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.
My next stop was not planned as I found myself running ahead of schedule, still in the Bethnal Green area I decided to pay a visit to the V&A Museum of Childhood. I’d had only been there previously for an opening whilst on a Uni trip, I had the good fortune to see Alan Rickman who opened the show. Yesterday I went into a space filled with nostalgia, plenty of toys that my sister and I played with, looking back further too. I also found an impressive model miniature of a tower block, architectural in aesthetic on the surface. Tower Block on Holly Street Estate (1998). A document and memorial for two tower blocks on Lomas and Cedar Court. Looking closer at the model I saw within some of the flats photographs of the residents who used to live there. Either seeing a residents or going into empty rooms.
The piece was made by three artists – James Mackinnon making the model itself, whilst the interior photographs of the residents and empty spaces were by Tom Hunter. And the exterior shots were captured by Mike Seaborne. The piece reminds me how both photography and model miniatures can be combined to create more authentic pieces.
I stayed a little longer at the museum before taking the Overground to Camden Arts Centre, home to one of my favorite spaces to see work. This time by Paul Johnson – Teardrop Centre who has filled the space with what appear to be relics of a future dystopia, of concrete and various structures.
“…work is anchored by an enquiry into the way objects and images can transition historically, mentally and physically when filtered through the hands of the artist. Gathering images and objects from diverse sources, he then creates small, labour-intensive sculptures, collages and large-scale installations that stimulate imaginary associations for the viewer to decode. Notions of the outsider, rituals and belief systems are often a point of intrigue in his work.”
The space split up into a few areas, I was first drawn to concrete coffee cup lids on A4 – A2 size paper that made up a concrete pavement, as if they lifted as artifacts freshly dug and starting to be arranged before. Behind that is Tower, a structure which runs almost the width of the space, plastic crates placed on-top of each other. In the window parallel Unselfishness an server rack that has been transformed into a totem, the cables have all be severed, so no connections can be made, no information can be stored. There’s a sense of real freedom in the work.
The next day I started over at Sadie Coles for a show in two parts for Jordan Wolfson’s – Riverboat Song, which I went to as part of my research for violence. The first location being on Kingly Street where a short video on large screen built up from 16 smaller. It was the only piece in a room thickly pink carpeted space. We came in as an animated guy was displaying himself, urinating like a sprinkler and playing with it. There’s a real sense of freedom in the work that doesn’t fear to probe into the dangers of modern life. Just from the video
This was only the first half of the show that was still yet to come.