Category Archives: contemporary sculpture

Tessa Farmer, Swarm (2004)

No, your eyes do not deceive you. Those really are tiny winged skeletons riding on the back of a dragonfly. And there are a hundred or more spectacles like this in Swarm by Tessa Farmer.

They give the impression of an airborne war, as if the skeletons are fighting for control of their glass cabinet. Which makes the artwork a theatre of conflict. Perhaps those fragile, hideous creatures are critics.

But in fact, the gallery guide suggests they are fairies. Each one is a dessicated tinkerbell. The hope you might have cherished in secret, for a more magical world, is here turned inside out.

And the wonder you might feel at such painstaking work soon turns to horror when you consider the results. No one wants to see dead insects, and bony fairies with fly wings attached, surely?

Except of course, many people really do. This piece seems to fascinate visitors to the gallery. If art is a mirror, this example of it shows a spectral, parasitic species fighting over thin air.

It is not a million miles from a battle in a desert, a debate in parliament, a war of words conducted online, or any struggle between ideas first dreamed up by those already passed away.

Swarm can be seen in Newspeak: British Art Now Part Two at Saatchi Gallery until 17 April 2011.

Anna Parkina, Cockleshell Garage ‘Raskushka’ (2010)

Interlocking plywood is not the stuff of classical sculpture. It is too rough and ready. It puts one in mind of model making kits or, here, a model of a stage set. You might use it to build a mock up or something provisional.

But Anna Parkina confounds this expectation. Her components are cut, punched out and assembled with insistent craft, and yet the chilly arabesques point towards nothing. This is a model without an apparent referent, a mock up without a purpose.

The title of the work is also opaque. According to Google, this sculpture is the only Cockleshell Garage out there. Of all architectural forms, the garage the least evocative. ‘Raskushka’ offers little more clues, to a non Russian speaker at least.

Although this does resemble is an abstract collage, and there is plenty of that by the same artist on the walls of this current show. Perhaps then it is a model of a medium. It sets the stage for simply putting one layer on top of another.

And if there is one thing all models represent it is labour and the business of their own construction. That is where you might start taking Parkina’s work apart.

Anna Parkina can be seen at Wilkinson, London, until November 21. For more details see gallery website or read a review of a previous show by the artist by Frieze magazine.

Simon Morse: The Butler’s Cough, Grey Area

In a week artists have rallied round a David Shrigley animation and a petition against cuts to public funding, a show which seems to offer its own discreet protest opened at Grey Area.

The Butler’s Cough by Simon Morse draws polite attention to a series of 12 customised control panels, such as you might find in an otherwise out of bounds area of a hospital, school or office.

In real life these mysterious boxes control heating, lighting, power, etc. Well, that is a guess. The fact is few know exactly what they do and how they operate.

Nevertheless, we understand they form an essential part of the infrastructure and we know they are not to be tampered with. So too with the arts.

Even at the best of times, arts organisations are called upon to justify their expenditure and explain what they do. There is a certain type of person only convinced by economic arguments.

And yet the real work of art is as invisible as these machines. It makes adjustments to settings in our consciousness, and in our hearts and souls, if you want to speak in those terms.

This may be a digression from such witty and suggestive sculptures as the one in the photo above, which like a good butler has coughed and then faded once more into the background.

The Butler’s Cough by Simon Morse is at Grey Area, Brighton, until26 September 2010. Visit the gallery website for opening times and check out the artist’s website for more images.