anselm reyle, untitled, 2006
thanks to tate modern
white cube - hoxton sq, jessica rankin
jessica rankin in as an australian artist who works with textiles and text and is currently showing in the younger brother of the ' cube. The works were incredibly beautiful and if i had money to burn and a nice, light house to put it in, i would consider buying one. but then, i'm always considering buying work, so i don't know how much of a compliment that really is.
her use of text and stitch was really interesting to me. i'm not really that into textiles and craft, although i'd like to be, so i was really struck by her ability to create depth using the type of stitch, the colour of the thread and the use of sheer material as her substrate. the way that the work was hung, stretched over pins about 2 inches from the wall was fantastic and really did the work justice, creating an ever-so-slight shadow for the works.
elms lesters painting rooms, don't do that - group show of urban and street artists.
before i launch into my rant, i want to give a big thumbs up to Delta and Dalek in this show. Delta's structural-based paintings, sculptures and drawings totally floated my boat and Dalek's graphic work is as crisp and witty as always.
now, the rant.
*warning* this opinion is based on my limited experience in australia and may be wildly off the mark here.
for the first time today i understood why brands, stereotypes and cultivated identities help. not just because i read an interesting post by the northen planner today, but because i've just walked out of a gallery in london with a bad taste in my mouth. the don't do that show was billed in time outas a "group show of urban and street artists" so i (stupidly) had an expectation of what may be on show and the kind of gallery it might be, although the name of the gallery did have me slightly confused.
**[For the uninitiated, PoncyName Gallery/Painting Rooms = Poncy Gallery and loads of trad paintings, usually]
anyway, i went up, buzzed in and saw a bunch of mis-matched graphic artists in a room that was more suited to large Lucian Freuds or James Gleesons than street-level works and my first instinct was 'bandwagon!'.
this is not to say that the artists involved were all bad. some of them were great, but i got the sense that they had been snapped up in a gallery because street art is the big money earner here at the moment - it happens with every 'nextbigthing'. see under Blind Melon.
i felt like vomiting when i heard one of the posh clients in the gallery saying "i've been into graffiti art since the beginning". oh bullshit. you're into graffiti like I'm into Louis XVI antiques: you fucking wish.
calling the show street and urban art was also way off. like trying to squeeze it into the genre that everyone is aware of right now. in fact, only Stash would really come under street/urban and his work on canvas were abysmal. Delta and Dalek are well-known artists, but they're graphic/low-brow artists and are being done a disservice sitting in a gallery that is so off the mark. Ron English was also part of the show and for him to be lumped in with bad aerosol art is an insult. He is a king of low-brow/graphic art.. or what I call Outre art.
now, i'm all for elevating the everyday/street/popular to the high-brow, but that can only be done if the gallery has a real passion or understanding of the art. and i hate to say it, but the gallery (as in 4 walls, ceiling, floor, etc) needs to reflect it. the upstairs section of Elms Lesters sorta kinda worked for this kind of show, but otherwise, it was bollocks. it has made me realise that the way something is presented matters in terms of where it fits and what people can expect.
if this gallery wants to really take on street/urban/low brow art it needs to actually look like the kind of place in which that kind of work fits and huge white walls, enormously high ceilings and dark floor boards aint it. street art/urban art/graffiti is so tied to where it sits - usually on shitty brickwalls surrounded by all kinds of other visual viscera (whether it likes it or not) - that removing it so far from that context just screams ignorance.
[And i think that may be the bit that comes from limited experience of seeing work in these kind of environments].
everyone had been pushing me to go to the tate modern [like i wasn't going to], so i was determined to take it slowly and not do the art appreciation equivalent of skulling a bottle of jack daniels (or whatever).
young will and i were supposed to meet up at angel afterwards, but he decided to also go to the tate, so we met there instead. it was quite nice having an interlude of sorts and a chance to meet up with a twitter/blogger friend who i hadn't met before. we ate at the restaurant, which was very nice, but somewhere i probably won't go again. funds being limited and all that.
so, back to the art.
level 2 gallery, the artist's dining room
before lunch i popped into the level 2 gallery exhibition which featured 3 german artists: Manfred Kuttner, Anselm Reyle and Thomas Scheibitz, concerning themselves with contemporary abstraction through material: bold colours and shiny surfaces - reflection as form. Manfred Kuttner was actually practicing in the 60s and his work has (justifiably) being recently reinvestigated. his line of inquiry and craft seemed far more measured than the youngsters and i really liked the corrugated cardboard piece he did on linear perception.
the whole exhibition there was fantastic and really well put-together; each artist complimented the others exactly and i got a deepening understanding of abstraction through them. and for someone to leave a show with that feeling is a really positive outcome i think.
interestingly, i noticed that a lot of the works in that particular show were Untitled. months ago, someone, somewhere on the blogosphere was griping about the whole untitled thing and to whomever that was, you should go and see this show, if you can. these works were so much about form and material that having a title would have completely distorted the focus into 'what does it all mean' kind of thinking. and in this case, i completely and utterly understood it.
UBS drawings: idea and object (level 5)
this entire show looks fucking amazing and i'm looking forward to spending some serious time in the rooms.
not wanting to overload, i just paced my way through the Idea and Object section, which featured artists from the Minimalists to Installation artists, although i like how they haven't actually used the term of the movement but categorised in terms of focus of inquiry.
i got to swoon by the work of Donald Judd (especially the red copper cube, which creates a red light 'experience'), Ellsworth Kelly, Sol Le Witt (RIP) - his black chalk room was ace and i really wish i could have taken a photo of the emergency exit sign/door - the only evidence of outside life; Joseph Beuys and his survival work plus i had a good chuckle at Rachel Whiteread's 24 Switches work and the projected UK light switch by Ceal Floyer - who would have thought a humble light switch could reveal so much about a culture?
i also really enjoyed the film of the ants transporting the coloured discs by Rivane Neuenscwander & Cao Guimardes and it encouraged and validated an idea i've had about using ants in a similar way.
i was quite comforted by the amount of people checking out the works and their level of engagement - there were art students drawing an Ellsworth Kelly so i also drew one (i can feel quite self-conscious about drawing in galleries sometimes) and i totally loved the Tate Tracks business. I listened to the response to Donald Judd's Untitled (stack of blue bars). I didn't find the point of connection they had at all, but it was great to try, all the while really analysing both the visual art work and the musical work in a way that is normally quite a private or subconscious act.
there will be a weekly visit to the tate modern too and the shop there will be my downfall.
i tried, i really did. but i didn't make it to a gallery. penance has been made.
vyner street galleries, east end.
on tuesday, after visiting white cube, my friend and i popped in to see whitechapel, but it was closed. i decided that i was going to go today. i jumped on a bus towards aldgate east and the weather was so awful that i hopped off at vyner st, hackney/bethnall green and went to a bunch of galleries there instead. whitechapel will have to wait, again.
thanks to vinespace.net
ibid projects, guillermo gaivano - ekegrata
from the write up in time out, i got the impression that ibid was going to be a funky, slightly hinky, artist-run space.
computer says no.
the front door is a polished stainless steel door with an engraved 21 and IBID Projects on the door. You have to buzz a very slick buzzer to get in and the silence inside is deafening.
the work, however, was humming. oils on hessian, they had a depth and strength to them that i've never seen on primed canvas or linen. guillermo built up the figurative forms lightly and delicately and the result was quite eery. my favourite one, Equinox of the Apprenticeship>, was something straight out of the occult - the desperate and dramatic worship or ritual, but given a lightness that i can't quite articulate. his palette, while quite dark and limited, was quite sculptural. insofar as there were greens that looked like a copper patina, rust, black oxide and a tumeric kind of colour.
one thing that really struck me was the absolute lack of interest from the gallery staff, whatsoever and without prices on the roomlist, absolutely no incentive to buy. on one hand i kind of like the fact that the work is there, as work on the walls, without an attachment to a commodity. however, i also like to be able get a sense of where artworks lie in the market and whether i could actually afford to buy a work if i wanted. not having a room list available increases the pressure for me to instigate a sale, rather than being able to choose from afar. it didn't really reflect the supposed commercial nature of the gallery. i guess it's just a little cultural difference, but between that and the difference in artist-led-spaces here, i really noticed it.
kate macgarry, luke gottelier
i'm going to be brief: ho, hum.
the paintings were very basic drawings on black canvas with darts inserted into the edge of the stretcher, creating a 'frilly' frame. midly interesting idea, poorly executed.
vinespace, simon morse and kevin wright - light reflecting booster technology
i stumbled upon this gallery, thanks to it being the only one in the area with a sign [even though the sign looked like that of a cross between a mini-cab office and a brothel]. and i'm glad i did stumble upon it - the work was great! especially the work of simon morse - the computer generated images of fabricated technological gadgets (see above). it was extended for an extra week, so i'm glad i got to see it.
artists anonymous, 900 calories
the work in here was amazing and i was pleased to see an artist sitting the space and actually available to talk with. i don't like being hounded in a gallery, but if i want to chat about the work, it's nice to speak with someone who is equally enthusiastic.
the whole gallery had turf laid through it and it was awesome. i had wanted to do this years ago, but with australian summers being what they are, well, impossible. but this was great. it smelled awesome and worked perfectly with the video work i saw, featuring a man, laying on the grass looking skywards, talking to someone on a hands-free phone and confessing to them in detail about his drug-fuelled escapades and the ways in which he hit his girlfriend, also a junkie. it was quite an intimate experience and i was impressed that the topic of violence against women was broached from a perpetrator's perspective. not often seen. i wasn't sure how much it was intended to relate to the name of the gallery, but it worked well.
not open. next time.
whitechapel[finally!], pablo pijnappel
the paris-born, dutch artist showed 3 films about his history and the history of his family and a slide projection of 81 drawings. the films were very entertaining and i recommend seeing them, but for me, the drawings were really delightful. shown as a slide show (a proper one, not online), the projected drawings were large enough to appreciate the composition and craft of it, while small enough to be able to engage with them on the whimsical level intended. the narrative of the story is adorable and i left wishing i could draw that well.
on the way to the bus, i also quickly popped into the brick lane gallery, showing paintings i really didn't like and another little gallery on the corner of brick lane and cheshire st. it was showing cute drawings by all kind of rockin' peeps, like thurston moore, rita ackerman and martin creed. not sure what the gallery is called, but check it.
the national gallery, the sainsbury wing, room 52
this is going to be a slow process and i hope to get through a few more rooms next time. but today i decided to start at the very beginning, the very best place to start.
[actually, that would be at the natural history museum, but for the sake of this post, it's room 52]
this section of the gallery would usually bore me to tears, but today i saw it with new eyes. I had a look at old umbrian icon paintings and early religious depictions of christ and the virgins. i plonked myself down in front ofCimabue's The Virgin and Child enthroned with Two Angels, 1265-1280, a painting which i knew to be a fucking crucial work in terms of the development of pictoral representation. the wall card called it revolutionary and i would have to agree.
it was one of the earliest recognised works that successfully depicted 3-dimensional space in 2-dimensional format through a chair and 2 steps. sounds oh, so, ho-hum to those of us who have grown up with 3D representation in our fucking genes, but looking at this work and drawing it, the fact that Cimabue spent 15 years working against his history of how to represent the human figure, narrative and space was mind-blowing. it even got me wondering if we really do represent things as we see them or do we see things based on the representation that we are presented with? before Cimabue, did people only perceive a chair as a 2D form because that was all they were presented with? sounds patronising, but the concept of learning visualisation amazes me nonetheless.
if i had a scanner or batteries in my camera, i would open myself up to ridicule and show you the ernest but equally unpractised drawing i did from Cimabue's work. i'll be drawing something each week, so maybe next time.
next week - jake and dinos chapman at the tate britain, the design museum and states of flux at the tate modern.