Thursday, 19 December 2013


ART STUFF on a train # 30: ‘Late Light in Venice’

November 26, 2013

b venice 2013 026 FAD ART STUFF on a train # 30: ‘Late Light in Venice’
Bill Culbert at New Zealand 

Perhaps I should have gone to the Venice Biennale’s opening week, but I went instead during the last few days in late November. True, quite a bit has closed by then, but there’s still more than enough art to fill a long weekend – and you can look back at what the critics decided, and disagree. Two of my favourites were little-noticed large scale transformative installations which related rather closely to each other. Both made the most of not being on the main sites – so they were harder to find, but integrated more fully with the city. The essence of Venice is water meets light meets history, so there’s a certain logic to featuring fluorescent tubes in 18th century palazzos overlooking canals. Long-underrated veteran Bill Culbert lit up the eight connected spaces of New Zealand’s Front Door Out Back. Cupboards, tables and wardrobes were energised by being literally pierced by light, and in one room opening on to a canal-side terrace, the light seemed to have washed in with the floating detritus to form an everyday epiphany – though one which could also be read as a city jostling too close to the water. Pedro Cabrita Reis wasn’t Portugal’s official artist, but that didn’t stop his ‘collateral event’ a remote whisper being a highlight. The atmosphere was quite different, blending the work into the space rather than bringing the world so explicitly in. Reis set up a sort of double intersection, as the outlines of alternative rooms made by light cut through the palazzo’s dividing walls; and the artificial light cut through the natural light streaming in at the windows. It’s a pity on this evidence that Dan Flavin never had a solo show at the Biennale…

b venice FAD 2013 074 ART STUFF on a train # 30: ‘Late Light in Venice’
Pedro Cabrita Reis

ART STUFF on a train # 29: ‘The Lights Staying Off”

November 19, 2013
creed martin1 on ART STUFF on a train # 29: The Lights Staying Off
Creed, Martin. Work No. 227: The lights going on and off 2000 – previous installation at the Tate

Tate Britain has just purchased and is reshowing Martin Creed’s Work No. 227: The lights going on and off. This might have felt familiar enough to pay deserve minimum attention, but for two factors. First, the room was closed off as the installation wasn’t working – or, should I say, only half of it was working – the ‘off’ half. Five seconds on, five seconds off: how hard can it be? Apparently there was more to it than a blown bulb: attendants explained that they’d been entertained by daily visits from electricians seeking to correct an overheating problem. Second, Tate has just paid around £100,000 for the work. What has it got for that? Not, I suppose, the right to turn their lights on and off, but the right to attribute doing so to Creed. That brings in the essence of his work: a poignant desire to avoid mistakes by avoiding decisions. A door won’t be open or closed, balloons will half-fill a space, a drawing will last till the ink runs dry. Maurizio Cattelan, in 2004, thought Work No. 227 ‘looked like a mood swing’ with its ‘ability to compress happiness and anxiety within one single gesture. Lights go on, lights go off – sunshine and rain, and then back to beginning to repeat endlessly.’ Is it worth the money? First I think so, then I think not.

creed martin1 ART STUFF on a train # 29: The Lights Staying Off
Creed, Martin. Work No. 227: The lights going on and off, 2000

ART STUFF on a train # 28: ‘Obsessive? Me?’

November 12, 2013

peter dreher  tagumtaggutertag1329 tagglas seriessince1974 oiloncanvas 25x20cm deher ART STUFF on a train # 28: ‘Obsessive? Me?’  
Peter Dreher: ‘Every Day is a Good Day (#1329)’, detail – oil on Canvas, 25x20cm 

Plenty of artists do pretty much the same thing most days. Normally that’s just the making of art – Frank Auerbach is famous for going to the studio every day of every year. Sometimes the output is also obsessive, when it tends to be a way of recording and meditating on the passage of time: the two obvious examples are On Kawara’s ongoing litany of date paintings, and Roman Opulka’s spending much of 1965 to his death in 2011 painting the numbers from 1 – 5607249. Those projects both incorporate time’s passage: the calendar moves on, the numbers get bigger. Opulka also increased the proportion of white in each canvas, and had hoped to reach an all-white 7777777. The German Peter Dreher (born 1932) is different, even though he’s been painting the same empty glass tumbler in the same conditions on a near-daily basis since 1974. There are 5,000 so far, and a sample of 144 (along with other work) can be seen at the Milton Keynes Gallery to 24 November. His USP is more a strategy of non-development. The subject is just the impulse for the activity, which Dreher considers to be exercises in abstract mark-making, albeit they always turn out to depict his glass. Hence the Zen title for the whole series ‘Every Day is a Good Day’, and hence Dreher’s statement that he ‘wouldn’t be all that upset if they were to disappear.’ Turns out he isn’t obsessive at all.

dreher 2 ART STUFF on a train # 28: ‘Obsessive? Me?’ Peter Dreher: from ‘Every Day is a Good Day’ 1974-2013

ART STUFF on a train # 27: ‘Look, No Canvas’

November 5, 2013 

abrooksart jg reverse sequence pck 08 gabb ART STUFF on a train # 27: ‘Look, No Canvas’
 Jonathan Gabb: ‘reverse sequence: on black (purple, rose, orange, green, red, cyan, indigo, violet)’, 2013

What’s a painting? The obvious answer is paint on canvas, or maybe better some kind of liquid which dries onto some kind of ground. But it’s possible to make something best considered a painting without using any liquid: take DJ Simpson’s router in MDF works or Sergei Jensen’s carpet pieces. Else liquid may be used without a ground, as in Lynda Benglis’ poured latex painting/sculptures or Piers Secunda’s objects and wall-hung reliefs formed entirely from industrial paint: he even uses paint to make the bolts which hold them in place. Glenn Brown has made paint-sculptures which push Auerbach’s portraits all the way to 3D, as well as flat photo-realist depictions of their thick impasto.One could add Eduardo Costa, Analia Saban, Paul Desborough and Wang Yuyang. So there’s a definite tradition behind the practice of emerging artist Jonathan Gabb, currently showing (to 16th Nov, with an artist’s talk on this Thurs, 7th) at A Brooks Art on Hoxton Street, an attractively adventurous and characterful artist-run space which occupies a former Victorian florist’s. Gabb’s bright work suits that lineage, as does the show’s title, ‘Opera Rose’, which is actually a type of electric pink acrylic paint. Gabb applies paint to rigid plastic sheets, allows it to dry, then strips it off to form ribbons which he hangs to seize space with pure colour.

abrooksart jg pink angel install view pck 02 gabb ART STUFF on a train # 27: ‘Look, No Canvas’  
Jonathan Gabb: ‘pink angel capturing the light’, 2013

ART STUFF on a train # 26: ‘Sex and Excess’

October 29, 2013 

Allen Jones Chair ART STUFF on a train # 26: ‘Sex and Excess’  
Allen Jones: Chair, 1969

How much is more than enough? Allen Jones’ still somewhat notorious invitation to sit on a woman (Chair, 1969) sold for close on £1m last year. The acrylic on fibreglass in leather piece is an edition of six, and hardly a rare sighting. Overload was surely reached during October, though: I’ve seen it at Tate Britain (to demonstrate, as part of ‘Art Under Attack’, how well it’s been restored after an acid assault), at the Barbican (a good fit for the mostly predictable ‘Pop Art Design’), in Christie’s first exhibition in the former Haunch of Venison space (‘When Britain Went Pop!’) and in Luxembourg & Dayan’s booth at Frieze Masters. In the latter two its almost-as-notorious siblings, Table and Hat Stand, accompanied Chair.They still get a strong reaction. I’m pretty sure it’s the sex, not the art, which generates that, though a case can be concocted for Jones’ trio as the pop art equivalent of Richard Artschwager’s sculptures which pretend to be furniture, their apparent female submissiveness offset by the way they invade the viewer’s space. There’s nothing wrong with sex, of course, but you need to go to British Museum’s magnificent Shunga show (to 5th Jan) to see a more even balance of effect between it and art.

shunga ART STUFF on a train # 26: ‘Sex and Excess’
Katsukawa Shuncho, 1780

ART STUFF on a train # 25: ‘When Photos are Paintings and Paintings are Photos’

October 22, 2013 

JW MW5192 Raid 2013 ART STUFF on a train # 25: ‘When Photos are Paintings and Paintings are Photos’ Raid, 2013 – Oil and varnish on acrylic sheet in Perspex box frame

Visitors to the Max Wigram gallery often assume that James White’s still lives from hotel rooms and the interiors of boats (to 9 Nov), are black and white photographs. There’s the exacting and somewhat forensic grey-scale reproduction of glass and mirrored surfaces; a snapshot casualness to the choice of items and their composition; and a run-off of white as if a contact sheet has been cropped. Some future show should contrast these works with White’s photographs, which – even though they originate from his archive of source material for the paintings – look more like paintings than the paintings made from them. This results from their unnaturalistic colour and dominant use of a stylised ‘lens flare’ after-effect, sometimes set against solarised backgrounds.
The paintings, it seems, edit out the obviously painterly effects which the photographs are printed to exaggerate. Back at the paintings, that said, closer examination does show the brushwork on the unusual material of Plexiglas; an objecthood more typical of paintings is emphasised by the double layer of birch board on which they are set in Perspex box frames; and that white band starts to feel more like a way of revealing the nature of the ground – or even, it being placed where a signature might be expected, a jocular way of signing the work ‘White’. And it’s in the back-and-forths – between painting and photograph, between throwaway and exacting, between pointlessness and point – that the interest of White’s work lies.

James White 22 ART STUFF on a train # 25: ‘When Photos are Paintings and Paintings are Photos’ Abstract thoughts 22, 2013 – photograph

ART STUFF on a train # 24: ‘The Correct Use of Gum’

October 15, 2013 

hoda im ART STUFF on a train # 24: ‘The Correct Use of Gum’
Alex Hoda: Schliere (Streak), 2012, Michelangelo marble – 160 x 74 x 28 cm 

Alex Hoda’s show at Edel Assanti (to 26 Oct) features marble sculptures of chewing gum. That fuses two well-established tropes: blowing something small up big to make us look at it differently, which Claes Oldenburg was first to exploit systematically; and using precious material – and the labour of production – to elevate the worth of something casual or valueless, which, for example, Sue Collis does particularly subtly. Jeff Koons’ balloon dogs or Urs Fischer’s giant aluminium versions of squeezed lumps of clay offer combined approaches. What’s more, the art use of chewing gum is pretty-much a tradition of its own. Alina Szapocznikow’s 1971 series of ‘Photosculptures’ monumentalise pieces which she chewed. Adam McEwen has used wads on canvas to refer to the bombing of German cities in WWII, contrasting the understanding of gum-chewing child and gum-arranging man. Hannah Wilke dotted herself with vulval chewing gum 'wounds'. Dan Colen has made enough ‘paintings’ with gum that he has an established process: ‘I pay people to chew the gum. Students get 50 cents for each piece. Then we take the gum and make it dirty with street shit. I want it to be both elegant and real’. Which leaves us with the question: has Hoda taken established tropes in fresh directions, or is just an ersatz follower of others? The visceral impact of a five foot-tall gob of marble gum spat straight on the wall certainly feels like something new.

ALina ART STUFF on a train # 24: ‘The Correct Use of Gum’  
From Alina Szapocznikow’s 1971 series of ‘Photosculptures

ART STUFF on a train # 23: ‘One Thing on Top of Another’

October 8, 2013

maybank The Penultimate Invitation 2009 ART STUFF on a train # 23: ‘One Thing on Top of Another’
Hannah Maybank: The Penultimate Visitation, 2009
Life: it’s just one thing on top of another. And some sense of that is captured in two shows – within 200 yards – which come at the imagistic equivalent from opposite directions. The first applies then strips away layers away to reveal what’s hidden; the second over-determines the layes then selects which ones to emphasise. A ten year retrospective at Gimpel Fils (to 11 Oct) reprises how Hannah Maybank covers her canvases with variously-coloured acrylic over latex, then peels them partially back to reveal landscapes in which the curl of the surface operates both sculpturally – as shadows, branches, leaves – and metaphorically: where else do you find the past, but hidden beneath the present? At Hamiltons (to 1 Nov), the Swedish photographer Jacob Felländer gives us fifteen views out of the same window in New York. That may sound unpromising, but these are big, multiple photographs made by the slowed winding of an analogue camera, and Felländer has added paint and charcoal to bring selected aspects of the negatives to the surface, rather as you might heighten the pentimento of first thoughts covered over yet still visible in a painting. If space can drift over time, Felländer had wondered, thinking of the movement of continents, then could he capture time drifting over space? That one thing on top of another can have its attractions.

pentimento study nr6 Jacob Felländer Pentimento Study 6 ART STUFF on a train # 23: ‘One Thing on Top of Another’  
Jacob Felländer: Pentimento Study #6 (detail view), 2013

ART STUFF on a plane # 22: ‘The Big Three in Amsterdam’

October 1, 2013

use amsterdam 13 047 ART STUFF on a plane # 22: ‘The Big Three in Amsterdam’
The photo urge and The Nightwatch
What exactly is gained by confronting great art in typical museum conditions? The usual hierarchy of fame applies at the Rijksmuseum, leading to a permanent ruckus around Rembrandt and Vermeer. Plenty want themselves photographed in front of The Nightwatch in the established manner of tourists concentrating on proving in future where they were in the past, rather than experiencing the present moment. More mysteriously, perhaps, many want their own straight photos of the work, which will be unfocused, ill-lit and partial up against what’s readily available on-line. The Mona Lisa, of course, tops the fame rankings, so you see it at such a distance behind its bullet-proof glass in the Louvre that it’s harder at first than at second hand to assess the plausibility of the theory that it’s a self-portrait in drag. Back in Amsterdam, most of the vast Rijksmuseum is stunning, but few bother, for example, with the Adriaan Coorte’s side-roomed set of meditations on particularised fruits: yet surely many would be drawn in – just as with Vermeer – to their peculiarly modern intensity. Maybe what’s sought isn’t the art, but a connection with its maker. What better, then, if you’re in Amsterdam, where – though he lived there for just one of his 37 years – van Gogh’s aura is taken to reside, than to see all the paintings in a 3D film sequence? You’re pretty much in the room with him, and no-one else will be standing in the way…

* Trip courtesy , and the Movenpick Hotel, Amsterdam

use amsterdam 13 150 ART STUFF on a plane # 22: ‘The Big Three in Amsterdam’
Poster advertising van Gogh in 3D

ART STUFF on a train # 21: ‘Pierdom’

September 24, 2013

pier 2 ART STUFF on a train # 21: ‘Pierdom’
Teignmouth Grand Pier, Devon, 2011
I do like a good typology. They have a fascination of their own, whether they’re art or not. Plenty have looked to be art as well since the prime example of the Bechers, who brought a rigorously consistent formality to their black and white shots of industrial structures: consistent angles, slightly overcast conditions, no human traces, taken from a ladder or platform. Yet there’s an alternative, seen in Simon Roberts’ just-published book Pierdom (and linked exhibition at the Flowers Gallery to 12th October) showing all 58 British seaside pleasure piers and the sites of some of the similar number lost since their 1910 peak. Roberts varies the angle, distance, extent of surroundings shown and role of people so that the individual geographical and social contexts of the piers are given full scope rather than being subsumed into regularity. That works in its different way, and suits the subjects’ wide range of current vibrancy, from community and tourist hubs to ruined husks. The consistency is in their Victorian engineering: boards over light gothic ironwork on screw piling. The collection also drew me pleasurably into recalling which I’d actually seen – starting with Hastings, where I grew up, the pier shown in its recent, seriously fire-damaged state. Maybe I should declare an interest, but actually I could think of better ways of spending £12m on my home town than reconstructing the pier.

pier 1 ART STUFF on a train # 21: ‘Pierdom’
Hastings Pier, 2011

Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in Surrey. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?

No comments:

Post a comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.

About Me

My photo
Southampton, Hampshire, United Kingdom
I was in my leisure time Editor at Large of Art World magazine (which ran 2007-09) and now write freelance for such as Art Monthly, Frieze, Photomonitor, Elephant and Border Crossings. I have curated 20 shows during 2013-17 with more on the way. Going back a bit my main writing background is poetry. My day job is public sector financial management.