I started off the next day with a return visit to TJ Boulting which I had previously exhibited Stephanie Quayle: Jenga last November. I noticed that a few pieces had taken up permanent residence in the office as we entered. Work of a similar medium was down below Bloom – Juliana Cerqueira Leite.
“These works examine the –often exasperated– gesticulations of individual subjects interviewed by the news as representatives of a certain crisis: a refugee, a soldier, a doctor or aid worker. Gesticulations by politicians and reporters, as they attempt to explain complex issues to news viewers, are also explored in these works. Leite aims to create a permanent register of these bodily means of extending language and the ephemeral articulations that shape and are shaped by the geopolitical landscape.”
I was personally drawn to the mass of gestures created out of clay and resin, the movement of arms fighting to move, captured in slow-motion. The layered colouring reminded me of chewed up drumstick sweets, the two colours becoming intermixed with each bite. Really having its roots in geology, raising these pieces as if they have come from the ground.
In the next space I found framed stills of paused Youtube videos, blurred and collaging gestures, as if the video had been badly corrupted. I found these more fascinating, how much work has gone into create them.
“The new photo-collages and video are both composed of screenshots from these same news sources i.e. Al Jazeera, Reuters, AP, Vice, BBC. These works isolate and capture the gesticulations of interview subjects while exploring the codified visual formats and time-frames employed by online news outlets for reporting on humanitarian crises.”
The last piece in the show I physically couldn’t stand, a series of flashing images, similar to the collaged stills that were flashed for less than a second, you didn’t have time to really process what the images were. I had to leave just stop myself having a bad physical reaction. I feel bad as I wanted to sit there and understand the work, instead it was a fight or flight response.
The next gallery was another return visit to Blain\Southern, which exhibited Matt Collishaw’s – Centrifugal Circle, probably my best show of the year. I came to view the latest Chapman Brothers Show – The Disasters of Everyday. I had big expectations for this show, I think coming back with such powerful memories, and the reputation of Jake and Dinos Chapman who I’d seen last a few years ago at a White Cube Gallery. Instead I left with positive yet mixed feelings about the work. The space, now opened up and brightly lit for the show. Three of the walls were covered in reproduced sketches by Francisco De Goya, which were worked over the top in different styles. The first series – The Disasters of War on Terror (2015-16) saw childish characters placed into these horrific scenes of the Spanish Civil War, which detract from the brutality, playing it down. The second series – The Disasters of Yoga (2017) I found far less successful, less work seemed to have gone into these far more naive pieces, the sketches covered in coloured glitter. It wasn’t my aversion for the material, more the use, the excess of the material, it removes any real meaning or message in the work. It felt lazy, only a few I felt were really successful. Moving onto the final series – The Disasters of Everyday Life (2017) collages, which were more successful, paper collages, placing carefully chosen images and placing them into these horrific scenes, either creating a new narrative, making modern humorous statement. Figures would ignore the drama they are place into. I really enjoyed this series of works. The brothers are clearly playing with the horror of violence within the images directly, trying to mock them, yet never really drawing us away from the original. They are away of drawing the audience into the work that could be seen as a record of a long forgotten war.
In the middle of the space were a series of bronze suicide vests on plinths, these disturbing pieces, surrounded by the potential of death, the bodyless vests, waiting to be worn and set off killing countless people is unthinkable, and we were surrounded by them. The detail and time that went into Life and Death Vest I-VIII (2017) is incredible. I can only imagine the detail and time that went into the research, the near trouble the Chapman brothers could have got themselves into whilst making these pieces.
The last show I felt was a disappointment really, I was hoping to see more than I found. The only bonus was to experience what is now a rareity the sound of an film projector, to hear to the rush of film running through a projector reminds me of films I saw as a child, the rush and clicking of film passing through the lens. Phillip Fleischmann’s show Installation View at Belmacz, was literally just the film on the ground floor. I found the film itself interesting, focusing on the arcihtectural structures of a space rather than how we would usually perceive a space, not looking beyond the space we usually interact in.
A smaller and briefer trip than I am used to, however I did get to see some interesting and some nice cars and model miniatures so I’m happy.
My second day continued at a pace, we decided to stop for a bite before going to the second gallery, Blain|Southern which turned out to have the highlight of the weekend for me. Mat Collishaw’s Centrifrugal Soul (2016). The last time I was at the space it was over a year ago for another piece that relied on tricking the eye. We were first greeted by a holographic tree – Albion
“…a new installation that takes as its subject the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest, Nottingham, which has an almost mythical status. This centuries-old tree has at its core a hollow rotten trunk, and since the Victorian era its vast limbs have been supported by an elaborate system of scaffolding. Collishaw’s monumental, slowly rotating image of the oak is a ghost-like apparition generated by laser scanning. The image represents a living object that is trapped in perpetuity to present the illusion of life. As with the tethered birds in Collishaw’s paintings, it presents a tension between the beautiful and the abject.”
I was drawn not so much to the movement of the tree, more by its sheer presence in the space and how it was created. A projector and a pain of glass at an angle. An old technique in terms of optical illusion. The work was surrounded by a series of painting, colourful birds all perched in front of graffiti, trying their best to stand out from the urban markings, its a fight between Nature and the urban environment.
The next piece actually moved me to tears the first time I saw The Centrifugal Soul
“…a sculpture in the form of a zoetrope, a pre-film animation device that produces the illusion of motion through rapid rotation and stroboscopic light.
The zoetrope animates scenes of bowerbirds and birds of paradise as they perform elaborate mating rituals. The work offers a captivating demonstration of how aesthetic diversity has evolved through sexual selection and also reflects the artist’s ongoing examination of our insatiable appetite for visual stimulation. Collishaw’s sculpture embodies Miller’s idea that evolution has created an inescapable drive to be noticed above the visual competition, feeding our need for self-promotion.”
I noticed flashing light and the whirring sound from another space. I decided to go in closer to see a structure that housed colourful objects, flowers and birds, all slightly different yet the same, running in a series. I couldn’t make that out at first. Then it started up again, the lights dimmed, the motor started up, lights flashing, motion was coming from the bright object. Flowers opening and closing, humming birds taking nectar, birds in full display for attract a mate. I was enthralled and in love with the work. A live animation, true it was limited but it was beautiful and breathtaking. The same motion repeated in around 2 minutes flat before drawing to an end. The 3D zoetrope had stopped, the illusion was over. I was on tears of joy at what I had seen. What usually takes hours, weeks, months even to capture alone happened before my eyes. An old trick that feels so very new.
Moving onto complete the Sadie Coles shows – Riverboat song which had a few more pieces at Davies Street. We were greeted by a figure that we found in the video, jet black, Black sculpture (2017), all the joints are replaced with lengths of chain, creating a very loose and horrifying puppet suspended from chain above. Is this a modern darker Pinocchio, or the remains of a child who has lost their soul to the virtual world of cyberspace, no need for a body, just an identity.
The next piece in the space House with face (2017), a resin based house, that takes a while to work out. As we investigated it, the face started to appear on the roof. It’s hagged and old, something out of a fairy tale, like the house that it covers. I didn’t feel welcomed to it, more interested in it’s constructed. Covered in chain, as it begins to cover the house, more hoops are found, ready for chain to link and pull the house away. It’s lost it’s fairy tale innocence – I know that doesn’t quite make sense. And that’s how these two piece are connected, not so much the visual connection of the chain, more so the loss of innocence that comes from both of them. A child that has lost the colour from it’s body, whilst what could easily be a kids playhouse is being transformed into a house of horror.
Finally upstairs we found a Virtual reality piece, Real violence (2017) I had an idea of how these work, as there’s a show on at my studio’s gallery that has one at the centre. However the this is no game, it’s more simple and darker than that. After waiting a few minutes I placed the head-piece on and head phones. Advised to hold onto a bar fixed to the plinth, I was taken into a city scene, empty at first, thrown 180 degrees to face a man being beaten up, I’m forced to stand there and watch, everywhere I turn I see a man being pummeled, it’s an intense piece to say these least to be confronted by this violent act in the artificial space, which I ultimately agreed to enter.
It was a busy day that ended with an intense show at The Royal Academy last night. I’ll be dedicating a post to that show. Meanwhile I spent the day all over the capital taking in more work in the hopes of informing my own practice and to see whats going on in the wart-world (not very good at that aspect).
My first stop was a little show by Thomas Demand – Latent Forms at Spruth Magers, a gallery I’ve not visited in a long time. He is continuing to look at architects work, a previous show – Model Studies at the Nottingham Contemporary saw him photographing John Lautner’s models. Exploring the work of a fellow model maker. Turning this time to Kayzuyo Sejima and Reyue Nishizawa. Once again he is zooming in for intense close-ups of another makers models. These feel more pure, white creating soft shadows. The image create new worlds to be lost within, you can explore another’s and sharing your own perspective with the world. You can see the pieces here.
Next up I was a little bit let down initially if I’m honest at Blain Southern, coming for one artist – Bill Viola who is experimenting with media. I think I was expecting more than what I found. The piece Moving Stillness (Mt. Rainier), (1979). I wanted more than the one piece. I couldn’t sit for long with the piece, thinking it would change from the mountain. When the invigilator placed her hand in the water (not that I knew water was there, it had a massive effect on the piece, it became distorted. I could see that the image was projected down into the water in a three colour projection. You could see that a DLP could just as easily achieve this effect. However that would change the piece completely, removing it from its time and place in Viola’s practice. The effect that’s achieved is haunting and mesmerizing at the same time. However cumbersome it may look. Sometimes the simplest effects are the most powerful.
Moving downstairs I found an artist I didn’t come to see but got far more out of from Kishio Suga with another old piece Perimeter (1985) which looks at boundaries which we create. Here is both physical in the space and mentally. We look from one angle and we’re trapped, unable to move away from it. Another and we can escape. It’s an illusion that ever more real that we could find in the open landscape. In terms of my practice its the illusion it creates at this scale that excites me.