Posted: May 21st, 2013 | Author: Mark Sheerin | Filed under: contemporary art, war art | No Comments »
It is one of the most frightening scenarios you can imagine: up to six armed drone aircraft circling your neighbourhood, preparing to strike and strike they do.
Numbers are what surprised me most from reading James Bridle’s blog about unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones. If six Reapers above your village doesn’t amount to terrorism, nothing does.
So in a laudable attempt to bring the long war home, the artist has arranged for an UAV outline to be painted on Brighton seafront, yards away from the pier and other amusements.
It is electric green, a shade which might be to the 21st century what lapis lazuli was to the 15th. Just as they treasured their azure Madonna blue, we may fetishise our virtual, chroma key green.
An accompanying film makes clear the drone was put in place by road painters from Hi-Way Services. And indeed you might mistake the wing outlines for some obscure parking regulation.
But note the masterful way the paint slips down the kerbs between the promenade and the road. It has all the fluid movement and stealth you might well fear from an unfriendly UAV.
Perhaps this is also fitting, but people don’t seem to be taking much notice. Joggers jog past. Coach parties drive past. Bridle’s work is about our ignorance as much as anything else.
You would have to collar every passerby in turn and say, look, just yesterday two men were killed on a motorbike in the Yemen. Did you even know we were at war there already!?
This fact is true at time of writing, gleaned from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and posted along with the satellite view on the aforementioned blog, dubbed with cruel irony Dronestagram.
Drones may be invisible, but we allow them to be. None of these strikes make the evening news. In the past eight years almost 3,500 people have been killed thus in Pakistan alone.
The campaign is remote in every sense. Our hands are kept so clean that, weather permitting, we can even sunbathe nearby. Thank god the victims can’t see us, even if we can see them.
Under the Shadow of the Drone was commissioned by Lighthouse, Brighton, and can be viewed on Madeira Drive, until May 26.
Posted: May 20th, 2013 | Author: Mark Sheerin | Filed under: contemporary art, film art | No Comments »
Aria, film still (2013), (c) Emma Critchley
Viewed through the baking darkness of a shipping container on a South coast beach, Critchley’s sub aquatic film floods the space with a certain amniotic calm.
What you see is a cross section of a small indoor pool. With the ease of a water baby, a bikini clad free diver spins and flips back and forth with no apparent need to breathe.
Meanwhile another respiratory athlete, this time a soprano singer, provides a soaring and swooping soundtrack. Having removed all consonants, it would read like the cry of a newborn.
Breath is the key to this film. No matter how long its subjects hold that for, they both need to come up for air. But it surely wasn’t ever this way in the womb.
Critchley cannot really take us back to our intrauterine beginnings, but she can offer the next best thing. She inverts the picture so the diver appears to be flying.
This sets up a parallel between the need to draw breath and the law of gravity. Both requirements are hard to get away from, as inevitable as the “breathe, breathe, breathe” rule of labour itself.
We may be reminded that in its prehistoric beginnings, art was made in dark places. In chambers rich with carbon dioxide, suffocating cave artists are thought to have experienced visions.
At the same time, of course, artworks of great beauty can leave the viewer breathless. In a case of Stendhal Syndrome you might succumb to gravity and collapse.
Critchley’s film peaks with the sudden appearance of her diver in the near ground. She is tucked into a foetal ball and spins just above the waterline. It makes you gasp.
This is the moment she is almost, but not quite born. She reappears in the background and we can breathe again. For just a while longer we can maintain this state of pre-natal oneness with art.
Aria can be seen in Brighton as part of HOUSE Festival 2013. See housefestival.org for more details.
Posted: May 20th, 2013 | Author: Mark Sheerin | Filed under: aggregation, contemporary art | No Comments »
Links once again compiled for your edification and delight. Please read responsibly:
- I suppose the art story of the week was a Gerard Richter painting breaking records for a living artist. “I just love it . . . I just love art,” says buyer
- But if you’re in New York you may have been more distracted by the face off between Jeff Koons and Paul McCarthy. The Times gives this round to McCarthy
- Also expected to do well at auction: a chimpanzee. Hyperallergic reports on the six figure fees which circus animal Mikki can hope to pull down
- Talking of expensive polaroids, American Suburb X posts a gallery of Warholian photographs, which include shots of Debbie Harry, Tom Jones and Arnold Schwarzenegger
- What the hell are they teaching in Russian art schools? The latest piece of slavic controversy took place in Brussels where Petro Wadkins has ‘pissed all over’ tradition
- Another Hyperallergic story offers comfort to the middle aged. Hrag Vartanian notes the online rise of the 18th century power paunches, plus a one Daniel Lambert
- On these shores we got excited about Tate Britain’s new hang. It includes toughened floors to support monumental Epsteins. Can’t wait to see for myself
- The Guardian comes up trumps with at least two compelling interviews this week. The more recent is this one with the quiet man of the YBA movement, Gary Hume
- The paper also interviews Cornelia Parker who talks about her peasant stock, her anxieties regarding cracks in the pavement, and sleeping with the enemy
- Non football fans look away, but it’s been an emotional week for the national game. Here we see a photo which sums it up . . . Beckham in tears.
Posted: May 19th, 2013 | Author: Mark Sheerin | Filed under: collage, contemporary art | No Comments »
To stand facing this piece by David Wightman is, at a certain time of the day, to stand facing the sun as it sets behind Brighton’s much photographed West Pier.
Indeed, Wightman has given us a landscape every bit as sugary as the canvases for sale down on the sea front in what has been called the city’s Artist Quarter.
The light is pink, the waters turquoise. This is what many people expect from art, a real life scene with an exaggeration of light effects and a strange beauty.
But Wightman’s scene is not real life. It is a composite or a chimera. He takes postcards and begins to invent. He draws cartoons in the classical sense and works up monumental paintings.
Except nor are they paintings. His works are made from highly textured, precision cut wallpaper. They might be called collage, but only to the degree that a late Matisse would be a collage.
Brighton’s HOUSE Festival celebrates art with a relation to domestic space. And the wallpaper does indeed tame this sublime and fictionalised landscape.
And yet you would need a big wall to host Hero. It dominates the small glass pavilion in which it finds itself and is presented several inches from the far wall, giving emphasis to its materiality.
This is not what people really want from a landscapes above the fireplace. And indeed the artist points out he has more in common with Bridget Riley than John Constable.
His acid colours and fragmentary shapes play with abstraction. But at the end of the day, we are too familiar with picture postcards to avoid the representational trappings.
Mountains and cabins and tarns and snowfall: these are all tokens of beauty. We bring them indoors as pieces of art and, in the light of Wightman’s giant pieces of décor, that is a strange convention.
Hero can be seen in Brighton’s HOUSE Festival until May 26. See housefestival.org for more details.
Posted: May 18th, 2013 | Author: Mark Sheerin | Filed under: contemporary art | No Comments »
This show may be just a hidden outpost of a relatively obscure art festival on the South Coast. But London policewoman Marta Zawistowska has reportedly been twice already.
In many ways this show is for her, from the cases full of postcards, to the photos and videos, and the shredded clothes and motorbike leathers on the walls.
Zawistowska is the everyday hero who scooped Kötting off a busy London road, staunched the bleeding in his leg and saved his life.
It was the day before the artist was due to fly to the Pyrenees with Anonymous Bosch in order to make the photographs which would have gone in this show.
Kötting and Bosch were due to project images within a remote cave and photograph the results with pinhole camera. The cave was in Fear Mountain (Montagne de la Frau).
In the event, the majority of images are blurry shots through a pinhole in a hospital room with a leg so scarred you can still see the broad stitches.
But the duo did make it to a cave, albeit one nearby. A friend in Hastings has access to a smuggler’s passage through an arch in their home.
What can you say about such luck, good and bad? Like a pair of neolithic artists, the duo were really determined to get into the Underland.
Plato had some relevant ideas about caves. But he wasn’t prepared for a laptop and projector. He wasn’t even prepared for the pinhole camera.
The ward soon became a Platonic cave with Kötting as its prisoner and Bosch as the philosopher who, with help of camera, interprets the shadows.
But the drama revolves around the crash, rather than the cave. The artist cheated death and, at the press view, still had the scar to prove it.
For me, this baring of wounds calls to mind Coriolanus. Shakespeare’s general is encouraged to show his scars to the masses and restore order.
He plays them down as: Scratches with briers/Scars to move laughter only. But pride is his downfall. He certainly wouldn’t have got arts funding.
Scars remain a great way to inspire pity and awe. When done with artistry, and dedication to a life saver, there is nothing wrong with showing them off.
Underland is part of HOUSE 2013, a festival of art in Brighton until May 26, see housefestival.org for directions and further details.
Posted: May 14th, 2013 | Author: Mark Sheerin | Filed under: contemporary art, YBAs | 2 Comments »
(c) Nic Serpell-Rand
Some things don’t need to be said, unless you are one of the Chapman brothers being interviewed in advance of a rare public appearance:
“No one’s going to get hurt. No one’s going to get injured. There’s no blood involved,“ says younger Chapman sibling Jake. “It’s not spectacularised. No one’s going to find themselves with different parts of their anatomy on their faces.”
That’s a relief. But eyebrows have been raised at the news that the ever-shocking artists are taking part in an event for this year’s Museums at Night. The nationwide event is, after all, known for good vibes, positive experiences and warm inclusivity. “Not for much longer,” says Jake Chapman, via phone.
So it should be business as usual for the pair at the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings, where their event takes place on May 17. But enquiries as to the exact nature of that business are skilfully fended off. All the artist will say is this:
“It will involve folding. It’s gonna be fully hands on. The public will be fully involved. So it should be good. It’s performative, but there will be byproducts. There will be remains. I don’t mean to be cryptic about it but if people have an idea of what they’re going to do before they get there…”
He tails off at the full horror of the possibility, and says: “If people have a prejudice about what they’re going to see, or if they have a presupposition or an understanding of something, it’s quite difficult to intervene.”
Likewise, visitors to White Cube last year were left puzzled as to which brother was responsible for work in which gallery space. But such an air of mystery is just a way of “trying to jam the process by which people move towards presumptuous thoughts,” says Jake.
“I mean that’s the job of all art, really, the job of philosophy. The job of any incursion into normal human thought processes is to try and produce different ones and by producing different thought processes you produce different responses to things, you produce responses to the world.”
But those responses need not be positive. “I have no reservations about the pessimism in the work,” he continues. “But I wouldn’t say it’s a moralistic pessimism. It’s kind of a joyful, pleasant and funny pessimism. I don’t think the morbidity in it is Christian in that sense. It’s not punishing. It’s playful.”
Joyful, pleasant and funny sounds just the ticket for Museums at Night. But then Chapman goes on to say: “I think the idea of going into a museum at night begs a kind of question. It’s more the underbelly to rational sobriety.”
Jake says exhibits may display “truth” in daylight, but “what’s interesting in Museums at Night is they take on a different meaning in a sense they have shadows and they become a bit more sinister. So that’s my way of reinterpreting the positivity of Museums at Night in a more morbid way.”
Certainly, the aforementioned White Cube show had its share of morbidity. In Mason’s Yard a static army of zombie-like Blackshirts could be found admiring a room full of DIY Constructivist sculpture. It may have referred to the Nazi’s exhibition of degenerate art, but it was hard not to feel implicated.
“I don’t think people who go to Jerwood are Nazis,” he protests. “These are neo fascistic people looking at things which are modernist objects, so it goes beyond the superficial notion of it being a [general] audience looking at art.”
My next question is about the tension between a roomful of modernist sculpture and the brother’s frequent citations of post-structuralist theory. But Jake is quick to point out that “it’s not really a binary division between post structuralism and modernism.”
Speaking of implication, post structuralism is already wholly wrapped up in a critique of modernism. So “it’s kind of partially modernist,” he says. ”They’re so intermingled. They’re so dependent on each other even if it’s a critical point of view.”
“A critical point of view has to have an object that it’s criticising,” he continues. “And therefore it’s completely cannibalisiing and consumed by the very thing that it critiques, if you see what I mean.” Outraged critics of the pair, with whom I can sympathise, take note.
This also applies to angry members of the general public who are generally no trouble at all. “I think the privilege of being an artist is – and this may be the good thing about being an artist – is that it’s the work that is the most important thing.”
“You might get people shouting at you in Hoxton but not anywhere else,” he goes on. “There is a relative anonymity you can claim as an artist. I mean less so if you’re Tracey Emin or Damien [Hirst].” But if there’s one other place the Chapmans might get recognised, it is Hastings.
The brothers grew up there and, contrary to rumour, Jake says there’s “no chance” he would ever move back. But having traded the seedy seaside for rural Gloucestershire, he shows a lot of respect for the voices which were raised in opposition to the recent building of the Jerwood Gallery .
“It’s understandable,” he says. “Hastings is not traditionally a rich town so it must be difficult for people to see the idea of investment in culture is anything to do with assuaging the problems of poverty and I kind of agree in a way.”
That said, he believes there is “richness on many different levels, different strata”. In terms of local access to culture, the gallery tackles a certain form of “impoverishment. “So you could say it’s kind of good.” Perhaps Jerwood is already so confrontational there is nothing for a Chapman to add.
Be sure, however, the controversy is never programmed. Jake says there’s no method to their work. “It’s organised chaos. I mean even after all these years we’ve failed to establish any kind of stability.” Working out what to do and where to be is an ongoing challenge.
“The problem with making art is that by its very nature it’s very inefficient ,” he says. When asked how many ideas the pair reject, he says the ratio is “95% shit. 5% relatively alright.” Let us hope that it’s alright on the night or, if you are an undead member of the Gestapo, all wrong.
Jake and Dinos Chapman are appearing for Museums at Night at the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings on Friday May 17 2013. This piece was written for Culture24.
Posted: May 13th, 2013 | Author: Mark Sheerin | Filed under: aggregation, contemporary art | No Comments »
Good afternoon/morning. It’s time for my weekly compilation of interesting links:
- First but not foremost, it’s been Frieze week in New York. Jason Farago captures the spirit of the event and bottles it for the Guardian
- Fans of Dante may not be thrilled about the arrival of a new Dan Brown book. The Telegraph publishes a brilliant take down
- Grossmalerman has a few tips for aspiring fellow artists with a piece about getting a gallery (on Hyperallergic). Funny/sad
- Tom Morton stumbles upon an online community of macrophiles and picks out an image of a bucolic giantess for a 1000+ word critique
- Find out what Paul McCarthy’s up to and be suitably horrified. Randy Kennedy spends time with the controversial artist for the New York Times Magazine
- You can rely upon American Suburb X for jawdropping picture galleries. These architectural scenes by Gabriele Basilico are to be adored
- Blogger Chloe Nelkin flew in a private jet to Berlin Gallery Weekend. I realise the city can be cheap, but that’s ridiculous. Kindly, she shares her experiences
- Art:21 runs a piece about Santiago Sierra. Team Gallery has been hosting his Veterans series in which real ex-servicemen are paid to stand in the corner
- You can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can always judge the cover itself. The Casual Optimist rounds up some recent gems
- Last but not least, Degenerate Art Stream is a well-modelled blog in which artists of all stripes get to curate a daily stream of links. So be inspired at will.
Posted: May 12th, 2013 | Author: Mark Sheerin | Filed under: contemporary art, interviews, sculpture, Uncategorized, YBAs | No Comments »
(c) Uma Jovita Valaityte
Sculptor Gavin Turk is perhaps best known for work about Gavin Turk. He has dressed as Sid Vicious and posed for a waxwork, or dressed as a vagrant. He has posed for photos as Andy Warhol or Che. And his degree show consisted simply of a blue plaque confirming his historic residence at the RCA.
But his booking at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery for Museums at Night was always going to be a bit different. There might not even be a self-referential artwork in sight as Turk fills the exhibition space with monitor screens, ‘flying’ carpets and skeletal pyramids, which he promises have occult powers.
The sculptor plans to install pyramids big enough for visitors to sit or stand in, and talks of “maybe getting some crystals as well”. Monitor screens all around the space will relay found footage to do with the structures’ fabled power. Turk hopes to raise awareness of their potential.
Now he lists the benefits of pyramid power like a true, if wry, believer: “It can preserve stuff. It can make you sleep at night. It can help you think more clearly. It can make plants grow quicker. It can generate battery electricity.”
The Persian rugs also have potential. “I’m feeling the carpets,” quips the artist. “I mean feeling the sensation of flying, not just sitting here rubbing them.”
The 100-year-old museum is new territory for the former YBA. Its wealth of Egyptian artefacts seem to have little to do with the pop culture within which Turk operates. “I was a little bit struggling,” he admitted to me over phone.
Pharaoh: King of Egypt is the British Museum touring show currently showing at the museum – complimented by their permanent collection of exhibits from that ancient world.
“I started wondering where it fitted, ‘where was ‘I’ in this thing?’ and also ‘who are these pharaohs, what are these pharaohs?’, because in a way they’re not really a ME theme,” he explains. “I haven’t really done or touched anything to do with them.”
Then his sculptor’s eye for form fell on one of the most fundamental structures of all time. “I thought ‘Oh, we can work with pyramids.’” So his discovery of pyramid power could make for one of the eeriest events Museums at Night has ever seen.
But none of what he says is without a sense of humour. Turk is ever ready with a quiet chuckle. It’s not quite clear how much credence he gives to the wisdom of the ancients.
“Obviously some of the earliest pharaohs were – what was it 3535 BC? – so they’re 6,000 years old,” he says with yet another laugh. “Which is pretty cool.”
Talk gets round to the present day situation in Egypt, which is, according to Turk, “very odd”. “Egypt has in its history been so super advanced and then it kind of fell back into a curious setback.”
Most strange of all was the attitude of Egyptians to the arrival of archaeologists in the 1800s. “They were kind of mesmerised,” says the artist, “and almost happy that various parties were coming and taking things away.”
But the history of overseas plunder is, of course, tied up with the history of museums. “The whole thing about museums is very interesting as well. With the idea that the museum was invented to bring back things from all around the world, like trophies,” says Turk.
Nevertheless, the artist is cheerful at the prospect of late opening museums throughout the UK come mid May. “Yeah, it’s great,” he says. “I mean, if you’re there during a nine to five day it feels like work. Whereas if you’re there after work, it feels like ‘after work’. It feels like holiday.”
His sense of fun extends to giving kids access to art. With partner Deborah Curtis, he runs children’s charity House of Fairy Tales. I mention sleepovers taking place in other museums and he enthuses about them:
“We just love that idea, you know where everything comes alive when the lights go off everything in the museum will come alive.”
His dual role may complicate his artistic practice, but he is happy to work outside his comfort zone. “I can kind of make mistakes, so this idea I couldn’t normally do, with this kind of crazy power of the pyramid,” he says with another chuckle. “It allows me to have a bit of fun really.”
It might even appeal to a certain incognito street artist from the Bristol area. A homecoming show by Banksy was his biggest to date here in 2009. “He’s going to show up, yeah, let’s get him to show up. We’ll do little cut outs of Turkses, big Turkses and Rameses.”
To the best of my knowledge the Pharaoh Turkses has just been invented by Gavin. Perhaps the pyramids have been about this mercurial artist all along.
Gavin Turk is bringing his pyramids to Bristol City Art Museum on Thursday 16 May 2013. See museum website for more details. This piece was written for Culture24.
Posted: May 8th, 2013 | Author: Mark Sheerin | Filed under: contemporary art, fashion | No Comments »
Halfway between painting and photography, Stepnik’s photos show people halfway between their usual everyday life and then what might be called the disease of the future.
The Polish artist has colonised their skin. Dayglo pixels creep around the countours of their faces. Hair is electrified with luminous colour. But these touches draw you in, rather than repel.
Low lighting and a UV glow gives the gallery a clubby atmosphere. Stepnik’s photos also crop up as wallpaper which puts pressure on the frames around the prints on the wall.
The artist has said she wants to make work about “the electricity of the world surrounding me”. By mounting her photos in lightboxes she is already half way there.
This is a slippery show which blurs the lines between contemporary art and fashion photography, between photography and painting, between art and decoration.
So ultimately these images disturb a serious art lover, if such a po-faced thing exists. As the press release points out, they would not be out of place in a fashion mag.
How does one draw a line around high art to ensure not getting lost in contemplation of a Gucci ad? In truth, insulation is impossible. It’s a fact this show illuminates.
Stepnik puts herself in the mix with a brave performance in which she cut off her own hair. Not so much courageous as an artistic statement, but for the results she would have to live with.
The takeout of all this is that hair, painting and the gloom can all be used to conceal. And yet as our diurnal senses adjust to a setting like this, Stepnik’s blurred lines all invite scrutiny.
City of Angels can be seen at 20 Eastcastle Street, London, until 23 May 2013.
Posted: May 5th, 2013 | Author: Mark Sheerin | Filed under: aggregation, contemporary art | No Comments »
It’s beach weather here in Brighton, but first aggregated art links for a Bank Holiday Weekend:
- How could a show with such a title be anything but great. Read about “Ain’t Painting a Pain?” by Richard Jackson at Orange County Museum of Art
- Billions and billions of stars are now available for viewing at Apexart in New York for the “Slack-jawed wonderment” of all who drop by
- Some more committed Russian protest art, this time from student Peter Pavlesnkiy. He’s stripped off and wrapped himself in barbed wire. Wince
- It surprised me to learn that Bedwyr Williams is an official druid. Karen Wright visits the artist in his studio ahead of representing Wales in Venice this year
- Michael Jang’s family photos are better than most. American Suburb X post a hugely enjoyable gallery of his kin larking about
- Madrid’s Reina Sofía to show more than 200 works by Salvador Dalí. I for one would be quite ok with the legendary surrealist coming back into vogue
- The Hammer Museum in LA is showing an exhibition of sculptural oddities by Enrico David. Contemporary Art Daily has the pics
- Tracey Emin is interviewed at length about love, growing up and Louise Bourgeois. Art Info carry the three page story
- Blogger Chloe Nelkin has clearly enjoyed Tate Modern’s low key show of 97-year-old Lebanese artist Saloua Raouda Choucair
- Henri, the Existential Cat, has made a new film for the Paris Review. I think I’ve linked to him before but he is fantastique.