October 16, 2016 § 1 Comment
Antony Gormley’s Fit exhibition at White Cube Bermondsey is a little like a giant jigsaw puzzle that hasn’t quite managed to be put together into one complete image. Each of the pieces has been separated within 15 spaces, forcing the participants who are trying to paste the puzzle into one whole to search desperately around the gallery in order to find the solution to the riddle.
This puzzle is the most perplexing in Gormley’s Sleeping Field where 500 miniature, geometric iron figures lie sleeping in various positions. They are close together but they do not touch and would leave spaces if an attempt to close the gaps between them were made. The piece is said to have been created to challenge the issue of inclusivity and migrants. Perhaps this would explain why each figure seems to have rested its body slightly differently, and why there are gaps between them all, as if there is a reluctance to come together.
Run is another piece that is reminiscent of a child’s game. It comprises of a cast iron structure that moves up and down at sharp junctures like a game where one has to loop a tool around a frame without touching. It seems like a trap. It probably is.
Around the corner is a steel passage, which has aptly been named Passage. The viewer is able to walk through a dark tunnel that has been shaped in the same form of the human body. The journey through this framework is extremely unsettling, with no light at all at the end of the tunnel, I would be surprised if many viewers made it to the very end.
The whole exhibition is an immersive experience. Sculpture ceases to be looked at and becomes something to be communicated with. Gone are the restrictions usually placed on classical sculpture that must be looked at, and not touched. Gormley allows his audience to get up close and personal with his art. This idea of becoming familiar with the work takes on a whole new level when you reinforce the fact that Gormley only ever uses his own body as the model for his works.
While much of the show is impressive, it is a little disjointed and does not flow easily. This may be why each room or chamber has been cornered off almost completely from the section adjacent to it. Where a large lego like structure appears in one room, the next sees a more humanly relatable body splayed across the floor as if doing exercises.
Ironically, the pieces inside Fit, do not appear to piece together. It is an incomplete jigsaw and a few of its components seem to have gone missing. Perhaps this is Gormley’s way of keeping his audience interested for his next exhibition.
Fit is on display at White Cube until 6 November
October 10, 2016 § Leave a comment
Frieze week has come to an end and the Regent’s Park fair must leave London for another year. Every year I find that Frieze Masters leaves more of an impact that its better famed sister Frieze.
For me the sculptural and installation works this year were most memorable. Among my personal highlights were Hauser and Wirth’s L’Atelier d’artistes which constructed an artist’s studio space in the middle of the exhibition space. Another recreation that impressed was a restating of Karen Kilimnik’s 1991 Fountain of Youth, which comprises of a fountain covered in plants and surrounded by luxury beauty items.
Other noteworthy works include Samara Golden’s styrofoam dinner tables that hang from the walls, complete with breakfast pastries and wine. I was also very taken by a work by Mona Hatoum which came in the form of a traditional red carpet that had the world map gauged out of it.
Over at Frieze Masters viewers were treated to relics from Ancient Greece to Surrealism in the form of a sumptuous sofa by Salvador Dali.
Before I leave you to browse the images, I must also mention the Malevich Porcelain and a stunning display of Paula Rego’s work. No doubt, those who made the trip to Regent’s Park have other favourites and I have certainly excluded many significant artworks. But now, the images…
October 6, 2016 § Leave a comment
It is Frieze Week in London and it seems as though the world is flocking to Regent’s Park. Everybody who’s anybody has already made it inside the world’s most famous art fair. Frieze is loud, it is busy. It is alluringly wonderful and horribly intense at the same time. Some of my readers may be happy to know then, that there are some quiet spots of artistic refuge breathing aside from the hustle and bustle that has succumb to the Frieze spirit.
This sense of calm can be found inside the smaller of the two Thomas Dane galleries on Duke Street. Resting serenely up the winding wooden stairs is a small exhibition of the work of Marisa Merz. Her neutral colour palettes and smiling, docile ladies allow the viewer to breathe peacefully away from the heaviness that we all too often find lurking in London.
All of the work on display at Thomas Dane is being shown for the first time by an artist who is still working well into her nineties. On show are portraits, dark works on paper and small fired clay heads. The sitters in Merz’s works are all smiling with their eyes are closed. They seem irresistibly calm and peaceful. Richard Flood has been quoted as saying that ‘twice she has taught me the meaning of silence and twice she has taught me the meaning of peace.’ While many of the images radiate a feeling of calm, there is an undeniable sense of other-worldliness in others. Some canvases seem to have multiple hands moving out of the portraits and up towards the top end of the images. It is not clear what this means: perhaps it is a gesture, or maybe some form of spirit. Either way, the images beguile and intrigue.
Also of note are a series of small black forms on paper. The description sounds ominous, yet the marks exude the very opposite of anything dark and menacing.
The whole show is completely enchanting.
Marissa Merz is on display at Thomas Dane until 12 November
October 2, 2016 § Leave a comment
I have probably been to Paris more than 50 times, yet on every visit I still manage to catch a glimpse of something new. On my most recent trip, I took my first visit to the sumptuously gorgeous Musée de Cluny.
The museum, which has recently been renamed Musée national du Moyen Âge, is most famous for a series of six tapestries dubbed ‘The Lady and the Unicorn.’ It was these magical textiles that lead me into this beguiling building, which, first built in 1334, lies in the 5th arrondissement of Paris. The tapestries were woven in silk and wool in Flanders during the 1500s and are thought to illustrate the five senses, with the largest tapestry being understood to represent love. In each tapestry a women is positioned in the centre, with a unicorn to her left and a lion to her right. This blonde woman is dressed in green against a luxurious red background. The lion and unicorn that accompany her are depicted wearing the coat of arms of Jean Le Viste, a nobel in the court of King Charles VII, who is thought to have sponsored the artwork. There are also other small animals nestled into the fabric that include rabbits, birds, dogs and monkeys. These creatures are displayed amongst dozens upon dozens of flowers in these tapestries that have been created in a style known as ‘thousand flowers.’ I would imagine that each of the animals and flowers represent something and I could only wish to be able to decipher all of the symbolism within the works.
While it cannot be disputed that these tapestries are remarkably beautiful, there are many other artifacts inside this museum that are well deserving of attention. Part of the museum was once home to Roman baths. This would explain the remarkable sculptures of Roman figures that lie proudly inside Cluny’s very own frigidarium. At one stage, the building displays a set of heads besides the bodies of which they have been separated from. This is all the more interesting, as the museum does not provide any explanation as to why this has occurred.
Also on display are stained glass windows from Sainte-Chapelle, as well as works of ivory and illuminated manuscripts. There is also a gallery full of jewelry and regalia. The most memorable of these for me was a golden visigothic votive crown from the Treasure of Guarrazar dating back to 7th Century Spain that had been embellished with pale purple gems.
Cluny is a feast for the eyes, a Parisian museum that well deserves more international fame.
September 24, 2016 § Leave a comment
Russia is famous for a lot of things, feminism, in the UK at least, probably isn’t one of them. However, GRAD Gallery is changing that with its Superwoman exhibition, that presents all things woman during the Soviet era.
The show illustrates the presentation of the Soviet woman from 1917 to 1991. While women have long played second best to men in Western Europe, in Soviet Russia, in many ways, men and women were equal. Russia was the first superpower to allow women to vote in 1917. Moreover, abortion was legalised and maternity leave was also available.
Women were expected to join in with physical work, hence the subtitle for the exhibition ‘Work, Build and Don’t Whine’ – which was taken from a famous poster showing a woman throwing a discuss – definitely not the most graceful or feminine of sporting activities. The Soviet woman became ‘Superwoman’ because not only did she help create the new Soviet Union, but also ran the household and looked after the family.
One of the most note-worthy works in the show is a bronze model of Vera Mukhina’s monument Worker and Kolkhoz Woman, which originally topped the Soviet pavilion at the 1937 Paris World Fair. The monument depicts a proletariat man wielding a hammer and a proletariat woman with a sickle standing side by side. Symbolically, this is a strong statement – how could you have a hammer without a sickle?!
Also on display are propaganda posters, showing women on building sites as well as documentary films. There are also items used in the home as well as collages and sketches of Russian women. On one wall there are a series of Matryoshka dolls, while opposite there are posters that read ‘Let’s liberate women from the kitchen slavery for the work in socialist industry.’
This is a fascinating look at the role of women during the Soviet age.
Superwoman: Work, Build and Don’t Whine is on display at GRAD until 15 October
September 18, 2016 § Leave a comment
Galerie Perrotin in Paris is quite possibly the most beautiful commercial gallery space I have ever visited. The building which is housed in le Marais invites its visitors inside with two grand staircases up to a sumptuous two-storey white building, covered with greenery. Currently its insides are playing host to Takashi Murakami, an artist who has been showing in the space for the past two decades.
Learning the Magic of Painting boasts over 40 artworks from sculpture, painting and even handbags. The show is bright and vibrant, with Murakami’s recognisable Japanese characters and motifs visible from the outset. However, among the bright yellows, pinks and oranges are dark pieces. Whole canvases are painted black and embossed with skulls.
The exhibition title comes from a quote from the Japanese artist: ‘ever since I started studying painting at 19 to this day, at 54, I have been, and still am, in the middle of learning the magic of painting.’ His oeuvre is certainly magical, cartoon like characters dominate the gallery in a multitude of different guises.
Amongst Murakami’s subjects are dozens of arhats, the name of Buddha’s followers. Buddhism is also present in his circular ‘enso’ paintings, which portray skulls and flowers. The artist is not just inspired by religion. On show are a series of paintings inspired by Francis Bacon in the form of distorted, pained figures.
Interestingly, one of the final galleries showcases a series of pastel canvases alongside one-off Murakami handbags. A surprising but fun end to a spectacular exhibition.
Learning the Magic of Painting is on display until 23 December
September 1, 2016 § Leave a comment
The final show in Whitechapel’s four part exhibition of contemporary art from the Middle East is probably both the most interesting and the most frustrating. Over the past year the gallery has played host to the Barjeel Art Foundation in a bid to introduce Londoners to modern and contemporary art from the Arab world.
This final installment instantly feels contemporary. Where the early shows comprised of paintings hung on dark walls, this display is white, bright and airy. However, there is a sense that the staging of this last show may have been an after thought. The viewer cannot move around the gallery easily. There is no flow, the one-room exhibition is disjointed. In the space of just one room is film, sculpture and photography cramped closely together. There is almost a fear that one might fall over and damage a valuable artwork.
Imperfect Chronology: Mapping the Contemporary II concerns itself with geography, travel and statehood. On display are many works by artist’s that have been removed from their homeland. Among the most memorable works is a large tapestry by Etel Adnan who has just had a show at Serpentine Gallery as well has a proposed crystal monument for Cairo’s Tahrir Square by Iman Issa.
My personal favourite work in this show was made up on two white doves. The birds had documents pasted onto them, which, if I recall correctly, were documents that husbands had issued their wives allowing them to travel, and did not look too dissimilar to my own customs forms from a trip I had made earlier this year to Beirut.
Also on show in this cramped space was a hovering reconstruction of a Lebanese building, with a large cactus underneath, as well as a model of a red boardroom, complete with luxurious velvet chairs.
While I think that this series of exhibitions has been wonderful, I can’t help but think that it would have had more of an impact if the four parts were shown all at once across a bigger space. It seems a great shame to me that the displays have been relegated to a space far away at the top of the gallery. Regardless, this final concluding show simply cannot be missed and I urge everyone to make a visit.
Barjeel Art Foundation Collection Imperfect Chronology – Mapping the Contemporary II is on display at Whitechapel until 8 January 2017