the words of Paul Muldoon, the ‘eternal interim’ between life and death. ‘Lonely Loleta’ is the most ambitious of such ‘creaptures’, concealing as it does a kinetic element, or small motor, meaning that she/it appears to be breathing. Subtle and yet unmistakable, such movement arouses in the viewer a kind of visceral thrill upon first being witnessed. A key quotation from Freud’s ‘The Uncanny’, it transpires from an interview I conducted with the artist, was the starting point for the piece: with regard to ‘the persons and things, the impressions, processes and situations that can arouse an especially strong and distinct sense of the uncanny in us…E. Jentsch singles out, as an excellent case, “doubt as to whether an apparently animate object really is alive and, conversely, whether a lifeless object might not perhaps be animate”’. It is such doubt which renders Adeline’s creaptures so incredibly intriguing, desirable and yet disconcerting. Placed around the room are other such questionably animate/inanimate, uncanny and enigmatic creaptures. Sat on small chairs and wrapped in what might be seen as swaddling bands, Clarisse, Jonny, Netty and Robert resemble new born babies, their size and weight corresponding directly with those after whom they have been named. Made of hand blown glass and mirroring chemicals, Adeline’s offspring, part womb, part abstract foetal form, are in fact deceptively fragile. Reincarnations of past incarnations no longer in existence, they inspire in the beholder a peculiar kind of affection/ affectation meaning that one resists the temptation to cradle the creapture in one’s arms and rock it back and forth as one would a baby. As such they can be seen as manifestations of the ‘abject’, being that which is defined by seminal critical theorist, Julia Kristeva, as neither subject nor object and which arguably, traumatically, reminds us of our own materiality. Interestingly Kristeva also associates abjection with the maternal, since the establishment of the boundary between self and other marks our initial movement out of the chora.
Also on display as part of Ronchini Gallery’s exhibition of ‘The Uncanny’ is a selection of Dutch artist, Berndnaut Smilde’s remarkable photographs, also known as the ‘Nimbus’ series. Stunningly surreal these images depict brief moments of pure magic. Using a fog machine, lighting and a carefully controlled interior environment, Smilde conjures clouds, capturing his nebulous nimbi on camera in a variety of evocative locations. The spaces in which Smilde works are constructed, partly deliberately, partly circumstantially as liminal spaces, cryptic places, timeless and yet seeming to belong to no time. Ephemeral, ethereal, mesmeric, meditative, sublime, elusive and allusive (Smilde has always been fascinated by traditional Dutch seascape paintings and was inspired by one in particular that his grandparents owned), Smilde’s clouds, along with the location in which they are shot- anywhere from a disused Hamam to an old post office, a deserted gallery space or a warehouse stacked with shipping containers- evoke, as well as Adeline’s creaptures, an experience of the uncanny, a sense in which we are seeing something that is at once familiar and unfamiliar, present and absent, visible and yet in an instant, invisible. Such scenes seem to culminate in a paradoxical aesthetic both of anxiety and of hope. Rain clouds, traditionally ominous signifiers of potential menace seem also in Smilde’s work inherently magical and to indicate a positive aesthetic intervention, reminding the viewer that if you put your mind to it, anything is possible- the sky is the limit after all.
On Thursday 17th January I was lucky enough to attend the opening of ‘Future Map’, an exhibition of the work of 50 graduating BA and MA students selected from across the University of the Arts London. Now in its 15th year, ‘Future Map’ is London’s leading annual exhibition of the finest emerging talent. Curated by University of the Arts London College Deans Mark Dunhill (Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design) and George Blacklock (Chelsea College of Art and Design) Future Map 12 seeks to reflect the breadth and diversity of Fine Art practices across the University, and in addition include works from other subject areas in order to encourage debates surrounding the inter-, multi-, and cross disciplinary nature of work currently being produced.
Sophie Chamberlain, a BA student at Chelsea College of Art and Design was awarded Future Map 12’s £3000 prize for ‘Untitled’, a sculptural piece, made partly of ice, which explores the engineering inherent in artistic creation, probing the residue of the industrial era in order to create something truly unique. Aside from Sophie’s piece, there is, however, plenty of other ingenious and intriguing work on display. My favourites, too numerous to mention, include Linda Krefft’s ‘Ice Lolly’, Tess Faria’s ‘Clean/lean’, Emily Dillon’s ‘Camera Rucksack’ and Darragh Casey’s ‘Straddle Shelf’, playful, humorous, visually witty works designed to amuse as well as intrigue. Casey’s ‘Shelf Portraits’, enacted at the CSM studio last year involve friends and members of the artist’s family being propped up and ‘shelved’ alongside their own possessions, a process intended as an interrogation of the relationship between family and furniture, body and object. In ‘Clean/lean’, Tess Faria presents a peculiar and painstaking performance of familiar domestic activities rendered unfamiliar out of context. I was also hugely impressed by the work of Phoebe and Lydia Lake, identical twins whose mesmeric and strangely poignant film piece, ‘We don’t have to be in the same place to be together’ illustrates through the use of a single adolescent male subject the extraordinary nature of a twin consciousness. Shot so as to appear to be two people, the twins express through their subject the level of unspoken intimacy that exists between them exploring by way of body language and behavioural idiosyncrasy the apparent physical and psychological bond that joins them, irrevocably, irreversibly. What unites the work in this exhibition for me is a sense of critical curiosity, a fresh and feeling response to the world which cannot fail to delight.
Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman filming ‘Casablanca’ c. Warner Bros
Just a quick note to say, ‘Casablanca’ is such a great film isn’t it? I watched it again for the second time this afternoon. Released in 1942 ‘Casablanca’, filmed and set during the Second World War in Morocco, was initially well received but has since grown in popularity becoming one of the best loved films of all time. Semioticians account for the film’s popularity by claiming that its inclusion of a whole series of stereotypes paradoxically strengthens the film. Umberto Eco elaborated that: ‘….Casablanca is not just one film. It is many films, an anthology. […] When all the archetypes burst in shamelessly, we reach Homeric depths. Two clichés make us laugh. A hundred clichés move us. For we sense dimly that the clichés are talking among themselves, and celebrating a reunion.’ I think I agree with Eco although not with the unmistakeably disdainful undertones apparent in his appraisal- a brilliantly emotive film about love, life and sacrifice.
I meant to upload this piece, an edited version of which I wrote for the Mulberry blog (masterminded by my lovely friend Carli Humphries), back in October but somehow it slipped my mind, so anyway, voilà:
The Best of British at Frieze Art Fair 2012:
Frieze London, which celebrates its tenth edition this year, opened to the public yesterday showcasing new work by over 1000 artists from all over the world selected by 175 of the most exciting international contemporary art galleries. Participants this year include exhibitors from countries as far afield as Korea, Columbia, India and South Africa and yet, I spy with my artful eye, something beginning with B. British art is currently hot property and the work of several British artists both established and emerging feature on my best of British hit list. First up is British artist and writer, Harland Miller, whose truculently titled piece, ‘What’s All the Hubbub Bub?’ exhibited by Edinburgh based gallery, Ingleby, is one of my Frieze favourites. Far from the ‘visceral nostalgia’ of Miller’s previous Penguin piss takes, ‘What’s All the Hubbub Bub’ by Harland Miller appears curiously wise and wonderfully witty. Also exhibited by Ingleby is the monumental, ‘Rose-Marie’, a totemic seeming structure made up of a stack of lit lampshades by Scottish artist Andrew Miller.
Thomas Dane Gallery exhibits ‘Arthur Kennedy’, an oil and graphite on linen piece by British artist Caragh Thuring, bought yesterday by the Tate Modern for its permanent collection as well as a piece by London based artist Alexandre da Cunha whose ‘Bust’, which references the tradition of elevating classical busts to the level of adoration, is unmistakably phallic, constructed from a mop head, the hair of which has been elongated and intertwined with yards of hand-dyed wool and confined at the base by a large concrete block. Both are definitely worth a look.
The work of not-so-young-anymore British artists Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst is also well represented. Emin’s emotive and highly sexualised pieces are instantly recognisable as are Hirst’s spot paintings, medicine cabinet and quasi-ecclesiastical insect encrusted works exhibited by White Cube and Gagosian Gallery amongst others.
East End Gallery Maureen Paley exhibits Turner Prize winning British artist Gillian Wearing’s indubitably unnerving series of self-portraits at twenty seven years old as well as ‘My Hand’, an eerily realistic sculptural replica of the artist’s upturned hand complete with multi-coloured painted finger nails. Matthew Marks Gallery exhibits fellow YBA Gary Hume’s placid purple portrait, ‘The Dryad’, while Frith Street Gallery exhibits ‘The Line of Fate’, by Tacita Dean (she of the Tate’s 2011 Turbine Hall commission), a linear sequence of five photographs which capture a peculiarly private, poignant, poetic and arrestingly aesthetic memory of the late art critic Leo Steinberg writing.
Herald Street gallery exhibits an intriguing assortment of miniatures by British artist Matthew Darbyshire while Sadie Coles showcases terrifically titillating work by Emin’s chum and fellow not-so-young-anymore British artist Sarah Lucas alongside the work of 2012 Turner Prize finalist, Spartacus Chetwynd, whose endearingly idiosyncratic rendering, ‘Giotto’s Play’ is evidently allusive and yet wonderfully original.
Lisson Gallery exhibits star British sculptor Anish Kapoor’s ashen, volcanic seeming, and yet disconcertingly biomorphic concrete form alongside Ryan Gander’s playful ‘Sigh Cy Die, Bye Bye Cy, I Cry’, a piece which like much of his work seems to celebrate the redundancy of making art about art as an un-guilty pleasure. So, with plenty of brilliant British art on display, there’s no excuse not to get down to Regent’s Park this weekend.
Frieze Art Fair- Regent’s Park, 11–14 October
Amalia Pica, Catachresis #18 (legs of the table, neck of the bottle, head of the screw), 2012.
Photography: Sander Tiedema
I’m seriously wondering when it will ever stop raining as I’m hoping to venture out at some point, while I’m in this waterlogged part of the world, to pay a visit to Modern Art Oxford. A year ago I reviewed ‘An Unfinished World’, MAO’s Graham Sutherland retrospective curated by 2011 Turner Prize nominee, George Shaw. It seems fitting then, that I re-visit the gallery, this time to see ‘For Shower Singers’, an exhibition of work, namely sculpture and works on paper, by Argentinian artist, Amalia Pica. This, her first solo exhibition at Modern Art Oxford continues a conversation which begun earlier this year with an exhibition of the artist’s work at Chisenhale Gallery, London. Having seen Pica’s humourous and remarkably visually articulate works exhibited by Herald Street Gallery at this year’s Frieze Art Fair (and in 2011 at the 54th Venice Biennale), I am keen to make my annual trip, weather permitting.
Season’s Greetings: A selection of suitably seasonal winter scapes