The cubist painter Andre Lhote (1885 -1962) jealously chastised Emil Filla (1882 – 1953) for being “plus Picassian que Picasso lui même” – a memory of which surfaced when I saw one particularly superb monotype at the current exhibition upstairs at Fenderesky Gallery: Continue reading
Tony Hill, Selected Works 2017 – 1972, F E McWilliam Gallery, Banbridge, 14 April until June 4th, 2017
The current psychology view seems to insist that we have two attention systems: one wondering over and around the perceivable is a friendly support for wandering around this exhibition to get a better focus. The other snaps our focus to anything that stimulates the senses: e.g. a loud noise.Many of the images Tony Hill made available for this essay are surveying what is there. I asked for only three to snap out of that all over viewing.
On entry a warmth of yellow mixed with orange tones presents the artist as a painter.
On the two adjacent walls are prints of drawings from the same year, Hill says they are for “structures, situations and colours”.
Intriguing use of the term “situation” – something I recognise in much later lens based work. Here they face some: On the left six cibachrome prints, Hand Shapes exhibited in Octagon Gallery in 1981, are reminiscent of an image on the stairs of the Ludwig Collection at Aachen. Sorry – unable to locate that. In relation to the Modernist’s call for”originality” – long before calls that it is a myth, Ludwig van Beethoven wrote to a young pianist: The true artist is not proud, he unfortunately sees that art has no limits; he feels darkly how far he is from the goal; and though he may be admired by others, he is sad not to have reached that point to which his better genius only appears as a distant, guiding sun. ( July 17, 1812 in Beethoven: Letters, Journals and Conversations , 1951)
On the right, a memory from visiting Venice, A Lover’s Kiss, 2009, Inkjet photograph.
On leaving the bay of silence: Too many doors! In some cases amassing the sameness is essential to weave a net capable to capture multitude of thoughts and judgments.
From this viewing point the denouement slips out effortlessly. The recycled useful objects keep their appearance but not their function, instead, they appear to have a conversation not unlike the hybrids of people and sacks installed by Juan Muñoz, Conversation Piece (Dublin) at IMMA, 1994.
The number of the doors installed in the middle of this gallery works well to do that, but not so well by occupying so much exhibition space and by blocking views.
Turning away from the doors the installation intoxicates with diversity: a small blue wooden “high relief”, narrow as a crack in a wooden fence, one of many “sticks” in the exhibition, stubbornly optimistic that its size is not undermined by the large wooden ladder wearing a cardboard square in colour of dry soil.
The twin slide projection inside plywood cavernous, door -less, cupboard, also blocks the view at the smaller two- dimensional items on the walls.
This shot of the Renaissance Ladder (2013) which the catalog entry calls “installation” opens a link to Duchamp, who located the art between the artist’s will and the viewer’s attention. Dr Jamshid Mirfendersky in his catalog essay points out that Hill’s art requires “aesthetic attention”. That is what stimulates a “focus” that will differentiate this sculptural assemblage from a similar one in your garage or a shed. At the height of Modernism theoreticians entertained the significance of ” not just a retinal response”, hoping to shift the aesthetic experience away from seeing. The current research on attention (e.g. Nilli Lavie, University College London) proposes that attention is a limited resource and that filling all its slots leaves no room for distractions. The two objects – one, the square, purposefully made by the artist, the other an object of common utility – leave empty slots, thus inviting distractions from your treasured creative thinking.
Snapping out of the first encounter with any work of art depends on the creative analogy a viewer brings to it. In her catalog essay Dr Antje von Graevenitz turns to the analogy between alchemy and art, with imaginative focus on the orange square evoking hues from the depth of the Earth, namely sulphur: “…seeing them in an alchemical way, then both objects might be part of a rather symbolic language: the square with its colour orange seems to be like sulphur directing to the volcano, to fire and the sun, the square-pictures hues or earth seem to be fetched from the ground.” She also writes that it is” a humorous image with serious suggestion”.
Tony Hill often undermines the serious idea with detachment from it, possibly to avoid heavy handed accent of persuasion or propaganda. He does not preach, he takes the risk to entertain with the highest abstraction.
I observed these “sticks” from all angles and distances… and was rewarded with actually slips of meaning, once of pristine determined three-dimensional form chiselled out of precision, once, from a side view, flat and fluid and temperamental like abstract expressionism ( albeit on a small scale).
This composite variant of Hill’s vertical sculptures was given the whole wall at he garden window. The empty surface around it intensified its visual power. It filled all the slots of my attention while harmoniously allowing a kind of reverence, known from encounters with votive objects. Blue waterfall cut out of its natural surroundings, yet keeping its magic connection to the world…
Hill’s choice to allow the seen fragment of the world to resonate with our associations, analogies, memories, comparisons, playful guesses, does not preclude closed composition.
The next two examples of photographs on a similar theme provide me with a question: how is his body and mind doing two operations at the same split of the second? One is to hold the twig (with one hand) in a particular relation to the horizon, the other is to direct the lens to capture it( with the other hand).
In my catalog essay I called it mindfulness -as in filling all his slots of attention with that simple trinity of eye, hand and mind – recommended already by Leonardo as the necessary condition for mute poetry.
Thanks to Dr Riann Coulter for sensitive curating of a more complete survey of Tony Hill’s art practice, as he puts it from 2017 until 1972.
Images courtesy Tony Hill.
A face, neck and shoulder of a three quarter “portrait” , positioned between two calm and cold walls, addresses us over a mad riot of exploding red, yellow, and other hues. The blue above the head suggests an open space behind, open space abandonned and not accessible anymore? Like an unfulfilled expectation?
While its visual force arrests me easily, even bribing my attention by the exquisite abandonment to confident abstraction, I willingly struggle to decide what this painting wants. At the same time, I am not anxious to grasp all at once, knowing that McCann’s paintings change their minds a little on subsequent viewing, never abandoning their central empathy to our being here and now. Nevertheless, I accept that my relaxed attitude is not satisfactory for those viewers who insist on a clearly defined narrative, ie instrumental value.
W.J.T Mitchell suggests that answers to the central questions of visuality “must be sought in the specific, concrete images that most conspicuously embody the anxiety over image-making and image-smashing in our time.” (What Do Pictures Want?)
The words seem to connect to the place where McCann had a studio until the owner decided to sell the building to a developers. It is a part of the replacement of what is by what exists in sketch books and proposals only. Something is burning – either objects or memories – or even ethical and aesthetic judgments. The abstract rectangles lost the sharp corners and outlines in parts – as if their power to define had been weakened by erosion of sorts. Erosion of morality included. Paradoxically, a larger part of this painting prefers rococo sweet hues in high key – even dissolving in one another. The painter’s curiosity how much that “dissolution” can take is pushed to the extreme in this grey large rectangle.
The folds of the cloth on the left display attention to detail, seen also in medieval paintings (and Alfons Mucha)
I put this in terms of the following analogy (roughly paraphrased): “when it comes to images, then, we are in something like the position of savages who do not know where babies come from. We literally do not know where images come from, or where they go when (or even if) they die.” (W.J.T.Mitchell in an interview accessed on http://www.visual-studies.com/interviews/mitchell.html)
The sliver of the drapery on the left of the chair shares in indeterminacy with two more details that surround it. The marks above its top edge are to be marks made on the wall during some reported torture. They also work like evening clouds or small waves at the shore. There are small marks near the right top corner of the chair – they morph – if viewed on the original – into a squashed face with two eyes and a nose. The mouth is almost invisible, the eye on the left is swollen.
This title above pins the meaning to the obviously visible, a dark coloured figure holding a figure painted in white and other high key hues. Both surrounded by an evening tone of a pink. McCann’s pink mixed with grey. A case of empathy for someone’s state of mind? This could include the painter too. McCann here returns to his friendships shattered by the past Troubles, and possibly other losses.
While The Stone remembers old selfportrait, in a confident shifting of the theoretical issue of appropriation back to his own early paintings, the blocks of colours resonate back to Rothko and to McCann’s own small colour rectangles destine to minimise retinal recognition.
This is the clearest case of McCann’s specific brushstroke, watery and loaded, capable of smooth cover or a resolute division of the colour field. This schizophrenic definition suits perfectly as visualisation of memory with weakened but not a weak recall.
Landscapes keep appearing – and have been central to McCann’s largest paintings over the last period. This one is painted with dryer brush where it called for textures, witness to McCann’s keen definition of observed object. For me it evokes to last seconds before the sun disappears behind the evergreens.
On occasions, McCann switches to watercolour with this excellent technical and poetic mastery. Usually there is one central form, a figure or a tree, or just smudged face.
Indeed, on occasion, he includes a smile, a greetings to other painters. The tonality is reminiscent of Velasquez, the motif of a story. The whole is a vintage McCann, when he wins over the dark forces of recent history.
Images courtesy of Sharon Kelly and the painter.
Sharon Kelly watercolours with graphite form a half of two persons exhibition titled Dissolving into ambiguity with Lenka Davidikova( b 1980, Dolny Kubin, Slovak Republic). Both graduated from the University of Ulster – 26 years apart.
I have written about Kelly’s drawings and video before, this little collection marks a shift towards poetic freedom, freedom offered to and by complex ideas visible as a transportable object.
Meditation. Drawing a drawing. The process is opened bare, equivalent to the fragment of the motif, the marks flow on the hand and forearm, and next to and around, as if competing how much each dares to escape the duty of describing.
The distinction between the noun “drawing” and the verb, is meaningful. Once explicit as duration, as process, with a beginning and an end, and once as stasis, a stable moment when the past becomes the present and the future. Once observed or imagined, the motif determines the mortality of other variations, hinted at by abrupt cuts or empty areas. Both watercolour and graphite offer generously fluent suggestion of what is not optically there. Conversely, the anatomy while madly disturbed, still holds to life. The headless torso is like a flat, fluid “garment”. The voluminous blue selfportrait suggests depth. The convincing charcoal outlines and modelling follow the obedient observation of arms and hands with confident denial when, for example, the outline of the left arm is visible through the right hand’s fingers. It is real, but only as a dream is real.
Habitually – blue sky is behind white clouds. Poetical visual trope reverses that, the cloud being blue and sky “white” or near white. And the “cut-off” hand is alive and caressing the air as if not wishing to catch the blue apparition; rather it looks as if the hand gently released that fluffy blue.
Drawing as a verb inhabits immaterial world. It prefers the world of thoughts to that of objects. Jealously, it is ephemeral, guiding its privacy, and at times it is impossible to apprehend it by senses. Hands can draw in the air leaving no trace, yet transporting an instruction or expression. Issuing sheer joy of co-existence of a blue blob with the anatomically correct hand – the hand treats the cloud as it would treat a butterfly – afraid that touching it will disable it.
Kelly offered an insight:
“…the animation work took place over a number of months and it meant I had to shut all daylight out of the studio to keep the artificial light constant for stop motion work. It was one charcoal drawing that changed, slowly so the whole process is very slow and can be almost impossible to work gesturally. From the middle of March I was able to lift the window coverings and clear the space and explore imagery with watercolour and pencil. So the watercolour work was like a flash of spontaneity in approach! The animation was for a projection for a dance production, a project I have been involved with for about 3 years and explored the territory of grief over time. “(email to me 15th May 2017).
Indeed grief is not an object….
In his essay ‘On Being Modern-Minded’ (1950), Bertrand Russell describes a particularly seductive illusion sensual and intellectual progress. Because every age tends to exaggerate its uniqueness and imagine itself as a culmination of progress, continuities with previous historical periods are suppressed: ‘new catchwords hide from us the thoughts and feelings of our ancestors, even when they differed little from our own.’
Kelly’s use of a blue as a fragment of sky,or of a head or a hand as a fragment of her own body, invite comparison with a very well known drawing of hands by Albrecht Durer. Like Durer she confidently places a fragment of the living form into a viewing frame. Both ground the meaning in a state of mind when it escapes the uncertainties of daily life.
There is a habitual hierarchy between the drawing as a work of art and a drawing as a study. Both Durer and Kelly cherish the responsiveness of drawing to hold its truth without becoming a servant to any one truth. Both give the viewer a freedom to complete what is visible by what he or she imagines. And that is, as Giordano Bruno advises ” a bottomless well”. Durer connects the hands with status and the belief in a superior being. Kelly’s connection is grounded here but sends empathy over there into the universe.
Image of grief? Image of empathy? It seems to oscillate, preventing me to be sure, except that the graduated definition of the watercolour mark moves from a standing firmly on the ground to an attack by emotion that disintegrates the head and part of one arm… The darkened volume of clashed fists belongs to despair.
The materials are promiscuous. Making mark with whatever is willing to do that on the ground of choice is not an anthropocentric act, it appears across the animal kingdom. The same tone of a hue expresses despair and resolve in relation to different outlines that are “carved” either from a light or darkness. It activates our cognitive faculties, invention, daring, scaring, feeling, intuitive guessing. It marks territory of invention that is mute, visual. In the next image – a memory of a dancing ballerina… both wet and dry outlines are obedient and enclose the from with clarity.
A drawing becomes sometimes evidence or a witness – like the print of hands on the prehistoric rock face.
Drawings addresses us as individuals, secretly offering seductive respect as a bribe. They flaunt their beauty, intelligence, even their hidden sources, through the rhythm of the trace and its tone. Even when there is a story, it is secondary. The viewer is invited to make up hers or his own.
This reminds me of August Rodin’s drawings of dancers made after 1906:He is quoted as saying
The lines and texture are the main message, however much they pretend to be just messengers. Drawing is gloriously free – any size, any material, any subject, from a sketch for a monumental building to an acute observation of a fly, to a definition of the plant atlas, to private loving greetings. Apollo or Dionysius? A wrong question. How much of each is in each drawing is the correct one. It is the classical Greek moira, a measure, of each that differentiates the characters of drawings. Rodin is reported saying that the Cambodian Dancers made him think of antiquity.
I sense complicity in these drawings between silent observation and mute inner world to make all over perspective redundant – or at least discreet.
Some drawings do not like to be an end – they wish to serve as a seedbed of different meanings. What is it like to despair? What is it like to feel happy? Human condition opposes certainty ( with the exception of death, which seems to tower over this image). The nurtured faith in the benevolence of fate recedes to allow uncertainty as a subject matter in.
Some drawings submit their force to a fresco or concrete and glass, or stone and bronze, other drawings, Kelly’s drawings amongst them, confidently stand alone: I am who I am. Let your senses and mind resonate with what you look at. There are treasures to be had.
Images courtesy Sharon Kelly and the gallery ArtisAnn unless otherwise credited above.
Stuart Calvin wrote to me:
“The process for creating the plaster forms involves pouring the plaster directly onto a flat smooth surface. Before the plaster fully sets, I shape them until they are slightly domed.
The plaster is then air dried and repeatedly sanded to achieve a smooth surface. The gold leaf is applied in the traditional way using size. In the past, I have various types of adhesive but none of them achieve the very reflective finished attained with the size. ” (email 7 May 2017) Continue reading
Unafraid Red (and the following U-Yellow, U-Blue and U-White) curated by Dr Colin Darke has been inspired by Barnett Newman’s Who is afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue ( four paintings made between 1966 -1970 as a pun on Albee’s play)) and not directly by Edward Albee’s 1962 play Who is afraid of Virginia Wolf even if it shares is principle, e.g. Act 1:Fun and games)
Albee described the inspiration for the title thus:
I was in there having a beer one night, and I saw “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” scrawled in soap, I suppose, on this mirror. When I started to write the play it cropped up in my mind again. And of course, who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf means who’s afraid of the big bad wolf . . . who’s afraid of living life without false illusions. And it did strike me as being a rather typical, university intellectual joke.[5
Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein and Ellsworth Kelly, had begun to reclaim primary colour, using it on their own terms. Newman, who had previously always mixed his own colours, felt compelled to respond. ‘I was now in confrontation with the dogma that colour must be reduced to the primaries, red, yellow and blue,’ he said. The challenge as he saw it, was to make the colours ‘expressive rather than didactic.’ (Tate Gallery room 13)
The hue is inherently validating a meaning. Why? Because it is there. Because it is a voluntary discrimination of the rest, because limiting selection of art to “red or yellow or blue or white” is an “unnecessary obstacle” that carries risks. I recognize it as a principle motivating climbing an Everest as well as Albee’s play, Newman’s minimalism and Darke’s curating. F. Nietzsche’ ” superficiality out of profundity” defines it well.
Darke hoped that focus on one hue will provide ” a level of visual cohesion, while retaining the conceptual and aesthetic diversity that defines Queen Street Studios.”( Gallery handout – worth reading all of it: the curator researched the hue’s flexibility to symbolize life, love, class struggle, fire, charity, gravity, dignity, grace and attractiveness)
Displayed in two rooms, it had to borrow the back space for the performance by the superb Amanda Coogan.
Her decision to fragment the body into hidden static and visible moving is one of those “unnecessary obstacles”. The spiritless container still squeezes in the idea of a game even a smile, thus acting like voluntary discrimination against “body art”, inflicting contrary thoughts of imprisonment and disability. The grace of arm movement, the drama of frozen open mouth, slow movement of head, all combine forces to disgrace, to overcome the obstacles. Illusion of a whole body alive and well.
The ability of the artist to work through imposed limits to protect the freedom of thought, joy of unpredictable imagination and to contain various skids and shifts of meanings bounds the exhibition together. A comparison of “Rose” and “Red Rhythm”
Catherine Davison: above “Rose”, below “Red Rhythm” ( both acrylic, n.d.)
Although in both paintings Davison allows the red to look continuous over the colour field, both tonality and brushstroke make obstacles to it. As well as other hues. Yet – the red holds command over the “light” and “temperature” , a reminder of Cezanne’s rule that the painting should hold the same temperature from the left top corner to the lower right.
In a nod to symbolism the red oscillates between several meanings (blood – fire) with holding on to its history as one of the three used by early humans, i.e. black, white and red)
The graceful fragility of the plant silently engages with Ritchie’s other set of the hundred tracings of war titled Century (ink on tracing paper)
The technique of transfer and historical themes attract also Jennifer Trouton presented here as a grid of “tiles”, each capable of standing alone, titled What Remains (oil, decal transfer and wallpaper on board)
Her forte, the painterly illusion is represented by oil painting “Yield”. On comparison, it seems somewhat unfinished.
Sinead McKeever installed two of her crawling “relief/drawings” made from recycled material.
And when this fragile looking velvety tangible “line” got stepped on
it survived the change by embracing it. Her larger piece Untitled has not taken that risk of contamination, “crawling” safely on the wall as if coming out from the line between it and the ceiling.
Cheerful and melodic, it voiced the visibility of youth, energy – life.
For the way these artists treat humanity this exhibition was a very welcome alternative to the more brutal slogan like art in some other current exhibitions. I particularly applaud the curator and the artist for “raining the images” on the visitor as stimulus to their own imagination. While their points of departure are different, they coalesce independent play with growing the meanings from different soil/sources to make art that silently stimulates visual thinking. Formed by intrinsic logic of visibility they -as if – obey Dante Alighieri’s celebration of imagination ” stealing us away from the outer world and carrying us off to the inner one…”. Not forgetting how they shelter under Goethe’s thinking about the red – cited by the curator – that it ” conveys an impression of gravity and dignity, and at the same time of grace and attractiveness.”
Images courtesy Dr Colin Darke and artists.
“I beg you….let us begin anew by doubting everything we assume has been proven.” (Giordano Bruno,1548 -1600) Continue reading
The gallery handout makes astonishing statement calling this small exhibition upstairs ” “an ongoing body of work using photographic images and audio recordings that engage with the contemporary landscape of Uganda while exploring its layers of memory.”
Whose layers of memory? Memory of what? The body of work is not using images it is those images…
The exhibits were given a collective name “Proverbs” for one reason: “… story telling still seems to hold a certain degree of reverence.”( Robert Ellis in the gallery handout)
Looking at the image above does not provide a persuasive evidence that it is an image from Uganda. Ellis spent there three months in 2013 and some undisclosed period in 2016. Instead, the lens based image gives credence to the enthusiastic welcome to Ellis as a part of a “terrifically competent” graduates shown under Photoworks 2007 in a review by Aidan Dunne (The Irish Times, 27 June 2007), Dunne perceived Ellis’s document of Brazilian community then as “an outstanding project”. The recognition continues, in 2014 Ellis’s photography appeared at Plat(t)from 2014 an the Photo-Museum Winterthur, Switzerland. That is a curated exhibition gathering young artists – who are invited to be present as well as they artwork.
So – I have almost classical dilemma (Aeschylus Iketides) between the visual thought of a foreigner and the disinterested subjects, natives or landscape. The tree appears in a proverb I know – not a Ugandan one. My grandfather told me to protect trees, because killing a tree is killing a city. My association to the wisdom of my ancestor is made admissible by Ellis’s juxtaposition of the majestic tree crown and distant roofs and lights and a light tower…
Easily – another connection surfaces while looking at the image – the tree looks like a kind of a platan tree, admired by Handel’s Xerxes in the aria Ombre mai fu for offering shade: dear, friendly and gentle tree.
The framing sets the tree in the centre of this fragment of the landscape while the human settlement nearer the horizon sincerely admits that it continues beyond the frame. The image has thus a tenor and the chorus – in two different rhythms – in a seamless co-existence. Do I sense a latent conflict? Yes, but the artist holds me firmly on the side of the tree, agreeing that human species depend on nature.
People appear in the rest of the exhibits, alas, I do not have those images.
Photographing persons anywhere raises the dilemma between the aim to document and the encroaching the privacy of the subjects. It is possible that they do not mind… it is possible that Ellis did not need to ask their permission. Nevertheless, he is an outsider giving his view of what his subjects think of as familiar. By chance this theme surfaces in a current exhibition at the Photo-Museum Winterthur titled Unfamiliar Familiar. Outsiders views on Switzerland.
That is a parallel theme to Ellis’s view of Uganda. He portraits the local people, standing, walking, perhaps talking. That the images do not contribute to a particular national identity is their strength.In my view, the repertoire Ellis presents is not inflating stereotypes, his curious eye zooms on subjective characteristics of the viewing, it is not restricted by stereotype or advertisement. Seen by an outsider – the subjects carry warm familiarity, replacing sharp differences by overarching similarity of life lived now – here and there.
Successfully, Ellis offers authentic fragments of the seen at every given moment, some look staged, but all subtly claim the status of a document, of external evidence. Yet – since all meaning could be questioned, Ellis offers the insecurity of free interpretation with instinctive promise of beauty, the beauty of something ordinary, unexceptional, yet uniquely true. I almost said uniquely beautiful and good – in agreement with Socrates’s twinning of kallos and agathos. (Plato, Gorgias, 474d-75d)
And so Ellis escaped the danger of offering exotic as the grounding for an outsider’s view.
The ribbon window of the gallery on second floor of this modernist building offered picturesque view over Belfast and light and calm to envelope O’Connell’s paintings. A gentle host to the unleashed passion for the modernist idiom. Yet, it made me think of Tintoretto in the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, “San Rocco in prison visited by an angel” (1567) – minus the visual noise.
The baroque painter developed exquisite mastery of irrational lighting. He gave it a poetic role to disconnect what is connected in the real world. Disembodied by light and dark the anatomy became a tool for passionate astonishment.
White as the highest light and black as its absence govern several of the all over paintings O’Connell presented. I shall come back to his attachment to other hues.
On one hand these illegible messages look like painting. On the other the white and black layers are disembodied by a sharp end of a tool that ploughs the field unearthing the first layer, in a manner an artist could work out a low relief. Taking away is appropriate to sculpting, before Modernism developed abstraction. Piet Mondrian applied almost clinical rationality to subtraction in the painting kept at the GementeMuseum Den Haag, the 1911 Grey Tree.
O’Connoll, however, sides with Robert Motherwell who praised Clifford Still for not working through images. The painted surface is the image – a kind of tautology aspiring at becoming an image.
In many of the displayed paintings there are added small canvases painted in calmed manner with one hue.
Reminiscent of Clifford Stills cry: “It is intolerable to be stopped by a frame edge” O’Connell admits a need to tame the sensuous irrationality of the “carved” surfaces by the obedience of each hue to be a good, minimalist, steadying, grounding area.
The carpet on the floor unwittingly, and less successfully, echoes that aim. The larger paintings abandoned the neurotic baroque altogether. The high hysteria of emotion is thus only on the smaller formats – adding the feel for private contemplation.
Minimalist billboard scale examines the power of hard edge geometry so softly used in the extensions of the smaller paintings.
Sentenced to find home in public spaces, they are immaculate and confident. The grey and black harks back to the light/dark play flipping the surface out of rationally measurable space. A quite lovely break towards a play.
The discipline of modernism has its rewards when it offers soothing co-existence.
There is a renewed interest in this kind of painting – see http://www.simpleabstract.com in particular the S2A Group. (They list an artist from Ireland: Carol Diver)
The contrast of painted and unpainted, dark and light, do not preclude the poetic role of present and absent parts of what in a viewing conditions becomes an image. It is different from “working through images”( Robert Motherwell) in that it works so that the viewer can form and carry its image as one whole. So -working for an image?
O’Connell has explored the various stages of ” working – for – an- image” for some time, without leaning on Minimalism. I have in mind his installation at Platform Arts 2012, namely the sculpture made of keys… ( see Jason Higgins photograph on adrianoconnell.com/ Off Limits – Belfast Project)
The fascination with repetitive occurrence of similar but different visible “objects” seeped through from those keys to these paintings made during the 2015 – 2016/17 -.
The tonality of hues often whispers only about light and dark, thus being nowhere near the Tintoretto’s drama of the belief in the extra-celestial beings. Yet, the tenor of all O’Connell’s paintings is an invitation to believe. The low reliefs look like frozen Jackson Pollock as well as like incomprehensible appropriation of the universe.
Stubborn to tell me more these paintings demand free fall imagination, they make that visible.
Images courtesy of Adrian O’Connell.
The installation is made up of four TV monitors and a continuous projection on the wall.
The colours and sounds of Predictable Contact, while allowing me the freedom to play Continue reading
Mosaics? Tapestries? Embroidery? The look of Turner’s objects constructed from Lego Bricks or Hama Beads meanders from an association to toys, to rules of construction controlled by gravity or frames. The sizes vary from huge Megaton #1 and #2 to hand held little figures.
The gallery handout states that the exhibition was curated by Francesca Biondi as a set of “powerful images of bomb explosions…intended as a critical commentary on war and terrorism”.
David Turner has experienced the Troubles growing up in Belfast during the 1970s – consequently, the explosions, the killing, the violence, became part of his personal experience of the world. No wonder if it surfaces in his consciousness, as reflective intentions remove glorification from armed conflicts and the proverbial ” my side” bias.
The gap between artist’s intention and the impact of the work of art invested with it, is always there, otherwise there would be just narrative, illustrative visual art. Notably, the dynamics of creativity always wiggles out of the intention – more or less freeing itself from the illusion of explanatory depth.
Turner uses real documented events as a source for the compositions, e.g. Oil Rig/Explosion, 2016
The image does not illustrate one such event, but any such event… anywhere, where the humanity becomes hubristic in relation to nature, to the Earth. The drilling companies demand freedom to drill for oil, even if they cannot fully control the outcome, even if there are warning signs not to drill a particular site. Such companies are driven by hubris, not by precaution principle. If Turner’s image increases awareness of the public to the gap between the companies intentions and a likely harmful outcome – it would have contributed to safer future life on this planet. This artist does not preach – rather he invites the viewer to reflect whether the current generation are responsible ancestors.
While the motives are rooted in Turner’s experiences -whether direct or mediated – the works of art follow their intrinsic agenda, locked powerfully by the material and tools. Less of “art in service of…” and more of “art as a potential for increase of connectivity of brain. Effective connectivity, the current science proposes, depends on covariance between intention and the resulting impact. Turner trusts the incongruency between the tool and subject matter, play and killing people, to undermine the so called “confirmation bias” of those who justified the Troubles. Or still do. Some exhibits appear ambiguous.
This figure built from LEGO bricks prefers the robot like appearance – androgynous, of ambiguous gender and age – to occupy the established territory of toys and souvenir. In addition, in the gallery context, it requires affinity with small modernist abstract sculptures. Contemplating it easily favours associations with obedience, order, and loss of identity. The warm colours over the cold white skeleton evoke desirability. The calm ” in-betweenness” of this small statue has left behind an earlier strategy of sarcasm and hyperbole of Little Dudes (2013) and Nano Dudes (2015)
I find this image interesting for commanding freedom from the artist’s intention. Although inspired by a real tragic vent, and titled Structural Damage #1, it is capable of a presenting clues either to surface or to the structure of the Earth. If perceived as a segment of a structure it progresses from the black heavy core, the fluid magma, and the green thinner surface with atmosphere. I admit that my reading has been triggered by the recent scientific research about the centre of the Earth, and not at all by Turner’s, or the curator’s intentions. I celebrate the art’s ability to open ways of being not predicted by the artist. In that sense, I do not need to know what the intention ever was. It is all between the work of art and me. Or work of art and you. Luckily, people always thought that the universe was made of both similarities and differences, perhaps the most famously formulated by Plato in Timaeus. So- this composition is also similar to a progression of light from a shadow over reed sunset reflected on water and sky. And may be more…
Not all works of art allow such a openness – often they insists on limiting the viewer’s imagination.
Both images on the far wall represent decipherable objects … boats, ship, ports. Both have the word BOMB in their title.
Both look like tapestries, cross stitched embroidery – similar to Bayeux Tapestry in their clumsiness to present in right angles what it not right angled… an explosion.
In real viewing the white departed from industrial even surface and breathed in space that kept declining away from the lower frame, calmly and with determination of a poetic word.
The association with the patient work of female of the species embroidering something while guarding children – is rooted in the vast history of human division of labour. Turner decided to own it, I sense, inspired by his being a parent. His faithful use of toy material… something to assist development of various skills, has significance for his tolerance to the gap between intention, inspiration, motif, and the art object. He does not condemn the art object to be a servant of a reason to make it, for its link to identifiable source. By using tools for play – Turner admits the importance of play for creativity. And for freedom of imagination. Not something to sneer at. Charles Baudelaire called imagination the queen of all faculties.
The even machine precision of the surfaces does not allow anything flamboyant to happen. Yet, the very technique of accumulation of sots is quite open to that, as illustrated, inter alia, by the rather undervalued and magnificent Yayoi Kusama’ “Infinity – Love Forever” (1966 – 1994)
Turner does not favour symmetry, rather he dismantles something real into useless, e.g. a weapon. While holding on to the convincing appearance, he denies its function. He makes fakes, ignoring the possible undesirable mistaken perception. Making explosions and weapons pretty is not without pitfalls.
All exhibits are for sale. I like that combination of a gallery and dealership… it has glorious history on both sides of the Atlantic.
Images courtesy David Turner.
From the University of Massachussetts via a dialogue at Scope NY, 2015, to the Project Space at the GTG in Belfast is a journey less startling than the choice of making Belfast a Sister City for Boston. Yet, in 2014 the Boston Mayor Martin J Walsh spoke of “…our historic connection and deeply linked heritage”. His name places him anywhere in island of Ireland, and quite comfortably among the many Walsh’s in Belfast and Dublin.
The four artists Margaret Hart, Zach Horn, Elizabet Marran and Cat Mazza show competent visual art – a sort of polite gesture of a guest.
offers insights into her art practice in her
“”To review my entire portfolio is to see a diverse group of works. There are definite relationships between bodies of work,and it is possible to trace the progression from one work to the next. As I was organizing my entire oeuvre, I was struck by the nature in which certain themes kept surfacing. The content of my work, as well as my approach to different materials, has grown and evolved over the years.
The majority of my work is installation based. I was drawn to this form in graduate school and have explored it ever since. Installation allows me to bring together the variety of materials I enjoy working with and provides me a forum within which I can address larger critical issues. I have always been influenced by theoretical writings on the subject of identity. Both feminist works, and more recently, the many cultural studies texts on the developing cyber culture have fed my creative impulses. Michel Foucault, Luce Irigaray, Elaine Scarey. Donna Haraway, and Roseanne Stone have been very influential authors for me, especially their writing on identity formation and on the nature of the individual. Body issues, and the development of the individual identity, have always been central to my work.
From this centralized position I have continually examined the nature of the internal and external. In earlier works, such as “Masquerade” and “Mapping Memory: Recollections of the Self” both in 1993, the examination was focused on body issues from within a feminist framework. The internal psychological impact of body image, and it’s part in identity formation, being determined from the external patriarchal culture was a large part of these earlier works. Later, as my research for teaching purposes began influencing my creative work, issues of the technologically enhanced body began emerging and intertwining with my earlier concerns. “(base)Pair Recognition” is an obvious example of this type of work. In both cases the internal can be interpreted as the psyche, as well as the voyeuristic internal gaze of society. The external can be seen as the construction of the identity or the masks we wear.
Physically, the move from photographic based installation to sculptural and digital based works has been a slow, but obvious progression. The manipulated and repeated photographic imagery are now being interspersed with objects and digitally manipulated imagery. There has always been an obsessive element to my work. This has manifested itself through sheer quantity, physical labor, and, more recently, through the production of multiples. The materials have occasionally changed, but the obsessive nature of the work has remained constant. I have always been drawn towards technology and the content of my work raises many critical questions about the nature of technology, it’s impact on the individual, and our ever-shifting definitions of self.
The video feels unstructured. Abstract fields alternate with precision favoured by design and – in the case of genome, by science. If the viewer accepts that an open-ended lens based sequence has a potential to trigger either awareness or aesthetic experience , then the video succeeds. If not – there is no seductive beauty or distressing terror, or anything in between, to wake up deeper attention. On the surface, it is informative about the basic knowledge that nature in all its forms is connected. It attempts to disturb an expected comfort zone of viewing “just art” by deep cutting consequences of something flawed. But that peters out before the end. While I read this video as a “macho set of values” – her earlier series Tying the Knot exhibit subtle and private existence not unlike to moments we need to be still and quiet. (seen on firstname.lastname@example.org) Hart sent to Belfast collages titled Liquid Metal Series, 2016 instead:
CAT MAZZA (born 1977) exhibits six panels of Electroknit Series 2016.
The Electroknit Series is made in uniforms size of 12 x 16 in while harvesting handknit patterns from 1523 until the present.
Cat Mazza(b 1977) is an associate professor of New Craft and digital Media, the founder of microRevolt – aimed at improvement of working conditions in globalised knitting industry(see http://www.post-craft.net/catmazza.html). It seems that Mazza hopes that digitalizing the knitting will improve those working conditions. So far in the published interviews and statements she did not pronounced on the impact of that change on the availability of jobs.
Soon after the WW II, anticipating the augmentation aspect of the debate over AI and jobs, Alan Turing suggested that humans will be needed to assess the accuracy of the calculations done by digital computers. At the same time (similar to many of today’s commentators on the subject), he also predicted the automation of high-value jobs (held by what he called “masters” as opposed to the “slaves” operating the computer) and the possible defense mechanisms by what today we call “knowledge workers”:
The masters are liable to get replaced because as soon as any technique becomes at all stereotyped it becomes possible to devise a system of instruction tables which will enable the electronic computer to do it for itself…
They may be unwilling to let their jobs be stolen from them in this way. In that case they would surround the whole of their work with mystery and make excuses, couched in well-chosen gibberish, whenever any dangerous suggestions were made.
Turing concluded his lecture with a plea for expecting intelligent machines to be no more intelligent than humans:
One must therefore not expect a machine to do a very great deal of building up of instruction tables on its own. No man adds very much to the body of knowledge, why should we expect more of a machine? Putting the same point differently, the machine must be allowed to have contact with human beings in order that it may adapt itself to their standards.
Mazza puts herself as an artist in that context. The aesthetic/art impact of her exhibits is somewhat lesser than that of original hand knitted samplers, members of “lesser arts” so named by William Morris, who defended the subterrean kindness that governs knitting.
Both Mazza and Morris value the role of “lesser arts” in supporting ordinary life. Mazza’s project of microRevolt seemingly revisits Karl Marx’s distinction between political emancipation and human emancipation, the latter closely related to non-alienated labour. On the other hand, her manifesto also subscribes to Marx’s conviction that within the capitalist systems instruments of production must be constantly revolutionised.
ELIZABETH MARRAN teaches introductory and advanced courses in drawing and printing.
Traditional media such as drawing, painting and prints are remade with current technology. Yet, it makes little difference to the art, more to the loss of the aura or authorship and original. Even this democratising principle has roots in all old techniques of multiples.
The lightness of her touch perhaps recalls Joseph Beuys’ Multiples – without his daring innovation to print of blocks of wood.
The desire to keep the images abstract does not limit the semblance of some to objects the viewer is familiar with, allowing perception of warmth to misplace the cold intention.
ZACH HORN sent a video and a small painting.
(accessed on http://www.zachhornart.com)
I started these drawings because my son was born and I wanted to make work downstairs. I mean paint fumes just wouldn’t do. So I went back to the basics, pencil and paper, and I started to draw. What I didn’t expect is that the drawings would circle back to such representational imagery. Maybe it’s the muscle memory of 10,000 adolescent hours spent drawing? But what I happily discovered is that by using the figure I was able to talk about a much larger range of subjects.
These drawings are about my life, my memories, my screwy psychology. I don’t plan them out. There is no order. Even when I start the drawings I have just the faintest wisp of an idea, like wanting to draw a puff of smoke, or a huge baby, some lions or a face. In the beginning I try to hold the drawings loosely, and as they go, they start to assert themselves. The drawings tell me what they want to be. The hardest part is not to filter. I have to trust that every stupid, off-beat, taboo idea bubbled up for a reason. I think that it’s healthier for the drawings (and definitely therapeutic for me) to let it all out on the page. In the past they have called this inner voice, the muse, the subconscious, or the lizard brain. It’s all the same thing, trusting that little goblin in my head.
I’m usually surprised at the end of the drawing. I swear I didn’t know that Colossus was going to be about Goya, that the lady in Byzantine would have that other mouth, that the figures in the back of Easter Island would be bearing axes. The drawings asked to be like that. It’s only later that I realize that I am making a drawing about my life, about having a baby, about thinking about having more, about love, fear, weight, empathy, and cynicism. If you look at all the drawings together it would be a map of my brain, like the way that Hockney composited those photographs to create one image. These works are the last 12 months inside my head.
Since the subjects are so personal, I have been agonizing over the images. The alternative would be to make more expressive drawings, ie. violent arm movements as a symbol of my aggression. But, expressionism has a trade-off in that subject matter is often subjugated to touch. Because I’m drawing my son, my wife, me, my friends, my memories, my brain, I haven’t been able to sacrifice them to a looser hand. And I like it. I enjoy the challenge of waves, rocks, mist, smoke, and flesh.
I have had a blast making these drawings. I used almost no source material. I made up the figures, the rocks, the smoke, the fire, the clouds, the sky, the waves, the hair. I had to look up lion anatomy and some women’s shoes, but the rest is invented. Drawing from my brain lets every detail serve the composition. Light bends, perspective warps, figurative proportion distorts. Since I’m inventing it all, it’s mine to play with.
The video is humorous animation of drawings of lorries, houses, the street – superbly delivered. The drawings style reminds me of Marx Ernst – even the light touch free of heavy ideology or unsettling sentiment. (see http://www.zachhornart.com)
In conclusion: the vitality of Zach Horn’s humour, invention and technical skills invests a hope that his academic carrier will not rob him of it.
The inevitable use of new technology is valid, but it cannot by itself guarantee the intrinsic value of art.
The universities all over are guilty of stifling art by demands for statements that the administrators can understand and evaluate. Only some artists have been able to wiggle out of that deadly embrace the rationalising creativity inevitably brings about. And arts wither. In spite of good intentions.
Images courtesy Golden Thread Gallery.
My work is influenced by many things; mythology, folk tales and invented stories, leaving their dark side laid bare. It is about my life, the lives of others, and sometimes the life of no one at all. I use images of the past, feelings of the present and dreams of the future to inspire me in my art. Continue reading
Queen Street Studios started a new tradition: Flash Show offering their ground floor rooms at 31-33 Bedford Street for a brief exhibitions – like a visit to a studio.
Davison’s Kaleidoscope of Colour is the first of a planned series, enabling the public in a busy part of Belfast, opposite hotel and BBC to use their Friday lunchtime break differently, perhaps? Continue reading
I went last week – Jamshid realised another of his reliably good displays. On the ground floor, in the cafe space, piano, bookshelves, tables and chairs hinted at his parisian models. Upstairs – it felt more like a piano nobile minus luxuries, tapestries and furniture.
Fifty and five art objects were each allowed generous space. Wrapping of something in nothing reminded me of Yves Klein’s conducting invisible orchestra, Jamshid’s instruments being size, scale, material, colours, volume and space.
In his garden of earthly delights the hell is absent having taken residency at Golden Thread Gallery Project Space, where Jennifer Mehigan installed a large scale, large number of exhibits named Butcher. Violent, grotesque, revolting, its specific demands make leaving the space a blessing, echoing other older art that wished to impact also as a heavy weapon. (Goya’s Disasters of War come to mind, or indeed any of Hieronymus Bosch’s hell.)
Mehigan meticulously imposed a didactic spirit in all that is made visible, including the multicolour blobs on the floor. Not a sign of the hygienic anger of Lynda Benglis…
Mehigan’s exhibition connects to morality tales, like those of Dante or the one that in 15th C became a bestseller translated into many languages, the Visio Tundale (possibly written in early 12th C by a monk in Cashel). According to the curator Alissa Kleist the Butcher is expected to answer Mehigan’s questions including for whom is the imagery is created. why and what happens when it is presented in a gallery space. This also mirrors the aim of the texts like the Visio.
The pragmatic strategies are rendered as authoritative and legitimate representation of the reality that born them out. The visual force is performative, whether on the floor, on the canvas or a video, its fragility hidden. Some defensive strategies are mentioned in the handout, presumably written by the curator, reminiscing on sources like a film or a poem. Alissa Kleist cites a line which could have been Mehigan’s leitmotiv: “what resembles a grave but isn’t”
There is a sense of strive for originality, to make something striking and controversial. It is so powerful that the exhibits huddle together like a crowd of people in a strikingly adverse conditions. There is not natural end to that condition.
Leaving the lesson of the “hell” behind, Fenderesky offers a salon of small scale works of art, that can be either send to the wilderness of the art world, or domesticated in anybody’s home, anybody’s life.
In the so called Christmas show ,Fenderesky makes any aggressive role of art firmly absent. Demands on tacit visual thinking are to unlock your “inner” Self, that most private being that responds to poetry of the night sky or snowed over mountains. This art carefully insists on the benefit of not knowing something, of not crossing every distance.
Jamshid chose what goes were with the eye of a lover, oldfashioned lover of very contemporary art, the oldest is Martin Wedge’s Personage (1993) followed by Felim Egan’s Blue North (2005). There is a price list which illustrates differences in the market values, you can have one painting upstairs for the same money as several on the wall downstairs. And no, it is not a reference to that TV series. The intrinsic value of each work of art is independent of the market value. I was drawn to many, but chose to write about four only. They share nothing except nuances in variation.
Dan Shipsides (http://www.danshipsides.com/DshipsidesWeb/home.html) art practice is multifaceted. His subject of choice is “visibility”.
I quote from his web page:
‘Pata-perception: perceive-something, recognise-nothing, conceive-anything, cognise-everything.
I’m interested in a creative and critical relationship to place, spaces, encounters and events in all and any of its potential manifestations – political, personal, topological, psychological, phenomenological or nonsensical. My work manifests as video, image, sculpture, installation, performance, sound, music or text.
The processes of my work reflect and embody encounters – adventures and misadventures in ‘real life’ which often includes climbing and mountaineering alongside my day-to-day life and an open response to the politicized landscape of urban Belfast where I live.
The sculpture exhibited on the ground floor has history of three “lives”, as a part of Kaleidoscope, of a video and sculpture. More on his link below:
The measured simplicity reminds me of Duke Ellington who also ventured into various directions, e.g melodic – slurs -syncopation, motives and phrases: “…you have got to find some way of saying it without saying it…
I find it easy to like – and no, I do not worked out “the meaning” – I prefer a sort of wordless conversation with it, it gives me lively responses back if I stay mute enough, never exactly the same…I imagine how it will look after a layer of household dust… it seems able to cope with the glimmers of said and unsaid, real and imagined.
Some of the reticent attitude to hegemony of content lies at the cradle of “sticks” as I name this mode of sculpture by Tony Hill.
Graceful, poised and seamless it is also private and even intimate. It appears to stare back knowingly – something about absurd emergence of painting. It protrudes into real space from a slit in the wall of exactly its size, that origin is never revealed, but the visual illusion admits its existence, incapable of ruling out its denial.
Gary Shaw – a painter of patterns, was once a painter of landscapes. In my memory a red australian mountain still commands a large “macho” canvas. While taming the size, a poetry of suggestion of almost seethrough shapes joins effortlessly the pythagorian precision of hard edges, straight lines, acute angles. The discipline invites the gossamer of brushstrokes to sing from the same sheet. Each identity is respected in classical trinity of calm, harmony and rationality, or from the point of view of architecture, trinity of restrain, simplicity and proportion. The single dot in the middle and free read brushstrokes enliven the strict order – even bring it to animated humour of some unreal creature getting through the gossamer.
There is a strong history of collage and assemblage during the 20th C. as a part of the autonomy of modernist visual art. Its prehistory in religious and folk art is often forgotten. Northern Ireland has a steady devotee in G Gingles who exhibits here CUBA, 2016. (Sorry no image)
Zoe Murdoch does both boxes and no boxes… recycling of found, bought and received objects: Pripiat I and II, 2015 position themselves as assemblage of incompatibles.
Look at everything as though you are seeing it for the first time, with eyes of a child, fresh with wonder. Shadow boxes become poetic theatre or settings wherein are metamorphosed the elements of a childhood pastime. (Joseph Cornell). Murdoch aims decidedly on adult view of the world. Playfully at times, and threateningly serious at other times. The spanner in the works is physically and metaphorically commenting on a place she knows something about. Before the Chernobyl disaster Pripyat was a thriving town. Now it is a ghost town near the borders between Ukraine and Belaruss. Murdoch makes the two of the composition to look at each other as if being two pages in an open book.
Mutilated into flat layers each has no air to breathe. Ashes and destruction still retain memory of being once spaces for life. The calm overwhelms the explosion that killed the living place, not dissimilar to the burial of two towns by eruption of the Vesuvius. With a difference. Pripyat was 16 years old.
Named after the nearby Pripyat River, Pripyat was founded on 4 February 1970, as the ninth nuclear city (a type of closed city) in the Soviet Union, to serve the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.It was officially proclaimed a city in 1979, and had grown to a population of 49,360 by the time it was evacuated, on the afternoon of April 27, 1986, the day after the Chernobyl disaster. (accessed on Wikipedia)
Murdoch chose a small size, even less than of a box for ashes of a cremated person, thus associating the death of a city with a death of a person. Hence the prominent place for a hand held tool of construction. As in hope.
The Fenderesky exhibition offers works of art – all offering a rewarding visit, alas, Belfast public has no that kind of habit.
And yes, it has taken me this long to write this essay about it.
Click on grubberguide to see the sketch for the main exhibit and the artist’s valuable notes.
There were four items exhibited: Continue reading
Curated by J. Baker . the exhibition titled another day in futile battle against the 2nd law of thermodynamics included, maps, diagrams, installation, and video, all presented with meticulous care. Selection of gallery exposition and O’Beirn’s introduction is accessible on http://www.aislingobeirn.com/anotherday.htm. as the latest of many of the delightfully rich inventory of her art practice.
She wields the uncanny mastery over chaos, without completely taming it, holding its energy present. Found objects willingly forget their identity and -with some tacit humour – co-operate with O’Beirn’s will to transform base metal into gold, or the other way round.
As a characteristic of alchemy the transformation of found objects by O’Beirn is reminiscent of Arte Povera, namely Gilberto Zorio.
“The various media used within his oeuvre include lead, copper, steel, clay, concrete, Tesla coils, compressors, strobe lights, lamps and incandescent objects, which are activated through processes including reaction, solidification, evaporation, oxidisation, fragmentation and precipitation. These are presented not as scientific occurrences, but are rather elevated to be considered on a more ethereal, universal level, foregrounding their primordial or even esoteric qualities that relate to the nature of existence, the cosmos and evolution. (http://www.blainsouthern.com/artists/gilberto-zorio)
O’Beirn filled the first gallery with translation of scientific data about distances of stars in the constellation of Great Bear, the second with video projections.
I remember, hearing it as a child curious about the future, the adults expressing their fatalism thus: well only stars know…
O’Beirn juxtaposed the peak of each shower with a memorable event,e.g Lenin’s appearance at Petersburg at the start of the October revolution. I read it both as “predicted”, i.e. determined and as coincidence, a chance parallel. O’Beirn allows both.
By insisting on the same pattern of juxtaposition of facts O’Beirn fabricates the ennui born by the disinterested repeat. This makes the theoretical law into a concrete, experience, accessible to senses.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics States that whenever energy is transformed from one form to another form, entropy increases and energy decreases.
The installation of Ursa Major in the large gallery has been rooted in O’Beirn’s delicate interview of an astronomer, the whole is presented as a video record:
The didactic element manifests further in diagrams and a poster.
This is Arte Povera with a PhD. O’Beirn respects science and knowledge and truth and reality of the socio-economical conditions for living artist, so similar to the group in Turin and 1967 when Germano Celant published Arte Povera. A large part of her practice utilises the scholarship as a method to make visual art. At times the success is as if free of that intention – confidently engaging aesthetic categories, including beauty.
Significant layer of the installation depends on the success of persuasion. In recall of Duchamp’s Fountain a dish rack wants to be the constellation of star that is hardly visible. O’Beirn, the alchemyst, gathered the star dust out of the thin air, serving them on a plate. Some irony of human condition wrestles in. Palpably, the coexistence of domestic chores and science and art, is possible.
Knowledge and art meet in imagination, its transformatory power of one identity into another also depends on viewer’s attitude/expectations what art may be. At first I felt dictated to – and resisted it. Deliberately, I focused on the objects abject refusal to transform. This was strong tenor of all parts of the installation from near views of each part. After watching the video where out of camera range O’Beirn politely questions the expert, I went back to the main installation. Still the pedestrian translation of distances in the universe into scaled down sizes of each star in the constellation was an irritant.
Only when I abandonned the idea of the installation being a model for Ursa Major could i delight in the witty combinatory poetics of play – objects playing – like musical instruments in an orchestra. They followed to prescribed size and strength, while displacing that objective rule by subjective joyful gifts of surprising willingness to abandon their original role. Plates pretend to be like vinyl records of yesterdays. The stands could hold the sheet music for members of an orchestra … and it all started to work as the music of the spheres.
The bitter-sweet dialogue between the married couple, Jessica and Lorenzo, at the beginning of the final act of The Merchant of Venice, includesdiscussion of the stars, each in its separate “orb,” or sphere, each sphere contributing to the heavenly music that only the angels (cherubins) can here. Ordinary humans, clothed in their earthly, decaying bodies, cannot hear the music of the spheres:
Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;
Such harmony is in immortal souls;
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.
When classical writers speak of the harmony of ideal order and creation, they are not thinking of the terms just as a metaphor. O’Beirn does not either.
Images courtesy the artist.
As an invitation to a Shadow Catcher ( in my thought a rendez-vous with Mnemosyne) the artist states:
In this exhibition in the Sunburst gallery in Ards Arts centre, I have used the historical photographic process called wet plate collodion. Wet plate collodion was invented by Frederick Scott Archer in 1851. This process involves coating plates made from either glass or aluminium (originally used iron or tin) with first collodion and then silver nitrate. The plate is then exposed through the camera and developed and fixed for exposure to white light. The camera needs to be suitable for holding these glass or metal plates in plate holders. I use a Russian FK plate camera which is from about the 1930s and was used for studio portraits and passport photography.
The process involves lengthy preparation. She wrote to me:
I have been working with wet plate collodion for the last three years, mostly in the summer, when I get a week or so, to set up a darkroom and work at this technique. It takes quite a lot of time to get the process working correctly as you must first master how to pour the chemicals to coat the plate correctly and then get all the chemistry working to get a good result. The silver nitrate can be quite tricky to get right as if it is too fresh it will fog and it will lose contrast when over-used. The collodion also requires some time to get used to the process of coating the plate, so that the whole plate is covered without gaps or bubbles. The collodion is sensitive to temperature and will pour quickly in warm conditions, more slowly in the cold. The bottle of collodion also must be kept still to prevent dust being stirred from the bottom of the bottle and ending up on the plate causing white spots in the final image. The plate must be developed immediately when exposed, therefore one must have a darkroom or ‘dark box’ close-by to prepare and develop the plates.
The advantage wet plate process has over Daguerreotype consists of a choice: it allows either positive or negative image. The latter facilitates multiple positives. McIver also researched its history: it was used during the American Civil War not only to document soldiers on a battlefield (Matthew Brady), the collodium was used to knit the wounds.
McIver illustrated the process in a glass cabinet – of the opposite side from the camera.
The wet plate process, that artist feels”…has an ability to unsettle the contemporary relationships with photography. It sets the subject into another sense of time and place…there is an unpredictability or wildness inherent in the process”
The exhibits are grouped according the place and time they were made.
In 2014 a residency at the Tyrone Guthrie centre led to construction of “dark box” to take outdoors, to make the wet place in it and to make images “within minutes of exposure” with it.
Each print is an after-life of the exposure, shaped by the mundane matters of preparation of the plate and “the dark box” for the image becoming visible :”The dark box seems almost like a magic box where these images are revealed”
Two weeks in 2015 at Clo Ceardlann in Donegal were spent in a bright lit studio with a small dark room attached.
The painterly marks result from a swish of silver nitrate around the edges caught on the wet plate. The background behind the plant is a cloth with printed image, which may invite a false guess that the image has been altered by using Photoshop. Three more images stand for that kind of experience, all portraits of women, the artists mother and two nieces.
The style of this image connects with the Guthrie group as well as being nearest to a more modern photography techniques. Although painterly, its highlights are dry.
McIver scanned the images and used them in a simple animation, presented as a video on a small Sony box monitor. The sense of intimate encounter evoked by the 2015 set seems levelled and wrenched outside, as it is broadcast over and over…
There are three original plates that bring forth a surprisingly poetic experience:
” I had been playing with some of the original plate holders, standing them up and creating triangular shapes between the slide holder and the plate. I discovered that when I put one of my glass plates against the black of the inside of the plate, it was visible. I enjoyed that the image was visible only from certain angles. This again played with the sense of the image being quite ethereal.”
McIver scanned images for animation and layered a red transparent circle over them
The images achieve resonance with something else at times releasing the original object, at times not. It is akin releasing a censor in our consciousness. It also insists that artist may lose a control. As a reward – under the surface of image scanned from life is something akin oceanic meaning. Snatched from brief encounters the images do both – document the encounter and fly away from it as existential anxiety buffer into the sphere of symbolic immortality. McIver is never irreverent, she is audacious with the archetypal visualisation of a portrait. In the beginning I compared this exhibition to a rendez-vous with Mnemosyne, the Titan goddess who with Zeus produced the Nine Muses, while herself was an offspring of Earth (Terra/Gaea) and Heavens (Uranus/Coelus). Photography is a visual memory tool par excellence, even if its relationship to truth is slippery.
The rich tonality of black and white is reminiscent of those not so rare decisions by painters to make black painting( eve if not quite black only, Goya), monochrome black drawings (G Seurat) and even the black figures painting on early Greek ceramics. It is like a remembrance of sorrow in a song chosen by Aoide, named as Mnemosyne’s daughter, when the muses are reduced to only three, by the respected Roman Scholar Marcus Terencius Varro( 116BC-27 BC). The other two he allowed, were Melete, the muse of practice, and Mneme, that of memory.
McIver evoked these three: memory, practice and poetry, as if effortlessly, by reviving the magic of collodion.
Images courtesy Moira McIver
Quotes from her letter to me in December, 2016
Sinead McKeever does not do compromises. Her installation at the Queen Street Studios Gallery title CIRCUIT (2016) echoed several of the perceptual tasks examined since 1960s by Michelangelo Pistoletto. Continue reading
The curators issued the following information:
Keith Wilson: Calendar
For this major exhibition in our Upper Gallery, British artist Keith Wilson further develops his longstanding investigation into the cultural status of sculpture, considering how ideas develop in the private sphere of the artist’s studio and transform into a public presentation of work in a gallery.
At the core of Calendar is a large-scale galvanised steel structure made up of multiple cubic units, organised in a series akin to the familiar monthly grid arrangement used for wall planners and electronic diary systems. These units are then occupied by various objects, items, and ephemera that offer a view into the artist’s studio from the wider enclosure of public space within the MAC.
This artistic practice comprises an ongoing enquiry into the contingency of meaning specifically in relation to the public functioning of sculpture. The artist is interested in exploring the power relations inherent in everyday human interactions and his exhibitions are often dramatized by having to navigate your way around apparently authoritative pieces of highly ordered sculptural material.
Keith Wilson is currently based between New York, Sheffield and London. Over the past two decades he has staged major solo exhibitions at institutions such as Camden Arts Centre, London; Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston; Milch Gallery, London; Milton Keynes Gallery, Milton Keynes; Eastside Projects, Birmingham; and the Wellcome Collection, London. He has also contributed to numerous group shows and projects at; the Hayward Project Space, London; Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds; as well completing a major commission Steles for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. From summer 2016 he will be Provost’s Artist-in-Residence, the Center for the Humanities at the CUNY Graduate Center, New York.
One of those days
and a question: which is art? The metal bos is Wilson’s product among the industrially produced buoys.
A calendar is a time piece, like neolithic stones or medieval tower clocks, it is driven by an intention to bring order into past, present and future. It insists that it is possible, due to predictability or planning. Paradoxically it is both divided and continuous. full and empty, finished and incomplete. All done both with a considerable effort – and slight boredom. The last quality has been invented as an aesthetic category around 1500 in Italy – spezzatura. No obvious effort was invested into selection of objects
– some are still unpacked small parcels.
Wilson was trying hard not to try hard
and still have some perfect artful dishevelment of mismatched items to entertain the curious.
Quizzical consciousness aims to remove nostalgia
possibly associated with an early design of a mobile phone silent and alone in one grey see through box of a day. It sends around a note of sadness which infects intellectual defences.
The yellow chair dares to nonchalantly pierce through overnight to another week .
Wilson relies on cubes made with an industrial material and precision to represent the sameness of 24 hours long day, repeated on the orbit of Earth around the Sun. The grey march of the right angle is relentlessly collaborating with ennui and fatigue.
It looks rational, but it exudes mystery.
Stonehenge it ‘aint’ – although if Wilson lived then I bet he would be one of the hard working men hands on, calculating weight and sizes and distances. His earlier work flirted with uneven, organic edges and sizes and allowed material to flow in the space, so rough shapes would not be a problem. Therefore, I felt at first quite alarmed with the relentless march of grey cubes stuck above and next to each other – I could not see where the march begun or ended. So – anywhere then. It the flow stutters over gaps – irregularly – up or down or all the way from the ground to the top.
After all, he constructed the whole aedifice himself. His allegiance to Homo Faber identity were manifestly present in his previous exhibitions like the one at Platform Art.
The box among the buoys addresses a Modernist concern about anxious object: Warhol’s Brillo boxes inside a supermarket would not look like art, in a gallery they would. Wilson ups the stake: a simple ubiquitous kind of metal (?) box next to maritime past. The visual difference does not carry conviction – the object is not reluctant to stay double faced. The question mark in brackets refers to my insecurity of knowing what the box was made of. When I went to look, it was not there anymore.
The Calendar started in 2011 and was developed in 2912 to look like empty bookshelves.
Shelves with life taken out, life a walked away shadow.
“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
—William Shakespeare, Macbeth, (Act V, sc. v 24–28)
In an interview with Aesthetica Wilson said about the above construction:
KW: Calendar is the last in a long series of galvanized steel works, which end here with these cube-form arrangements. Each piece is set out to represent a different indexical system, from the alphabet through to the periodic table. Starting with Vertical Hopscotch (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,0) the cube-works bring the apparent liberation of the third dimension to more familiarly 2-D languages of representation, only to reveal their own tyranny. Asking these small spaces to represent time seems a fitting way to end the game. My Calendar structure has an inside and an outside. Inside I think of as the space of the artist, perhaps even the studio, with outside being a more consensual, public space. The apparent rationality of the system begins to crumble as you realise how very different the inside is from the outside.
He follows the quote above up later in that interview by a magic departure: he thinks of it as a silent work and if placed in a field, it could appear as a fenced tomb, a forest could grow inside…
That thought he connects to imagined “late Henry Moore” – which is a fragment from Wilson’s adherence to UNIT ONE Group, 1933. He shares their concern about revitalising contemporary art.
No wonder reference appears during his work on the Calendar.
This is a cerebral calendar … marrying Mnemosyne with a storage shelve housing just one mobile phone as a memory of a friend who is no more.
Accumulation of time and objects forges serendipitous connections – even denial of some: Wilson never overloads a field of vision with objects, only with the whole that appears like fortress with no entrance. In practice slim bodies may squeeze through narrow gaps inside to note that several objects are visible only from inside.
Is it suggesting that time has an inside? That I cannot answer. Instead, I think that it approximates the orbit – not around a source of life, rather around a void.
Wilson does not offer an immersive visual experience. On my first visit – the objects dribbled in the field of vision broadcasting their insignificant ordinariness, with the exception of those still unpacked. Those held their secrets. Subsequent visits woke up familiarity as well as broken off sensory experiences. Round and round, whether walking around or inside, the tension of repetitiveness grew heavier with connectivity.
I sense philosophy creeping in, namely, something, Giordano Bruno was burn alive for on 17 February 1600 at Camp del Fiore in Rome: The continuity of the universe ( he proposed that God was all over the universe, not just in one place, Earth) , the calendar goes round and round – I am not sure where it begins and ends, so it may be anywhere. Even if Wilson marked every months as a group separated from the previous and the next by a gap, a small hiatus.
Wilson’s intention is to make art that can do for the now and here what the UNIT ONE achieved before the mid 20th C for then and there.
To the extent to which art mediates freedom – he succeeds. He seems to be attracted to the cases of flight from the theoretical constructs of sovereign leaders/ a master signifier, e.g. Duchamp or “late Henry Moore”. Wilson is questioning whether such theoretical overcoding can be absent and void. As a consequence he treats all he includes as siblings of visibility, in the Italo Calvino terminology.
It is also a silent, fenced of tomb of the past time.
Images courtesy MAC, Belfast and as stated. For all images see: https://wellcomecollection.org/calendar-things?month=1
Liam Crichton: SLEEPER
The curators, Hugh Mulholland and Eoin Dara, issued an accompanying text:
We are pleased to be presenting the first institutional solo exhibition in the UK and Ireland from Belfast-based artist Liam Crichton.
This newly commissioned work responds specifically to the architectural space of our Sunken Gallery, transforming it into an immersive installation that takes its name from the psychoactive sedative Benzodiazepine.
This work layers together concerns relating to classical Greco-Roman frieze sculpture, contemporary urban voids in the built environment, and ideas of philosophical consciousness through a rigorously considered process of abstraction and minimalist aestheticism. Crichton will distil these varied and somewhat disparate touchstones and references into a single sculptural entity to envelope viewers within the space. Exploiting the sculptural qualities of industrial materials commonly associated with labour and construction this project will enact a kind of psychological emptying-out of the gallery, exploring ideas of social entropy, the void, and the sublime.
Liam Crichton is a Scottish artist currently based in Belfast. He graduated from the Edinburgh College of Art in 2010 and is known for creating large-scale sculptures and installations that investigate physical space. Containing references to and elements of a post-minimal realisation, his aesthetically driven and predominately site-specific work is often characterised by a sense of dichotomy that challenges traditional perceptions and cultural surroundings. In a systematic and reductive process, he breaks down the impression of the familiar to its bare essence. He operates through a non-linear, conceptual and formal vernacular sculptural praxis. Crichton has recently exhibited in Edinburgh, London, Philadelphia, Dublin, and Belfast.
SLEEPER is one of a trio of exhibitions at the MAC exploring the possibilities of sculpture, installation, and object making in 2016. As well as Crichton’s project, don’t miss Keith Wilson’sCalendar in our Upper Gallery from 12 August – 16 October, and Barbara Knezevic’s The Last Thing on Earth in our Sunken Gallery from 16 September – 16 October.
Does it matter if you see visual art in an established gallery? – Crichton has made an installation using stone in an empty office suit in Belfast that was as well thought through, perfectly delivered and sensitive to the space and materials. Has it been valued less? Not by me. I suppose the difference would be in the number of people viewing it. The purpose built art centre – like a cafe- attracts habitual use. In that sense – it is meant to benefit the artist and the viewer, the art’s instrumental values – not necessarily the art’s intrinsic values ( well: unless you consider Dickie’s Institutional theory of art …)
However – the task to make a given, already defined and found, existing space into a receptacle of art that does not yet exist except as an idea, as an intention, as a belief, presupposes a kind of a match between the space and the installed art. That produces a circular symmetry between the artist’s response to an empty gallery and my response to his art in it. I entered the Sunken Gallery on my own, luckily. The impact of the three sides of a continuous bas relief in warm not-quite-white with softly pink whispered tones saturated my senses. Yet – it shares something with the solemnity of Ara Paci .
Processional scene (south side), Ara Pacis Augustae (Altar of Augustan Peace) 9 B.C.E. (Ara Pacis Museum, Rome) (photo: Steven Zucker, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
The procession indicates sacred action of beneficial peace, of living in peace. It is responsive to a state of a place in the absence of war, not the place itself. Can be anywhere. For the consistent response to a place – perhaps the best case is Sansovino’s ability to hold the genius loci, its brilliant light sharing the gaiety and splendour of warm colour of Venice.Jacopo Sansovino (1486 -1570), Library, San Marco, Venice, 1536. Image courtesy https://destinationnotprocrastination.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/img_0870.jpg
This facade is a skillful weaving of a few simple elements, interlocking rhythm of volumes and light and shade.. letting the stone obtain painterly softness. Crichton starts with a pliable cloth and wet dripping plaster, and ends up with an illusion of stone… a poetry of drapery – as when visual art dreams of itself.
Have I perpetrated a corrosion of meaning of SLEEPER? Indeed, I have focused on the vast existential distance between poetry and sleep, between sensual passion and an unruly subversion by a brain asleep. The voluntary interdependence of intimacy of the folds and surface emanate peace and play with the light (thus embodying salient values of the older art cited above) so that the intimate forges close companionship with the public. Days apart, three times it delivered the same impact – effortlessly, with a breathtaking discipline of economy of means. The way this art enhances well being has nothing to do with quantity or service – and all with autonomy, like music. It even circumvents both Plato’s belief that only philosophy can lead us out of the prison of a cave, and Immanuel Kant’s fortification of that prison by claiming that we cannot perceive reality (Das Ding an Sich).
SLEEPER proposes that space and time are the essential ground of things, that ” la duree” of Henri Bergson. Appropriately – the slow drying of the plaster on cloth turns flexible into hard and changeable into fixed.
I find it remarkable that Crichton hardly ever repeats a sequence of folds, and includes happily some echoes of drapery in 15th engravings and sculpture. Just one engraving to illustrate: Martin Schongauer (1453 -91), St Agnes, n.d.
Crichton shares with Schongauer a wish to convey the power of texture and surface to communicate a feeling. Crichton does that while disposing with a master narrative – or any narrative. Except the one told by the folds of the material in a simple display that echoes the room. As the panels cover the surgically white wall – they hide the unknown – and then they appear like a shroud ( and also like an abstracted San Marco when looking from the basilica towards the Museo Correr)
Images courtesy MAC Belfast and as stated.
Rainer Pagel has visited the site of the Cumulator 7 ten days later. He took photographs of the gilded stones and shells, his installation. High and low tides changed his arrangement.
The sea made its own installation – with seaweed.
Still some gold leaf attached morphing the stone into a face reminiscent of paintings by Hieronymous Bosch.
A shell – no sign of ever being painted with a gold leaf… some gold leaf left on the large stone…the suggestion of a circular arrangement of the smaller stones become more apparent in the next shot
Taxing perception, the acuity of vision, the discrimination between a chance and an order.
Lovely case of the debunking of artist’s intention being dominant. It is a mover but not the harvester.
Easily, Pagel’s installation connects to land art of Richard Long or Pawel Althamer.
Pagel shares with them the limits he puts on both his interference with the found reality and on the durability of its impact. Redolent of various associations, Pagel leaves his performance open to natural forces in a kind of conceptual symbiosis. An idea explored earlier by Robert Smithson, not only by his Spiral Jetty, 1970.
Natural forces are as if calculated into the process of making art as equivalent to the artist’s intention. This equivalence is benign – and contradictory.
He is not on his own. Three days before his forty-second birthday, Alfred Kazin (June 5, 1915–June 5, 1998) explored in a series of Alfred Kazin’s Journals (public library) — an immensely rewarding trove of wisdom like this:
Trust the contradictions and see them all. Never annul one force to give supremacy to another. The contradiction itself is the reality in all its manifoldness. Man from his vantage point can see reality only in contradictions. And the more faithful he is to his perception of the contradiction, the more he is open to what there is for him to know.
For me – Rainer’ Pagel’s performance/installation/land art/ – ten days later – focuses my perception on the play between two types of creativity – whimsical, perishable, temporary one – like a song of the bird, or the cry of one of the seagals at the site where Pagel worked , and the other, governed by the universe, aspiring to eternity.
She has followed up with the list of materials used in her performances on the 7th July – as part of the Cumulator 7. Descriptive, the text also includes connections, reflections, fragments of memories, own and inherited. Her ephemeral performance emanates personally meaningful thoughts left open ended. The following text I treat as a primary source.
Off-shore…setting up camp at low tide on top of a hillock of razor sharp black slades exposing themselves like a sleeping primeval creature’s back surrounded by the warm golden sand of part of that the bay which remains islanded when the flood rushes in……time…reoccurring and changing with the tides and stranded within the clothes and remains of loved-ones…
the old sea-worn suitcase once packed off to a journey to Singapore on the „Empire Pride“ by a family called Walshe…it must have returned to Ireland somehow, where I „found“ it for sale at a Dublin flea market hitch-hiking back to Belfast with it wrapped in a borrowed golden shawl…
„crying, I saw gold – but I could not drink!“ (Arthur Rimbaud)
the time battered suitcase containing objects of wisdom and desire:
1 – a black mohair jumper from my dead mother
2 – a pair of 1st World War British Army issue thick canvas leg protectors in olive green from my love Michael’s beloved dead grandfather, who had the same shape of legs as Michael and coincidentally as myself – they fit us all three like a glove – a coincidence of love or birth by another coincidence, my grandfather and Michael’s grandfather did not kill each other over the trenches of the Somme or the Ardennes, but both survived to be able to have families and eventually us grandchildren…
3 – a black window fly net
4 – a US army jacket from a teenage friend of Michael’s US cousin, which went to the Vietnam war with him…olive green
5 – a pair of binoculars (black)
6 – a 7-part hip flask set
7 – a white pair of Moroccan women’s underpants with red embroidery
8 – a white doctor’s coat
9 – a huge white bra
10 – a black swimming suit
11 – a light olive green scarf with leopard print camouflage
12 – sixty black refuse bags for medical disposable urine catheters used by my love Michael
13 – a chocolate fudge cake in chocolate brown for Rainer Pagel’s birthday
14 – a decorative Indian sword used for weddings
15 – lengths of white muslin
16 – a black long-sleeved T-shirt
17 – a white short-sleeved T-shirt
18 – a long dress in nearly black with a printed grey cross down it’s length
19 – a roll of thick red ribbon left over from Michael’s fathers decorations
20 – a blue gift bag of ultramarine pigment from the same London art material shop, Ives Klein bought his Ultra Marine blue special pigment mix from years before I was born
21 – a pair of novelty socks, with penguin faces and single toes, pink, multi coloured dots and white
these objects were worn and used successively by me,or some used interactively with the other 6 performance artists, the rocks, the sand, the water pools, in short, the environment in image and sound during seven hours intuitive actions and inter-actions- being and the past memories of past lives…of others…ornamental details on a mental staircase into the dark. Lined by life’s gargoyles. Long forgotten. Sun-blessed and forgotten demons. Drowning in pure white of death – a light-spill from the other world through objects touched by the dying. Drowning in white light. Into life.
K Tw 14.07.2016
Like a bell tone with a central pitch seasoned by overtones Twisselmann’s trust into loose approach to finish leaves thought invisible and deliberately incomplete. Yet, visibility as a tool for her thinking is prioritised. A paradox? Possibly – but also a hard nosed rational decision: what cannot be articulated, defined or fulfilled, can be still manipulated by appearance and movement of the performing body.
The faithfulness to the riches offered by each segment retreating before the next one starts – without exact duration and a formulated end, brings in association with changes of seasons, with natural growth and decay changing places.
On occasion this state of a visual work of art is determined by a force of the universe.
Gustav Klimt has died while working on this Posthumous portrait of Ria Munk III (detail), 1917 -18
Twisselmann’s take on ephemerality has similar overtones. She consistently violates expectation the viewer may entertain – like Klimt, she makes us have a conscious experience of the “making”, which is tasked to imprison time and change and embody a promise which never manifests to our senses. That’s perhaps, why she added to the email with the above a black and white image of a winged soul.
It is a tenuous link – adorably capable of vanishing if you need to document it. It is one of those you find, when you browse your old archive of images, and one of them says – hello again.
So as a farewell with this addendum here is one visual coincidence:
put a bucket on her head as a warning to the power station on the far shore. Another woman, centuries ago, wore a similar shape on her head on the way to eternity.
This is a (funerary?) copper sculpture from Mezopotamia, 3300 – 2000 BC, now Morgan Library and Museum, NY.
The end of the Addendum to Cumulator 7
James King is the origin of the Cumulator series.
This time he emailed me the following text, to which I added Jordan Hutchings’s photography:
Cumulator 7 notes. July 7 th. 7.30pm – 2.30pm.
McCormick’s Point, Groomsport, Bangor, Co. Down.
This location is managed by The National Trust.
Participants: Siobhan Mullen Wolf, Keike Twisslemann, Christoff Gillen, Brian Patterson, James King, Colm Clarke, Rainer Pagel. Accompanist: Beatrice Didier, Brussels,12.00am- 7.00am.
The location was stunning.
Small grass and craggy rock islets enclosed a small bay like the perimeter of a lagoon. Wet muddy sand separated the islets from the shore, when the tide was out, as it was for our first five hours!
Then the sea came in with a rush.
- With pink pavement chalk drew lines upon the natural fissures of several large rocks, and also ornamented two of the rocks with found , “man-made”, rusted metal objects.
- Placed on each rock one or two small toy cars.
- Responded to bird noises and distant barking with woofs and tweets.
Rainer was sitting at a table, carefully painting seven stones in gold leaf.
- In slow motion ritually and ceremoniously carried , one at a time small cars towards him and placed the cars nearby on a patch of sand .
- Found a few tiny flakes of gold leaf amongst the seaweed. Returned some to Rainer and held others to the air, letting them fly away in the sunlight.
- Read aloud extracts from a poem by Geoffrey Hill, written in stanzas of seven lines : “To Lucien Richard:On Suffering.” Repeating appropriate phrases. Eg. “The fine machinery of instinctual natures is well adjusted to the environment.” “Perfect your chagrin- charged resignation, mute expressive glare:” “which of you is the angel? And which angel? I did not think there were angels.”
“The sea light was visionary, as it sometimes is to susceptible people.”
- Approached Siobhan seated on rocks by a bucket of coal, which she had partially emptied. She was now using a potato peeler to methodically scrape individual lumps. She gave a small lump to the writer which he chalked white and returned. He gave her a small flake of gold leaf, which had fluttered from Rainer’s table.
- Wearing the orange tarpaulin like a cloak, walked in a wide circle on a large patch of sand surrounded by rocks, leaving a trail behind . Beginning at the perimeter , gradually moved inwards making slightly smaller circles .
- Engaged with Keike ,she with blue pigment on hands, then hands to her face. She was dressed in a swimming costume with underwear on top, and short stockings on her legs. Told her a mysterious story in gibberish.
- Walked around the vast muddy stretch of sand between the islet and the shore, enveloped in the orange tarpaulin. Feet sunk above the ankles, making squelchy slurp sounds and leaving behind temporary foot holes. Sat on a rock and improvised abstract sounds with the recorder.
Laid out some cars on dry sand.
Played recorder to a rock upon which I had earlier chalked and ornamented with a toy car and and a found rusted metal square thing.
Crossed the torrent
Recited in gibberish and extracted words; wrote these on stones laid on the sand.
Thus. “My lie vast she suss keep it the beast fish tan oh da ticket vast tomato”. Later having written them on the inside lid of a small suitcase (used for carrying the toy cars mentioned above), repeated the words in a variety of rhythmical arrangements accompanied by Colm banging two large nails together, and Brian on Cellotape base : we were like a skiffle group.
Numerous rearrangements of the words are possible. Eg
Vast fish tan/ ticket beast tomato/ oh-da lie my she suss/ keep it ticket tan/. Oh-da tomato vast /. The tan my lie /. Fish keep tomato ticket
I have listened to only short example of his gibberish – James came to me shook my hand and started – I asked whether he was afraid that some of his words may have a rude meaning in some other language – he responded by showing me the chalk and intoning his “gibberish” so that I understood something like:” well Colm was able to write some down… “. On departing he pointed to the safer path for me to walk on, the layer of seaweed, safer in comparison with the treachery of the tide making mud turn into a sauce to drown my feet. All in his gibberish – fully understandable – because of the shared immediate observable contexts. The hearing still sent signals to the brain – but the meaning was passed on to a gesture and movement and direction of the sight.
Certainly not minimalist art – not just conceptual either – reminiscent of medieval passion plays – without shared script. Grounded in intrinsic motivation it offered the enjoyment of creating something out of what I perceived. Whatever outcome. If so, then the outcome has not mattered – it was the creative process as an emotionally interesting choice of what I made meaningful. James King performed and did not look for the feedback, applause or understanding. Rather it was about play, playful openness, virtuoso control of the brain to avoid recognisable meaningful words, while presenting it as a meaningful speech.
There were darker thoughts – associations with stories of people choosing to live on their own in the wilderness… hermits and Diogenes echoed quite near. King allowed the associations with a constant grit of soft humour, pretence of assurance that it is not just a rehearsed Dada. Rather, a virtuoso withdrawal to a dreamy level layered by one man acting the whole play written for voice and orange trampoline – and a book, allowed to be held even upside down…
He commands a mastery of his craft in the full sight of the powerfully competing nature.
Images courtesy Jordan Hutchings.
The following text in the Italic is verbatim Pagel’s text emailed to me after the performance, I placed Jordan Hutchings’s photographs when they relate to his words.
My performance tried to make however small a comment on all the horrible mis- and disinformation our government saw fit to disburse or allow to be posited unchecked over the last few months.
My white coverall suit had a logo on my back, spelling “Foreign=Sic!”, added to which I presumed to be from the “Jobs Theft Unit”, written circularly around the misspelling of “forensic”; I also adapted the shape of the London Underground (!) signage for my logo.
The populist movement, sadly growing everywhere in Europe, is fascinated by (pseudo-) forensics, especially those of a financial nature, as in forensic accounting: who spent how much on things considered luxuries or unnecessary public expenditure, such as orchestras, the Arts, and, of course, health and social service provision for the arch enemy of the populists: MIGRANTS!
There is currently a useful support for Rainer Pagels’ focus on this subject – an exhibition in Paris – that an immigrant does not equal a parasite, the life and work of Picasso’s friend, the poet Guillaume Apollinaire.
Born Wilhelm Apollinairs de Kostrowitzky in Rome in 1880, Apollinaire was the illegitimate grandson of a Polish nobleman in the service of the Pope. In France he came into writing, first in the south, where he spent his adolescence, and then in Paris, where the young poet spent the first decade of the 20th century struggling to support himself with a series of odd jobs, including as a bank teller, tabloid journalist…. accessed on http://hyperallergic.com/310920/apollinaire-the-immigrant-poet-who-shaped-the-parisian-avant-garde
Therefore my word play with “foreign” and forensics; “sic!” one can read as the Latin “Sic!” or as the English word missing a “k” at the end; I had the Latin version in mind.
I am convinced that the migrant population in the UK, especially that from other EU countries, does contribute vastly more to the coffers of the UK than certain parties claim. (I myself have only ever needed UK state support for some six month in a 43 year long career in Northern Ireland, all the time having paid my taxes.)
My performance on 7/7/16 on Ballymccormick Point consisted of my finding a suitable place or a space for my actions at the start of the day. On what would later become an island (!), close to the other artists, I set up a folding table and chair, and placed on the table: a can of spray glue, a jar with dissolved shellac, a booklet of gold leaf, and two brushes.
Next, I scanned the ground and rocks around me.
The mainly black shale pieces made me notice that many of them were shaped like arrowheads and chevrons. I collected seven such stones and laid them out on a black piece of rubberised (non-slip) material to the left of the folding table on the ground. I also chose an almost perfectly round, 8th stone of approximately 15 cm diameter.
Taking up the first of the collected stones, I applied the glue and gold leaf to it and placed it back on the black material. I continued to do this with the following stones, but after every second gilding, I applied a protective cover of shellac over the gilded stones. (Apart from Tony Hill, these days only a few local people know about shellac, its application and how to use it to create a proper French Polish. My maternal grandfather taught me the skill over many summer holidays in the 60s.)
Having gilded all eight stones, I searched for a flat area of slightly more than 7m diameter. A muddy stretch of sand behind my station suited.
I placed the round gilded stone centrally and then measured 3.5m distance from it seven times, placing the gilded stones pointing outwards of the emerging circle. I roughly adjusted the distance on the perimeter of the circle between the seven gilded stones to be equal and left the circle to be submerged by the floods, perhaps to be rediscovered by passers-by on some other day. Gold, a natural element, fixed with shellac, made from the excretions of a small beetle, placed back in nature by an immigrant, to be marvelled over by the indigenous dog walkers with their dogs fouling the shore.
I then gilded seven empty limpet shells and placed them randomly in the streams close by.
My next action was to choose items, which would resemble Stone Age implements, such as axes and knives. Using a boomerang-shaped stone, I fashioned seven stone implements that could be used to cut, point, stab, mark, scrape, score and write. It would have been my intention to gild them, as the other objects and leave them in the rocks, however, the tide changed my plans, and the rest of my performance became concerned with the rescue (small “r” only) of my fellow artists and looking after their physical needs (food).
Looking back, I am pleased with the outcome of seven artists (or 8, as we know now) spending seven hours on a day supposedly loaded with other references to the number 7. The tide surprised us all, and for me, made an interval (the food session) necessary.
My only criticism would be that the underlying idea of 1 in 1, 2 over 2, 3 over 3, etc did not have much more than the increasing numbers of artists and hours in common. I am not sure if James can spot a “red thread” of performance action throughout the year, once it finishes.
My dilemma throughout was to decide whether I was making a performance in parallel to six others, or if we were all constituent part of a greater whole. Apart from some interventions from Keike, my work happened in parallel to that of the others.
I also witnessed some of the other artists interacting with each other from time to time, much in the vane of Bbeyond’s monthlies.
I only made my work a shared action, when I left the gilding part of my performance and focused on nourishing and feeding the group.
All in all a great day and a wonderful experience.
12 July 2016
Rainer’s verbal contribution is self – sufficient in relation to the actions he chose to make. It could exist as a “Do-It” scenario. My seeing some of it makes for multiple and perhaps conflicting points of interest in the gravity of the emerging paradox as it reveals deep unrest and unconfessed torment.
The visual, esp. lettering, extended the action into the realm of socio-political context, which will not escape people with classical grammar school education. Not known how many of the men and women walking their dogs in the same area where the seven artists performered would have noted it. For me – the word play foreign /forensic/sic burned into my attention on the first look. The white overall expelled it out of its own surgically neutral sameness on the red and black rays of the hues.
The bon vivant hospitality (food) and handmade labouring with gold( painting it on stones) were repeatedly pierced by the words he wore. In a clash that stayed accessible to the sight and uncontrolled. Not unlike the migration of people in Europe and into Europe.
The gilding of found natural forms, stones, opens another subtext: he refers to it by refuting the accusation that people not born here are a burden for those indigenous ones. Gold on stone is a paradox, both gifts of nature, parts of the universe, their equality disabled by people judging gold as highly desirable, and stones as too plentiful to have much value. Yet – a house of stone is superior for living in – to that would be made of gold. To get gold out of the ground people poison soil and water. To get stone – they cut, disfigure and wound hills and pollute the air. Both have to be uprooted from the place where nature deposited them, to make each to work inside our hierarchy of values. And that’s the point – examine, analyse and change the current hierarchy of values to minimise harm. Pagel joins both gold and stone into one – and leaves them near where he found them. On the island, accessible only at the low tide. A simile for a “low-tide hierarchy of values” – as in words of Schumacher “Small is beautiful” or Buckminster -Fuller’s insistence that design has to make sure that people share resources….
Judging quality of people by their racial, social, national origin and not by what they do, how they live and support lives of others, is a paradox. How to solve it? Refutation of the belief that one nationality is above another, one race is below another – should be accessible to most. The ease – with which Pagel selects stones and shells – as equal, as similar, as capable of accepting the adornment by the precious gold without losing their original values. They carry the weight of gold -effortlessly. A lesson for us? A classical theme. My interest is thus anchored in the reciprocal interplay between objects and thoughts – person’s and their right to be. This is a traditional thought: Leonardo thinks of the visual as rays that both penetrate the depth of what is seen and bounce back gazing out from what is seen.
Tristan Tzara, in parallel fashion, claimed that the hope of Dada was to strike two contradictory elements together – to forge a previously unrelated similarity. Gold and stone stand as a metaphor for hierarchy between autochthonous and strange (etranger). A similar concern appears in a number of works of art after the WWI – e.g. Marino Marini suggests that we combine “disparate images” and discover “hidden analogies”.
Pagel’ performance is sensitive to the possibility of re-occurance of the forces that led to conflict. His call is for whichever way people will improve communication and transformation away from inherited bias.
And no – he does not prescribe how to condense energy needed for that transformation. This performance hails common ancestors: some stones picked up, looked like stone age axes, the brushing shellac over the gold in the way medieval journeymen learnt from one another, while listening to Troubadours and Minnesingers. The gilded stones are left by this immigrant as a gift to others, as a lament for understanding.
Images Jordan Hutchings
Siobhan Mullen Wolfe
Siobhan Mullan emailed me the following:
Performance – 7 Artists
- Time: 7 hours
- Materials :Boiler suit, hand-crafted chair, potato peeler, aluminium bucket filled with raw coal and remains of burnt ash of financial records.
- Actions: Continuous peeling of lumps of coal, walking to shoreline with bucket of coal balanced on head at intervals of approx 1/2 hour. Breathing with the rising tide.
- Site: Ballymacormick point: ASSI, Intertidal communities, rare communities and species, breeding colony for Arctic Tern.
- Sightline: Kilroot Power Station, Antrim basalt escarpment (eocene period), Belfast Lough, peripheral vision of the actions of 6 fellow artists.
The performance actions are site responsive, labour intensive, transitive by encounter, exploring value systems, labour practices and models of power.
3 days later, I wake to excruciating pain in my neck and back – body responsive to the performance. My finely balanced frame has been knocked off its axis by the actions in the performance.
The co-existence of coal and ashes of financial records inside an aluminium bucket are both timely reminder of climate change and needs for sustainable energy, made particular and site specific by the artist facing the sightline to the Kilroot power station that used coal in the past, is using gas at present, and, is slowly/hesitantly moving to the sustainable renewables.
The performance was centred visually on the physical, on eroding the body’s energy, punishingly ending in pain. The physical was allowed to lose. Two of the images appear to me locking in themselves two important ideas: something that is continuous and something that has ancestry.
The continuity of existence is treated as connectivity between the natural world and human species, while not denying differences, insisting on similarities: the need to be in an environment that allows for future generations, be it people or Arctic Tern. (image courtesy: http://www.birdforum.net)
Sharing her breathing with the sea waves Mullan signifies belonging to the same life supporting system as the bird. Her silent, nonintrusive performance exudes respect for the area she works in. As Naomi Klein warned – the need for fossil fuels sacrifice the area were it is found. The industry is damaging to the environment that already supports life, advancing the belief that fossil fuels are necessary for supporting life. Indeed,the 20th C Western culture established that so swell, that many people believe it is inevitable.
Mullan looks back for how to be an ancestor- to tribal societies- she uses as a token, the link to the mode of carrying a load on their heads.
She looks in the direction of the power station – holding the coal and ashes of the money documents -not advancing just accusing quietly – or questioning ?… or holding it back ?H Naomi Klein asks that we become “good ancestors” by making sure that fossil deposits are left in the ground for the future generation’s use, which could be better than just burning them as we do.
Mullen highlights two strategies: become a good ancestor and seek alternative sources of sustainable energy.
Hers is not a shortsighted campaign – it is a moral decision. Her performance insists on sharing, caring and practical wisdom. Even if she includes dadaist disregard for protecting herself against damp and cold and the sheer fatigue of the ongoing labour.
She leaves no physical traces of her being there, working there. The environment was not hurt or degraded.
A symbolist poet of the early 20th C spoke of trees as brotherhoods kneeling to pray for the future. Watching Mullan’s performance made me focus on the ambient peace surrounding her as if saying something in unisono with her. Silently.
Images courtesy of Jordan Hutchings.
On the of July 2016 seven performance artists worked for 7 hours at The Point, Bangor, Co Down: James King, Brian Patterson, Christoff Gillen, Rainer Pagel, Colm Clarke, Siobhan Mullen Wolf and Keike Twisselmann. I watched for slightly over an hour only. I start with a former postgraduate of MFA at the Ulster University, living at present in Berlin and Belfast.
She is bike racing driver.
Keike: ..these 6 doors – from darkness to light – (6 canvas frames in door size 80 X 200 cm each) were done between 1995 and 1996/7 – most of them in one go, plus some additions…
Later on, around 2000, a friend of my mother who saw them in Germany said to her, that these where just like those creatures he saw (!) when he was in a coma, clinically dead – and the creatures made an almost unbearable shrieking high sound…this I found so interesting, that I keep asking people who had a a near death state experience, whether they had a similar experience and a de-ja vu seeing the painting…I recall one girl visitor to my studio at an open studio show in 2007, where I had displayed them running out of my studio, saying, she could not bear them! Hm…(I was nearly dead after drowning when I was 3 years old, but I can recall nothing, just a complete temporary loss of memory) OK that’s the story about experiencing the painting…
…it had always been turned down for exhibition proposals in the past, but Dr Thomas Maier, a literature lecturer, who curated the Orpheus exhibition in Kleve for me last year (he passed away in December 2015) was besotted by it! (you have the catalogue & are in it with your essay!)
Twisselmann is also a translator and performance artist.
Slavka: The panorama of some artists and water and the sad sky
– after the drama of the tide coming up,
must appear to you all quite soothing..
.although Christopher screamed a lot…
Slavka: I wonder if you would like to email me a few sentences about your own concept of performance. For ex. do you act a persona (costume, attributes)?
Keike: yes! but the cruel thing about abusing you into it in this respect was outweighed by your charming appearance – I’m sorry for “using” you as the willing and only voluntary audience that day as an “object of wisdom and desire” ! REALLY am !!!
seeing you appearing around the corner, when we had our “Russian Camp” , was like a revelation to art!
Slavka:If there is anything to forgive – it is “automatically done” – I am interested in the necessary differences between art/performance art/ life. It may seem a petty interest – but the deterioration of performance art globally calls for an honest appraisal about that “art” bit. Hence my concern – oh, and I hate being photographed… but that’s a private issue.
Keike: SAT 19:38
Choosing a fragment of life to use as an “object of wisdom and desire” to be transformed into art, the performance artist acts like a “LICHTMASCHINE” (“light machine” = generator) to create the sparks, energy, electricity – this requires skill, experience and the utmost of concentration…like compressing a piece of coal into a diamond…
Slavka:Your use of Lichtmaschine remind me of Moholy Nagy – his needed electricity to work…
What skills would transform a fragment of being into art ?
Keike: Hm! Interesting! Have to look this up! the electricity is generated BY the artists as the “alchemist” and Licht-maschine..
Keike:to create art is like running an engine: air = inspiration, petrol = fragments of life/flux which are chosen by the artist as “objects of wisdom and desire” and the spark from the artist as Lichtmaschine – the skill is to keep the right balance to keep the compression of the engine, tune it for performance (!) … hmm…something like that…
Slavka:Jordan just sent me 90 images. Did you appear in white holding the sabre and having your head wrapped in some dark fabric? I feel it is you, but …
Slavka:May I quote some of your thinking ?
Keike: yes of course!
Slavka: I recall that you thought of it as performance – is it OK to mention that ?
Keike: yes! whenever you are riding a motorbike, you mentally are almost in a similar “zone” of high concentration, focus, purpose and AWARE of your environment as you would be in an action of performance art…
my favourite quote was something like “within a second on a fast motorbike you live more than some people in a lifetime” I’ll have to dig out the correct quote and author…
Slavka: I like that comparison – it helps me to make my argument…
PS the British Army leg protectors are from Michael’s grandad from the 1st World War (he went to all those ghastly places including the Somme – this is 100 years later and they fit me like a glove, because he, Michael and I have the same shape of calves!!! – the jacket is from a friend’s US cousin who went to Vietnam with it! – two pointless wars all dressed up in one?)
Gesine Garz Amazing image and story!
The main thesis of Twisselmann’s take on performance art is akin to alchemy. She aims to transform a fragment of life into art. So to perform fuses with to transform. What if a given transformation does not change the fragment of lived experiences into anything else? The above illustrates – a fragment of lived experience. Why does it have to become art? Is life less than art? Is a thoughtful (or not) response to a stimuli less than art? Are skills for living less than art skills? The contemporary performance art raises these question with greater urgency as it becomes more commonplace. It still fits Benedetto Croce’s definition of art as experience – both the experience of the person performing and experience of the person observing the performance. Twisselmann respects these difficulties – by doing/performing “lived episodes” in a whimsical dadaist order that allows her freedom of exaggeration of any living experience as well as a dead pan direct living experience: Cutting Rainer’s birthday cake with a sabre… racing a motorbike. She performs for audience that is not there – that’s the friendly absurd encroaching over her transformations.
is a sculptor in love with the gracefulness of geometry and logic….the Greek “moira” – a measure. is perhaps the overarching value connecting his oeuvre. His performances are tightly planned, faithfully delivered , deadly serious.
Coincidentally, this morning a reminder of the difference in how we treat logic and morality dropped into my inbox. In an abstract to Jack Woods :Mathematics, Morality, and Self-Effacement, it reads:
“I argue that certain species of belief, such as mathematical, logical, and normative beliefs, are insulated from a form of Harman-style debunking argument whereas moral beliefs, the primary target of such arguments, are not. Harman-style arguments have been misunderstood as attempts to directly undermine our moral beliefs. They are rather best given as burden-shifting arguments, concluding that we need additional reasons to maintain our moral beliefs. If we understand them this way, then we can see why moral beliefs are vulnerable to such arguments while mathematical, logical, and normative beliefs are not—the very construction of Harman-style skeptical arguments requires the truth of significant fragments of our mathematical, logical, and normative beliefs, but requires no such thing of our moral beliefs. …..But we can cleanly doubt the truth of morality.” (accessed on http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/nous.12157/abstract?campaign=wolearlyview)
For Harman’s argument this is a trusted account:
“The Harman/Sturgeon debate is complex and widely misunderstood. (See Tropman 2013.) Harman’s ultimate position is not that there are no moral facts; indeed, he explicitly asserts “there is empirical evidence that there are (relational) moral facts” (1977: 132). His intention is to issue a challenge: that those who believe in moral facts owe skeptics a plausible account of how the moral facts that are cited in realist explanations (e.g., concerning depravity and injustice) relate to those non-moral facts that seem otherwise adequate to explain any phenomena. This account must also clarify how we enjoy epistemic access to these moral facts and why they seem of such practical importance to us. (my emphasis) Harman suspects that such an account (which he calls a “ reduction”) may in fact be forthcoming (see his 1986: 65), but the point relevant to our current purposes is his contention that the believer in moral facts has extra work to do in order to establish her position; thus this may be interpreted as an attempt establish a burden of proof.” (accessed on http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-anti-realism/moral-realism-explain.html)
Clarke charges his art with a burden of proof – at times by transgressing to verbal translation of the visible. His texts walk on the edge between logic and poetry, the epistemic access, even his statement, emailed to me, skids happily into that partnership:
The work I made on Thursday was a material led experimentation and processes- a sort of continuation from my studio practise. So I suppose what would be most apt for my statement would be an ingredients list as to what I used.
Not once- the carefully movable structure rested into a hexagon – the perfect shape preferred by bees and universe. So the burden for the aesthetic proof lies not in the “most perfect” – even not in most responsive to any context – it is forged by the curiosity and instant checking up if it supports another short lived existence. The see-through linear object is more willing to sit on the ground than fly like a kite. Held like his it is content to be a scribble in the air. An experiment how to hold on, even if briefly, to the variants of the man made ephemeral.
Images courtesy Jordan Hutchings
Milena Bonilla (b 1975, Bogota, Columbia) tracks a “no man land” between Germany and Czech Republic – a residuum of the Cold War between Soviet Union and the West. Where used to be an electric fence for almost half a century, the red deer developed genetic differences and memory of the fence, treating it as if it were still there after being removed, following the so called Velvet Revolution in 1989. Visually – the lengthy reading of the sky while “walking the camera” in that strip of land is unduly given dominant role.
The damning message is that human conflicts impact on innocent nature, an unwelcome and not considered “aftermath of the conflict”.
It being communicated in words, not through medium of the video , raises question about suitability of the media, or poverty of creative insights. It appears that the intention blinded the process of translation of the knowledge and experience into the visual realm. Not the case with still images… they win hands down… the beauty of nature is superior.
Even so, it is fits the curator’s object ( gallery handout, p1):
“The fundamental premise of the exhibition Victories are Short-lived is to provoke discussion and reflection on both psychological and phenomenological aftermath of conflict”
Ouch. Pleonasmus or …? Phenomenology subsumes psychological processes…
Definition of phenomenology(http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/phenomenology
1: the study of the development of human consciousness and self-awareness as a preface to or a part of philosophy
2(1) : a philosophical movement that describes the formal structure of the objects of awareness and of awareness itself in abstraction from any claims concerning existence 2(2) : the typological classification of a class of phenomena <the phenomenology of religion>b : an analysis produced by phenomenological investigationAs a philosophy or method of inquiry based on the premise that reality consists of objects and events as they are perceived or understood in human consciousness and not of anything independent of human consciousness, the method is appropriate both to the cognition and art.
To the extent to which “psychological” is also a reality – the distinction in the opening sentence is hollow. Let us put that aside, for a while – and focus on the visible, what the exhibition makes visible.
To my great delight, the display is extraordinary in its impact on feeling free, good, and tolerant. Those values will be precious in any conflict, or aftermath of one. They also gently define what may be perceived as ” a victory”. The video shows the map where the electric fence divided the animal kingdom. Shiro Masuyama redrew the map of the deer movement on a larger scale – indicating the “memory” of the dangerous boundary, approached, but never crossed. It works as a simile for human behaviour. Once we perceive a person as a danger – the avoidance becomes the preferred action.
Cecily Brennan filmed a dancer Cindy Cummings, falling repeatedly. Brennan’s instructions, I have read in the gallery hand out, aimed at falling freely, forgetting any learned restraint, highlighting loss of control. The words spoken over the actions, have not enhanced the visual perception of this viewer.
Deliberate hurt is difficult to tolerate – well, impossible. Luckily – all throughout, I felt the dancer could take the falls, and hard hitting the ground, in her stride. The clash between the artist’s intention to achieve an “act of abandonment” and the speed and willingness of the dancer to go on, insinuated a hidden, parallel, thought: of the clash between the desire for happy and peaceful life and the heroic risk of injury and death in conflicts. For whatever reason.
The singularity of personal decision is limited by the inevitability of death. That is the ultimate “short-lived” – whatever. Subject of the Water process by Elvira Santamaria Torres(b 1967)
Coming out of the darkened room after watching the dancer felling and hitting ground, the next view is of the above large image on the opposite wall. A complete opposite. Silent, the scale just under the real dimensions, forging an illusion of greater distance of the eye from the seen. Superbly displayed to make the whole instantly understood. And then the details are stepping up their clutter, or giving out their secret. I have not noticed the death mask where i expected the the hair flow, until I stood nearer the surface. The waste of it all. The diagonal composition facilitates both the flow and the stasis – unfathomable depth and busy surface. The opposing truths do not lose their conviction, they just create a new one: that the opposition is the truth.
The narrative and emotional impact of a detail could have fallen prey to the sensational horror of dismembering – instead, it softens the possible terror by not masking the living tissue, skin, foot, still moving toes… She – life- is in control.
The display was particularly supportive of the viewer. Airy space, correct amount of light, well placed images, all of it invited contemplative focusing on each, both the fragments of nature and fragments of actions. It gently provoked participatory aesthetic togetherness, as if evoking the precaution principle.
Images courtesy Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast.
Installation photography: Simon Mills.
To make a falafel in the space above our atmosphere/ stratosphere, erect a kiosk on the Moon to make it is a grotesque amusement. No wonder, it associates with the view on grotesque as rural amusement as recognised by William Wright in 1790. The Moon is a special case of rural. Falafel a special case of food drenched in history. Both the falafel and the grotesque have medieval roots, blossoming across national and cultural boundaries, at least in eleven different communities in the Middle East.
To take Falavel of Iraqi Jewish Community in Baghdad and expand the business into the universe is unnecessary, unrewarding, useless. Touching Dada aesthetics, the narrative constructs the frame of incongruence between a thin rational thought and a flood of irrational clashes. He loses the map for the Perfect Spot when responding to his Mum’s call – descends into despair, is told to switch to manual navigation, sneezes, and as by a storm like force is taken away ending in a centre of a crater. The lens zooms on his laying body, partly buried in the dust. He awakes, and, magically, sees the Perfect Spot marked with a flag nearby. Using his own survival kit, he disconnects his own oxygen supply to inflate the kiosk – butka. Shows the sacrifice – like a proper hero- holding his breath while inflating the King of Falafel Kiosk. Out of nowhere, dishes with ingredients are at hand to start making the falafel. The parody of control instructing the astronaut is well crafted:
“Commence music protocol”
“Proceed to pita preparation
Marcus ,do you read me. Do not overload, do not overload
I think we have lost the salad
Marcus, Tahina first, I repeat Tahina first. “
At this point the humour takes over before the decrescendo of reality kicks in : he holds the final product apart form his body as an offering – but there is nobody to take it. He cannot eat that food either being sealed in the protective gear. The end cannot escape a tragic discord with all that enthusiasm of achievement. The tradition crafted over centuries by more than eleven different cultural groups of people – is about to be wasted.
This humanistic pessimism about food and techology is released with calm wisdom – no drama, rather a nod to philosophy and ethics of sustainability.
It is therefore of interest to note that at present is the video is a part of exhibition “Things to Come” curated by Doreet LeVitte Harten (www.petachtikvamuseum.com, from 14/04 0 20/08 2016). It is introduced thus:
Science fiction is a relatively new field that deals with the impact of imagined science and technology upon society and individuals. It is a controlled way to think and dream about the future, which at the same time reflects the values of the culture in which it is produced. It is through science fiction that existing social desires, cultural aspirations, and political and technological patterns manifest themselves. The imagined vision of the future speaks volumes about the present, and is always also anchored in the past.
As part of the exhibition ‘Things to Come’, Marcus exhibits his work “King of Falafel”. It is a continuation of Marcus’s video works that deal with Israeli cultural symbols, manifested by various food rituals. The current work takes place on the moon and depicts a fictional event – the opening of a new falafel stand.
The text is loose enough to work as an umbrella concept for any visual art that imaginatively alters science or technology, including this humorous parody on “globalisation of business – outside the globe”…Touching on a satire – the artist holds the last frame on the level of realization of limits.
He performs to a camera – in intractably particular asymmetry of ordinary – he on the Earth and in pretended space attire – the narrative centred on the Moon without an atmosphere and lot of dust. And sudden wind that takes the map into -as-if- air…The asymmetry is accessible to senses of the viewer of the video – deepening the cognitive bias that the story is not compatible with life, unless it is art. Which it is, so it is gets off that hook.
The ending on the note of recognition, conscious judgement – lets this video into the category of morality plays, even though the artist cannot be accused of moralising. Too light touch of his is incongruous with negative judgement in the view of all the humorous and attractive features. While elliptical, it flows reasonably well to stay fresh until the end.
It is like amba just of the right consistency, carefully borrowed from ancient Assyria, and optional for the modern falafel. As the control says to Marcus:
Initiate Amba protocol
Amba level is fine.
Marcus, this is a crucial pita. We are all in your hand
The fully equipped astronaut ( Marcus) seeks the “Best Location”.
Link to video and image courtesy of the artist.
Allure of autonomy and self-respect in the presence of Michelangelo’s Pieta Rondanini (1555 – 1564, marble 195 cm H, in castello Storzesco, Milan) govern the light and angle 0f Garoglio’s meditative looking at it through a lens.
Italy’s 20th C art devoted special introspection to speed, with notable exceptions.Giorgio Morandi inspected surfaces of body or objects in a slow rhythm, slow art capable of recording not only the insecurity of seeing, but also of the materiality of paint. This becomes clearer on comparison of attentiveness between Claesz and Morandi.
On the screen it offers an illusion of being lens based image. The brushstrokes are driven beneath the last layer of varnish. Not so Morandi.
The image is so distant from the Dutch acuity of vision that your eye may hesitate as to what is seen. It is physically recorded memory of looking, seeing, observing, forgetting, correcting, rather that recording of details of each object. Morandi cloaks them into soft gestures of divided brushstrokes deliberately failing to enclose each from inside a decisive outline.
This ability of light to dissolve accuracy has been a tool of choice of many artists, including Garoglio:
Garoglio found his own kind of “puro-visibilita” (Roberto Longhi’s term) to freeze his insights into seeing Michelangelo’s sculptures.
Browsing through Garoglio’s images of Pieta Bandini (below) by Michelangelo approximates the eye movement over the group in situ. First a Wikipedia image of the whole noting the departures from correct scale of each body.
Intensity of the feeling is transmitted both by framing/ cutting off (not possible in normal viewing) and by bleaching highlights. Strategy well rehearsed in Baroque art all over Europe resonates with modernist fragmenting of the whole to make present the uncertainty of sensual perception. The battle between finite and indefinite,conviction and illusion,gentleness and fear, all combine to project an idea chiselled into marble. A paradox between the search for exact knowledge and blurry data. Michelangelo’s brilliance saturates Garoglio’s sensual travel.
brought in a sentence cited by Italo Calvino from Giacomo Leopardi:
“…night makes objects blurred, the mind receives only a vague, indistinct. incomplete image, both of night itself and of what it contains.Thus also with oscurita (darkness) profondo(deep)” (Six memos for the next Millenium:58)
Garoglio gives exact an meticulous attention to minute definition of details framing the view in degree of vagueness driving the sight to travel away and back to stay a witness to both terribilita and exactitude. The last one developing frivolous plays of freedom from anatomy to anchor the subject in unshaken belief.
In an earlier Pieta, now in St Peter, Vatican. Michelangelo enlarged the body of Mary so that it can support the body of Christ so that if she were to stand up, her height would be out of acceptable scale.
” Here is perfect sweetness in the expression of the head, harmony in the joints and attachments of the arms, legs, and trunk, and the pulses and veins so wrought, that in truth Wonder herself must marvel that the hand of a craftsman should have been able to execute so divinely and so perfectly, in so short a time, a work so admirable; and it is certainly a miracle that a stone without any shape at the beginning should ever have been reduced to such perfection as Nature is scarcely able to create in the flesh.”
Garoglio savours the impossibility of anchoring any “view” as the one capable of defining the whole. Hence his images “rain” on us reminiscent of Dante’s “…poi piovve dentro a l’alta fantasia…”( Calvino’ translation: then rained down into the high fantasy,op.cit.81)
Vasari noted that Michelangelo began to work on the sculpture known as Florentine or Bandini Pieta around the age of 72. Without commission, Michelangelo worked tirelessly into the night with just a single candle to illuminate his work. Garoglio approximates that light for his lens by modern means.
Garoglio’s art focuses on visual perception as both the subject and the process trusting the lens to make each movement of his observing eye visiting and revisiting the given work of art – stationary and stabilised and certain. A sincere subversion by admission that each framed view is a part of a whole not ever visible at once gives his art a seal of approval. It also offers revelations easily missed in situ.
Black and white photographs courtesy Angelo GAROGLIO.
The framed image was taking on my phone, which quickly led me to film the scene. I wanted to use the image to implicate further myself in the scene. The image was printed out Black & white and manipulated by hand instead of digitally. (Martin Boyle email to me)
The gallery 2 has focused on visibility and otherness – both courtesy of lens and light. Canto 28 comes to mind, when Beatrice tells Dante: ….”delight in the measure of depth to which their sight can penetrate the truth… From this it may be seen, beatitude itself is based on the act of seeing.”
Not only the poetry of the real is evoked, it is made to be tangible, present, testable. Sitting on the bench and watching the image of trees while sensing the leaves on the floor all in the unisono golden light is a direct encounter with the lived reality, which Martin Boyle photographed in Japan. He has emailed me his notes on this:
Video footage captured on a busy walk-way in Tokyo, Japan. In this footage continuous passers-by stop in their tracks to capture the beauty of the autumn leaves using their camera phones, before quick moving on again. The peacefulness of the scene is disrupted by people quickly shuffling past, forcing the camera to constantly refocus on the trees.The fabric of the curtain was selected for the title ‘Sun Yellow’ as a lead into the installation. The leaves were individually preserved this autumn by replacing the water with a glycerin solution, so they will potentially last forever. I left the cardboard box in which they where stored as part of the installation as an admission to the staged installation I was placing the viewer in.
The framed image was taking on my phone, which quickly led me to film the scene. I wanted to use the image to implicate further myself in the scene. The image was printed out Black & white and manipulated by hand instead of digitally.
Even in his direct prosaic statement Martin Boyle presents “beauty of the autumn leaves” “peacefulness of the scene” as values in themselves. The moving people (the seeing Others) disrupt the camera’s “seeing” and Boyle needs “to constantly re-focus on the trees”. The artist takes on a responsibility described by Nietzsche as “repairing the world”.The viewing of the trees is shareable. The large projection of the video imitates that condition. The actual leaves on the floor stimulate the association with touch, and the sitting bench with refocusing on the trees. In that sense the installation approximates the act of seeing present at the birth of this art, and stands as a correspondence to that truth (in the meaning given to correspondence theory by Charles Baudelaire).
Installations, like television or Performance Art, approach the boundaries between art and practical life as soluble. Where television blends the public and private as a choice of the viewing subject, the other two approach that crossover from an opposite direction and from an ambiguous and unstable situation. The choice to see it or not is the same as with the on and off button on the TV – so what do I mean by ambiguity and instability of the situation? On the phenomenological level the placement of the objects is stable, we recognise what is what and where in the darkened space it is. It is the very placement, however, that together with the medium of moving image allows my seeing to overlap with a previous view or directed glance. This element is familiar from practical life, while introducing instability of the art object as I cannot see all at once, or at least together, with allowing something to disappear from my field of vision. Yes, it is temporary – but it is. The element of disappearance makes the art object temporarily volatile. In other words; this art is akin an investigation of possibilities. Consequently, it is capable of assuming different meaning. For me – it was a glory of trees, of their long life and self-sufficient way of being. While they cannot move – they grow tall and become visible from another place. Abandoned, like a dreamy appearance, they stand in a glorious dignity of being. Once seen they cannot be ignored. I think of this as shared by the universe. Boyle’s manipulation of the lens based material is a trusted tool to let the images emanate beauty and peacefulness ( a chain reaction?).
The role of placement similar format in a row or pyramid – will inspire similar reading of one part while almost forgetting another. If thought of as a sequence it is like reading the words on a page. It is not like that. Shifting the focus from one image to another cannot be held by the functional sentence perspective. Within visual neighbourhoods this is disabled. Especially if the format is the same. Curiosity drives the seeing to focus on differences.In the narrower part of the gallery, in the so called Back Space, Boyle appropriated “Other people’s images adopted from Gumtree, a popular online classifieds website”
Boyle describes it:
A series of images in which people sell their wedding dresses by using personal photographs of their special day to illustrate and up-sell the items. Only worn once being the most frequent description of the items condition.
In the photos selected people have blurred, pixilated, or covered their faces taking on a more unsettling undertone. The once picturesque photographs reveal intimate moments while absurdly concealing the identity of the individuals, a similar technique used in escort adverts. The images play on the line between objective and subjective, familiar and unfamiliar.
The artworks were printed onto circular coasters. Lazer cut round hardboard coasters with a cork back, attached to mounts. When installed the images float out from the wall, with the background wall painted a colour panel of Sweet Pink.
The tub of paint bought from a charity shop was picked to respond to the similar type of place these images have been found. I felt the colour & title worked with the nature of the images. I have been collecting these ‘mistake’ paints recently (full tubs of paints donated to charity shops, and for whatever reason, had never been used).
Boyle commented: Over 500 images collected online of people selling their Chandeliers, The seller hands is seen holding up the fixtures in the images. The bad quality images pixilate in a similar way a chandelier reflects light.
Photographed in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, a Museum focusing on antique sculpture from ancient cultures.
These photographs capture the crotch area of marble male nudes which have been damaged by periodic censorship; when display of genitalia was seen as immoral. In an effort to remove the modest marble penis, orifice’s have been created in place. I was struck by how provocative these sculptures appeared in comparison to the statues were the genitals remained intact. I became interested in how the altered statues could be read in a modern day context, drawing parallels between societal and cultural stigma of intersex and transgender people; how hung up we get over human genitalia. The violent act of the chisel being inadvertently creative from the intentions, creating a super human, or evolved human being.
Around the same time I had taking these photographs I had been listening to a lot of debate on the radio about Anti-transgender bathroom hysteria. The panel of paint was intended to represent a diluted heritage colour from the museum, and also the dimensions of a typical toilet stall in a public bathroom.
Martin Boyle cherishes the oscillation of private and public spheres and lets it continue in a somewhat humorous take on a found object: toilet rolls ready for the distribution by the appropriate staff.
Appropriation thus flows throughout this exhibition as a benign force pointing out where to focus – or not. I applaud the freedom with which Martin Boyle appropriates previous art – the heroic Modernism so intoxicated by the risk taking. He does it with respect and generosity of spirit. It never looks “stolen” or “destroyed”. Boyle applies it to now and here, responding to wherever he is when he gets the idea to make some encounter into a work of art – thus imbuing the image with the aura of genuine interest in it. The serial edition of an idea also supports a positive response.
No more the dictate of fear that whipped the talent of many to differ at all costs. Boyle can pick up a lesser art and make it feel beautiful and intriguing and nurturing imagination.
There was an object – as if the “coda”, a dot, a sign for the end of a story – an enigma, I do not know anything about. Its mood is stubbornly dark. On my way out I wish to remember the colour of the sunlit trees.
Images courtesy of GTG and the artist.
THESE DAYS ARE PERSISTENT AND CHANGEABLE is a title of an exhibition of art by Lorraine Burrell and Martin Boyle, at the Golden Thread Gallery from 28.04 – 11.06 2016.
What days are not that? Yours? Mine? Whatever answer is elicited, it will be either incomplete, or misleading, or provocative. This does not imply that the art exhibited in this exhibition is either or all. It only indicates the light approach to contemporary art as something akin Schiller’s “kingdom of freedom”. It is -whatever you make of it.
It tolerates opposition while employing a visual subterfuge. For example: the sculptures carry destroyed images like poster torn from the billboard, positing the object between art and waste. The lens based image is compressed between performance/modelling and printing, graduating the aura of original via two steps of alienation from the eye and and from the maker (inkjet print is as neutral as any printed page and dead until you read it.
Burrells exhibition consists of five two-dimensional inkjet prints, two drawings, one low relief and three three-dimensional sculptures. They share her chosen subject – female body – more or less.
Her representational style ranges from hyper-realism
Burrell’s concept of art reminds me of Marisol Escobar, who recently passed away. Burrell’s Deflated velds together observed and not observable while using pliable material. Marisol combined right angle and hard materials with observed portraits and appropriated materials. Both share the confidence in the force of fragmented view and in power of addition/ assemblage. Any part of Marisol’s group of female figures is not possible, yet believable, as in a dream.
Similarly strangled consciousness hangs on the recognisable detail of eyes in Burrells Deflated drowning under the floor of the gallery not unlike a ship hitting an iceberg.
Yet – the terror of such a demise is not there – the object assures me that it will not disappear. That paradox has a cutting edge – it demands visual thinking to become more like Dante’s alta fantasia. A sprawling narrative mixed with photo- realism just this side of a nightmare.
The five inkjet prints (all 2016, 67 x 92 cm) share a kind of assault on decorum of normal behaviour.
In a landscape format, in a shallow space defined in art history as not comforting (think of Deposition by Rogier van der Weyden), the female body is wounded, disabled and deformed by the act of casual sex. Yet it is not a morality tale. It is a tale of transformation, cause of which is not visually defined. Reminiscent of Yorgos Lanthimos distopian Lobster it presents a world in which a person may be turned into something else. This image is aggressively literal mismatch of cruelty and humour – deliberate mix of realism and “fantasia”. It is not a sprawling narrative, tender conglomeration of emotions fits its impact better. She brings to public life intimacy in an absurd constellation of fragmented real. She ties the new constellation with reality while removing it from the real world. Not once does she balk. I am left not to understand the rules of its “real” of its “world” – however, I cannot shake off induced curiosity. With a straight face -as if – Burrell delivers absurd constellations, their surreal absurdity sticking with me. And no – it is not trying to be popular.
The above wall mounted variant of Scrunch holds a portrait as if unearthed in some other Pompeii and Herculaneum. Free of all responsibility for my perception Burrell peregrinates conceptual art already aware what of it had gone extinct.
A bizzar loner, each of her objects carries authority of earthly reality of being. Believable, they are visualised emotions, some born out between need and want. Like gluttony.
Where Arcimboldo used vegetable- Burrel prefers consumer goods.
We see her experiencing -not knowing what exactly – like experiencing something when making performance art. The meaning reminiscent of a butterfly moves from one source to another: fear, pity, hesitation, remorse, curiosity, bewilderment? She allows conceptual art to turn visual, even retinal.
“None of these artworks are really for passive contemplation,” said Andrew Wilson, curator of British contemporary art and archives at Tate, who put together the current show of conceptual art. “They’re not pleasant arrangements of shapes and colors on a canvas. They are provocations, some of them: provocations to actually thinking what art might be.”
Burrell is decisive- by binding the freedom of arrangement with visual aesthetics of both mimesis and catharsis. Another conceptual artist Ryan Gander insists:
“It’s about learning,discovery, investigation, turning over rocks and seeing what’s under them.”Conceptual art emerged in the United States, Europe and Latin America in the 1960s. “The idea itself, even if it is not made visual, is as much of a work of art as any finished product,” the early conceptualist Sol Le Witt wrote in a 1967 essay.
This exhibition has a root in each conceptual art, performance art, lens based art, abstraction achieving departure from exclusiveness of any of them.
Burrell makes thinking, feeling, making visible, at the stage when each (or all together) seeks escape to timelessness.
Three concurrent exhibitions invite that question. Marie Hanlon at Fendersky, Desire Line at Golden Thread Gallery and In-Stream at the two galleries, Ulster University and QSS.
Fenderesky Gallery and cafe is a new place with a four decades of history forged by a kind of classical dealer/philosopher/ artist who does not foreground curatorship staying admirably sensitive and careful about display of each image or sculpture.
Desire Line and In-Stream are curator led. Quite often, curators require “socially engaged art “to literally articulate responses and messages of change. In both exhibitions a cloud of implied instructions is supposed to activate probable behaviour. More on this later.
Marie Hanlon avoids the dangers of a “cause” by working on intrinsic connections between observed and imagined, allowing instinct rather than conscious reasoning to guide her. In her own words:
” But lack of a conscious plan does not mean that our work is random or arbitrary, improvisation always has its rules, even if they are not a priori rules. When we are totally faithful to our own individuality, we are actually following very intricate design. This kind of freedom is the opposite of “just anything”.” (see Marie Hanlon & Rhona Clarke, DIC TAT, publ Rubicon Gallery Dublin, p1: essay by Rowan Sexton)
Marie Hanlon : Finding Equilibrium installation,Fenderesky Gallery, Belfast 2016
Drawing BA_XI Gouache & pencil on paper 30 x 42 cms 2011
The two unfinished triangles in a chance like meeting open the picture plane to the space outside the frame. One of the consequences of that decision is a compulsory illusion of depth where there is none, trapping thus the viewer’s range of responses in elegantly reduced visual clues. As it reminds me of unfinished poem, it also strongly evokes the refrain of a song being repeated in a whisper. The link to music is not as arbitrary as it may appear, Hanlon made drawings while listening to a metronome. Rowan Sexton (op cit) has proposed
The locus of meaning in the metronome suite of drawings comes from connotative dimension, so that rhythm is the all encompassing, primary source of activity
Drawing BA _XX Pencil on paper 30 x 42 cms 2011
This drawing appears in DIC TAT book as Drop Down, 29.7 x 42, 2012. A simple error ? If it were a deliberate change it would forge a refutal of the aura of authorship as in Umberto Eco’s assertion: “People are tired of simple things. They want to be challenged” . However, that I failed to find in Hanlon’s repertoire of intentions. Her drawings correspond to her resonance with whatever her senses register. She creates correspondences in the sense defined by Charles Baudelaire, here in Richard Wilbur’ translation:
Nature is a temple whose living colonnades
Breathe forth a mystic speech in fitful sighs;
Man wanders among the symbols in those glades
Where all things watch him with familiar eyes.
Like dwindling echoes gathered far away
Into a deep and thronging unison
Huge as the night or as the light of day,
All scents and sounds and colors meet as one.
Perfumes there are as sweet as the oboe’s sound,
Green as the prairies, fresh as a child’s caress,
—And there are others, rich, corrupt, profound
And an infinite pervasiveness,
Like myrrh, or musk, or amber, that excite
The ecstasies of sense, the soul’s delight.
Yet – her drawings do not symbolise a structure – they achieve immersion in a structure she makes visible. Her “living colonnades” appear as a mystery of synchronic co-existence of hearing and drawing to “excite ecstasies of senses” (with apology to Baudelaire)
It was a classical visual art exhibition gently caressing the viewer’s capacity for the value Italo Calvino selected for saving for this millennium – visual thinking.
Making visible is a central concern of the exhibition DESIRE LINE at the Golden Thread Gallery (25 February – 16 April, 2016). The intention seems the same as in Henlon’s exhibition, but it is not. The rooms were dark, the spot lit quotes in gold hue from Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities helped to perceive a black massive black form running across the space as if supported by the air near your hands. The words were more visible than the objects: suspended walnut, compass points, reference to the North Star . The curators defined them as the tools to help visitors to navigate the “desire line” as if of their own choice: ” this exhibition invites the audience, or participant, to imagine their own urban space, without any parameters” ( see the gallery handout). If in doubt that this exhibition has a cause the curators -PLACE – make it clear: “… in this exhibition we present a series of ‘objects’ or clues that form a framework and give you tools to position yourself physically, without setting a literal narrative.. This space has no pre-supposed history and every future one could imagine.” This cloud of words aims at behavioural experiment on your powers of imagination to generate probable but different image of a city, space, place, time, temperature, noise, fumes, colours etc. Commonalities born by knowing the gallery space and Belfast are in a category of deficit for that imaginatory city. That wobbly independence of imagination from experience is given a patina of significance. If you fail – it is your fault for not doing as you are told. Although they claim not prescribing what should result from a visit.
Well – if I am given a framework and tools – those will limit my imagination, moreover, I am conscious that this is the gallery space I know, I know some its history. No instruction can erase that.
The curators continue:
“We have constructed a sculptural interruption in the gallery. Not prescriptively but referencing a route across Belfast, this sculpture is basis for you, the participant, to create any urban space,actual or fictitious, imagined or imaginable. Within the environment of the suspended spot lit sculpture, and with certain tools – altitude, compass points and references to the north star – to help you to orientate yourself …”
There is a planned obsolescence of the whole installation for those who do not resonate with the tools on offer. That includes me.
Calvino’s words “serve as a reminder to suspend your everyday perception of reality…and create for yourself fantastical urban spaces” the curators write.
On reading his book I succeeded to imagine spaces different from any city I have known. Walking through the Desire Line installation did not end with such a success. The installation expected me to use its meagre tools to evoke my fantasies about urban spaces… impossible without a lot of memories, miles of walks in various cities and play. This, in principle, includes conceptual art, even as paired down as this one, so why I so easily resist its call? What cognitive bias governs my rejection? Others may tell me – one conscious thought governs my aesthetic judgement – that what Calvino defends as visibility, visual thinking. Another salient point of my resistance may be my conviction that art is the kingdom of freedom without instructions how to get there, and visual art in particular. I value its mute poetry.
University of Ulster Gallery hosted one part of In-Stream exhibition (March 7 – April 2,2016) , the other found its home at QSS Gallery in Bedford Street. Photographs courtesy Jordan Hutchings.
At the opening the two musicians, Anthony Kelly (on the left) and David Stalling (on the right) gave an improvised concert/ sound performance.
Above David Stalling’s head is visible an abstraction by Kevin Miller, which at one point could have been a monotype.
Seeing from near its surface evokes memories of gestural abstraction, Tapies, when not limited to black hue, De Kooning – and some others from the CoBrA group, and also Action Painting as understood in 1952 by Harold Rosenberg. Action Painting has been also referred to as “gestural abstraction” – and this painting shares a number of characteristics with American paintings of that period. The dynamic application of spontaneous directness is denied boundless spread as in colour field. Kevin Miller’s instinct is quasi sculptural, like Hans Arps’s low reliefs or Henri Matisse’s cut-outs. The paint is not dribbled or splashed like in a Pollock. It is smeared in layers that keep distance form one another. Look how the blue arches above the brown! I would not be surprised if it suddenly crawled to the corner on top right. It si almost Klein’s blue, just a shade cooler. The commitment to the presence of three primary colours still tolerates and accommodates the whimsical smaller passages, each holding its own voice. Quite an achievement that it hold all together.
Anthony Kelly embraces apollonian principle of measured sophistication of dualism and small gentle shifts on the picture plane – reminiscent of M Rothko grey- in- grey – I saw once in a private collection.
Kelly invented the trembling wave to connect small interfering white and warmer grey in a kind of dialogue with the hard edged right angled wood that overshot its destination – frame.
Hard edge had its hey day also in the second half of the 20th C. here it is smeared over with liquid paint and splashes as if to remind the geometry of its subsidiary role. The grey outline is refrained by the grey frame – like in a duo of operatic voices – keeping each they own rhythm and score. And as any Mozart’s duo, equally successfully.
Juxtaposition of real and imagined receives tender care from the drawing hand – but the words insist on some absence of care – or even malfunctioning. That is visualised by the density of the black – impenetrable. Julie Lovett prefers her Incidents in series and in a hand held format. Initiating a possibility that a stretched hand may cover each incident – instills an illusion of control. The visual force of the absence of light inside the animated black shape refutes that, leaving the fearful state of mind to cope, yet – it does not reach the really frightening level.
The curator(s) of In-Stream zoomed on the idea of disrupting the viewing of the selected art by dividing the “display” into two different galleries, thus allowing either the memory of one appearing as comparison with the other – or a complete disregard for any continuity.
In the handout for the audience there is a strange idea: “The temporal disruption between Studio -Gallery – City – Gallery is not necessarily bound to or determined by circular closure of both exhibitions spaces”…. yes- that is not only obvious abut also completely in the power of any viewer, who – fro example- can walk out after seeing one exhibit only.
The interference of the concept that happening together but in two venues alters substantially visual aesthetic experience is not that powerful. Aesthetic experience does not feed that much on comparison – rather it depends on the power of the visual thinking – both on the part of the artist and the viewer. The concept that two groups of paintings (incl prints and mixed media) will alter their essential values by being apart only enters the consciousness on reading the words of the essay or the handout- which can happen long after the visitor saw the visual artefacts. In that sense it is irrelevant.
The curators disagree, grounding their conviction in the power of differences between the two sites and their social and cultural contexts. None of the work is site specific ( Joan Stack’s installation will tolerate another site) – so the dependence of my perception of the art on indoors or outdoors stimuli when walking from one gallery to the other – of both sites is as much or as little as in another case, where the distance is not given this spectacular power, e.g. numerous mini exhibitions in the Venice Biennale.
There is one case where the “distance” between members of the same series of prints, paintings or sculptures , comes into the fore. How critical that division is can be established only when the series is meant to be viewed as one work of art, when they all must be seen together by the virtue of their inter- relationships. I’ll illustrate that on the images by Majella Clancy, below.
For the In-Stream handout, Geraldine Boyle wrote a magnificent passage on sensual rewards of diligent observation by curious mind triggered by reading up about Urban Flora of Belfast. Her claim that ” The gap in between viewing is important – it confirms and creates spaces for new ways of seeing, tangential and associative thinking” is not specific to geographical distance of two groups of works of art. In particular, because a viewer may decide to visit the second gallery days later or not at all. It is also not possible to deny to her/him the capacity for associations and imaginative leaps between sensual experiences in different places and at different times, experience utterly independent of the distance between the two venues.
There is a set of 12 related works – four are exhibited at the University of Ulster Gallery and eight at QSS. Majella Clancy’s art is a superior example of that creative force, autonomous visual presence wherever it is displayed.
All four at UU and the eight at QSS share material: oil, paper, digital print, tape, pencil on board; size: 19 x 24 cm; and date: 2016. Admissible to treat them as a set – as a series. From the left: Overview; Land II; Mass; and Untitled II.
In general, Clancy claims that her collages explore social, cultural and geographical space. Her use of identifier is fairly established – a fragment of text and of lens based image of something seen. The two – although important – are not allowed to dictate to the other elements. The letter is difficult to read – it is there as a sign for all possible letters, the fragment of the photographic print speaks through its tonality of the absence of anything threatening, but is itself pushed down under the lighter field divided into triangular net . Echoing each other the two parallel spaces, one empty governed by abstract geometry, , the other richly full with fragments of the real world. Careless debris is scrupulously clean and of regular shapes. The image strives at calm after some damaging fracture of the previous whole.
At the QSS -the installation consists of eight images.
This is : View (displayed left top above)
This is the one that manages to use the inner space differently – there is continuity with added depth, which introduces different layers for the elements. Some are nearer the picture plane also by the virtue of the hue, the red somewhat crude cut out shape that looks like broken of a frame. Others shy away into a distance – both small irregular rectangles, as if not wanting to show off the collection of whitish sheets and coloured sticks. Like pencils ready to write onto the empty pages. The circle offers multiple meanings: it is a photograph of a tree or bush – its lowered acuteness allows it to be read like a distant star or moon. At least until the eye gives that up and sticks with the branches of the tree. That, in turn introduces time, which is also suggested by the circle morphing into a clock face with pink hour hand… There is a warning: what looks like a right angle accuracy – is a result of a wobbly shake of the scissors or brush – softly denying the rule for the sake of trembling individuality of each shape. Just compare it to El Lissitzky – when he needs to tell the story! Majella Clancy tells about her experience, understanding of found relics, while staying true to the feeling of intoxicating awe of the first impact. That’s what she gives to me – sincere incompleteness of knowing- paradoxically – that whatever it is, it matters.
Clancy gave this the ominous title: Platform
I owe you my take on the curator’s platform – as formulated in the handout to In-Stream – that is an attempt to treat exhibition as a work of art – which became recently a fashionable way to battle through regulations of the funding and enabling freedom to select exhibits on their intrinsic not their instrumental value. As such it is relevant as enabling idea for the outer layers of the business. It is not relevant to the intrinsic value of each work of art for each individual viewer.
I end my communication by Clancy’s distinctively freewheeling Message – which hides a cheeky smile in a yellow.
Helen O’Leary has included the following as a part of the genesis of The Shelf Life of Facts (2016, MAC Belfast):
“I ended up in Paris and found myself walking to the Museum of War a lot, and I’d look at all the flawed armour… I’d look at the armour with cannonballs through the heart and they seemed to have real power for me … started thinking about … armour with … holes [in it] and I wanted painting to come out, be like a phoenix out of shreds… So I started thinking about a painting that would be a history painting, that wouldn’t just be memoir… I wanted it to be about the world as I knew it through kind of a haptic sense. And I started thinking about making paintings as big as Kiefer, I wanted paintings bigger than Kiefer. But I’d do them bit by bit; I’d do them in a very intimate way. I wanted that you could piece together a language out of false starts or out of small moments.”( accessed on http://painters-table.com/blog/helen-oleary-shelf-life-facts#.Vx4pDVQrJaU)
It is a coincidence that weeks before I read the quoted transcript I have been toying with Kiefer’s “Art is difficult,” …. “It’s not entertainment. There are only a few people who can say something about art – it’s very restricted. When I see a new artist I give myself a lot of time to reflect and decide whether it’s art or not. Buying art is not understanding art.”…”Art has something which destroys its own cells,” (accessed on http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/dec/08/anselm-kiefer-art-white-cube)
The statistics keep showing the gap between contemporary art and audiences. The funding bodies blame the art and the art managers for not doing enough to attract large part of the population. They labour under an illusion that their attitude is the right one – ignore the elite and support only the art that the masses approve of. This has determined cultural policy of the Soviet Union and its satellites. Then came Mao with his idea to let flower every flower… Not only it confused the political regulators, it also respected the different preferences, a reality recognised by current research. The conclusion is not that the socio-political context determines the range of aesthetic experience. Instead, it claims one-to-one mapping – i.e. I like what is like me. That verb is a significant cover for a complex connectivity between me and the world, inclusive of art. Art then cannot possibly reduce itself to one aesthetic preference – taste – without slipping out of it. The wonderful consequence of this limitation is an open field of art to anything an artist may love to do, dare to do, risk to do. Installation art is particularly successful in irritating established canons. At the same time it is also irritatingly near establishing its own death by not finding its specific energy and visual force. Some early installations are beautiful even in fading memory.
As a part of Venice Biennale 2003, two Swiss artists, Gerda Steiner and Joerg Lenzlinger, installed “Falling Garden” inside the San Stae church, inspired by the “need to feed the reindeer” of St Eustache legend to allow the miracle happen. http://steinerlenzlinger.ch/eye_giardinocalante.html
Its attachment to the verbal story about the saint did not matter. Its autonomous visual poetry did. Lying there with no shoes on looking up into the gentle colourful multitude felt good – a genuine case of Kalos Kagathos.
Both O’Leary and Kiefer focus on the autonomy of art. He observes that a renewal is due to art’s self-destructive force, she conceives of harnessing of contrasts (large scale / intimate, history / not memoir, painting / haptic sense) like armour with holes, as a force that lets art rise like a phoenix out of shreds.
I have not thought of her constructs on the wall as shreds – but now, I cannot escape the authority of that word. Earlier, I enjoyed the play of my imagination replacing the parts that found a home by dovetailing another by some of those strewn on the horizontal surfaces. What if the parts the artist joined into one long or short togetherness decided to change place with those on the tables, waiting without knowing it, without any will to take the place of another. The way the verticals are threading different size, colour and shape, under the strict rule of an exact fit between two neighbours, introduce the feeling of instability at the core of the construct. Consequently the verticals need alien support, or freedom to bend like a tall grass in the wind.
Seeing all the rest as superfluous, not needed, inspired a rebellion of curiosity: would the future sequences be equivalent to those already realised? The scarcity of sensual dionysian joy obtained from the redundant colourful remnants easily diminished the cool constructive logic of what keeps what together. Consequently, the principle, known from poetry, and famously formulated by George Elliot – the open endedness of a poem – allowed one comparison: with Anthony Caro, Early One Morning. 1962
The display caption in Tate Britain sets out observation that are shareable with the display at MAC
‘Early One Morning’ is a major example of the kind of sculpture – light, airy and open-form – which Caro had begun to develop by 1962. In this work, Caro’s arrangement of planes and lines along a horizontal axis gave greater freedom in creating different rhythms and configurations. The work has no fixed visual identity and no single focus of interest. Rather, it unfolds and expands into the spectator’s space, its appearance changing with the viewpoint. The individual elements are unified by the bright red colour and Caro sees the way they cohere, making a sculptural whole, as being like the relationship of notes within a piece of music.”
O’Leary also arranged lines imbued with a rhythm and overlapping configurations, that would change as I move along the display. Absence of single focus is not absolute, it appears and disappears from fragment to fragment, unfolding and expanding with my field of vision. The appearance changes with viewpoint. Yet, the colour although on the brink of not being there at all – calls in all the bits vertical, bent or lying there in incomprehensible multitude, to cohere now, to become whole now.
The comparison of Caro’s sculptural whole to the relationship of notes within a piece of music is particularly apt for the installation by Niamh K McCann.
The old chair seat, stone, candles – as if a deep chord, well down the left part of the piano keys holds, possibly destined for the left hand holding it, while the right hand manages the rapid staccato of repeated note interspersed by several long runs its length until it runs out off the page…
Materials easily associate with sounds, glass, china. stone, plastic….wood
coconut shells, stones
Art Povera, found art, found objects, rejected objects, recovered from the destruction of the Orpheus building, an Art Deco jewel of 1932, place where for decades undergraduate artists learn about art making and themselves – precisely about the autonomy that can’t speak its name.
The combination of a strict right angle order over the memories of nature, architecture, domestic use and Fine Art studios – however each sphere is different – under the sensitive calm rhythm cohere into the stasis of the destroyed past. McCann effortlessly matches earth colours with manmade into the chorus of remembrance.
She gave it a name:
Name: Absurdity (2016)
Statement: “Arranging, Placing, Pandering, Gathering Allowing, Objects and Spaces, Materials and Places in between”
Size: 2m by 3.5m Height variable.
Images courtesy N K McCann.
These photographs are deliberately rotated 90°.
We see into landscapes. We are less inclined to see the visual structure of what is before us. But we can make things strange in order to see differently – through rotation, for example. Then we see the landscape the way a painter has to see it: shapes that will emerge out of the bare canvas when given tone or colour.
Connemara is a place of stunning forms. If you give these photos a few moments, long enough to let your initial resistance dissipate, you see the forms.
– Peter FitzGerald, 2016
Click on an image to enlarge it; use the navigation symbols at the bottom, or the arrow keys on the keyboard, to bring up different images. <esc> will close an image.
Your visual thinking is asked to abandon the viewing angle nourished by the evolution of need to observe the landscape for food and danger. In addition, visual art has strong preference for the the eye/head to be in 90 degrees to the horizontal when painting or photographing a landscape. There are intriguing departures though. Until 15th C, when the Danube School broke the cannon by Aristotelian trust in observation, landscape representation derived for its role in the story.
In Giotto or Duccio – the role of detail signifies the illusion of being there, and witnessing. He paints the crown of a tree as if he was not only inside it, but also climbing up to each leaf/fruit, all represented from the same near distance.
Manipulation of believable distance is one of the optical tools to achieve foregrounding of otherness.
Giotto Di Bondone: Joseph’s Dream, Scrovegni Chapel, Arena, Padua
The discrepancy between size of the figures and the building and trees , and between distances, is not to approximate perspectival distortion, but to assign significance. As a trusted toll it is found in Egyptian and Byzantine art.
This is a detail of the mosaic depicting the martyrdom of Saints Castus and Cassius in the cathedral of Monreale, Sicily, 12th C every part is seen for the same near distance. Of specific interest in relation to FitzGerald’s photographs of Connemara is the irrelevance of rational space.
That in itself has been mined by Modernism of the 20th C in many ways, including a rational insertion of geometry into lens based view of the landscape, by Jan Dibbet.
FitzGerald trusts simplicity: just turning the image 90 degrees looks like a mistake waiting to be corrected, my head instinctively bends to get the “right” view. Only if I scroll without lingering from an image to an image the habitual expectation makes way to perception of the strange unease forged by competition of the known with unexpected. That denial of the norm appears as necessary. Victor Shklovsky and Bertold Brecht have some thought on this. FitzGerald emailed me that making-strange – Verfremdung is one conscious part of his intention.
My art historical example illustrates that it has roots in the need to make something believable – but not as a document. The biblical stories were to be made visually believable, so the optics aimed at a convincing scene. Dibbet is concerned also with representing the whole from observable parts, this time ruled by geometry – not biblical stories. His introduced otherness (mostly also right angle) reaches towards the sublime while holding back before it tips over into the strange.
FitzGerald’s strange landscapes go deeper, behind the belief, below the rational and optical. They depend on their power to induce the vertigo like experience moving from unpleasant upheaval to calm acceptance of another world, otherness being just this simple strangeness of a small, 90 degrees, turn of viewing angle. My instinct is, that FitzGerald’s images activate the amygdala, my early warning system. Especially when I compare them to the mosaics at Monreale – the house is not upright – but does not induce the strangeness of the intensity and persuasion these images of Connemara do.
Right angle is such a tame creature – yet, here it is endowed with animalistic force. Or – the force we know so little of – and which astronomy accepts as a part of the universe. FitzGerald manages to present an approximation of how the familiar tips so easily out of anthropocentric system.
Colin Darke at Suki Tea 2015 Art prize at Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast, 25th February -26th March 2016
The Snow-White Rose of Paradise (2015, 170 x 230 cm) is made with partly empty toothpaste tubes with pennies and magnets attached. A part of the content has been squeezed out before the assembly of the relief assemblage, with almost surgical care. Used -yet pristine outside. That betrays an intention carefully planned and executed, a high degree of artist’s control. More than 50 % of each toothpaste tube is visible thus fitting the definition of a High Relief in sculpture. This is subverted by the plane, in this case the wall, being only slightly lower that the toothpastes making it fit another definition, that of a Low Relief, a sort of bas-relief.
The slippage, skidding, of categories and meanings, play also with details: the manufacturer’s name: Arm and Hammer – easily skids into Sickle and Hammer/Hammer and Sickle, a symbol of worker/peasant alliance, of salvation/paradise ubiquitous during the 20th C across the globe. The added ice axe nonchalantly evokes that arm is needed to secure a position on a slippery surface – the insecure paradise.
Stuck on pennies do not offer any assurance of the Snow-White Rose as a path reaching the paradise: of small exchange value they still manifest control by money. All is held by magnets – power of nature that people learned to manipulate. William Morris’s expectation that in 2102 humans will not use nature for ends exterior to it comes to mind almost with a touch of sarcasm. Ever receding horizons….
The spiral is carefully balanced, its prettiness cherished, determined not to tell what is it that is being repeated. It could be cries for …liberty, democracy, respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, rule of law – where are they ? Too anthropocentric? What if it is just an application of science’s claim that nature prefers symmetry? Modernists accepted that idea. This is
Karl Gerstner, Color Spiral Icon x65b, 2008. Acrylic on aluminum, diameter 41 in. (104 cm). Collection of Esther Grether, Basel, Switzerland.
“Gerstner’s work is in the tradition of Swiss Concrete Art, which was founded in Zurich in the 1930s and ’40s by Max Bill, Camille Graeser, Richard Paul Lohse and Verena Loewensberg. Zurich was a place where physicists and mathematicians, including Einstein, Andreas Speiser and Hermann Weyl, gathered to give a unified description of the forces of nature: gravity, electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force. They used the mathematics of group theory to describe symmetry, which is the property of remaining unchanged when certain operations are carried out.” (Lynn Gamwell accessed on https://aeon.co/opinions/how-physics-and-maths-helped-create-modernist-painting?…)
Gerstner’s abstraction does not cross from art to socio-political issues facing mankind. Darke’s use of “lesser” objects and evocative title – embedded the Snow-White Rose of Paradise in the dense belief that the current work of art is merely life itself moving moving toward the betterment of mankind – and failing. Its beauty liberates the familiar (toothpaste) into a metaphoric net woven by recalling K Marx, V I Lenin and Rosa Luxembourg as well as the Snow-White waiting to be woken up. No secure answer to a question whether the spiral is ascending or descending… Fermi paradox. Or – is it born by our own inadequacies – leaving the universe out of it?
The spiral is not a serene retreat, nor arcadian reverie. It provokes stern watchfulness as it lives in the future of the Karl Marx’s past intelligence. I admit this thought is connected to Darke’s previous work on Das Kapital. (see www.colindarke.co.uk)
Should I recall here Seneca’s belief that the world is doomed for cyclical destructions due to natural forces? He foresaw waters salt and fresh to overwhelm the land. Will an injured hill enact revenge?
The ice axe seems pointing to a (past?) future ice age replacing the current global warming. In theory – both were identified by the science as possible “final solution”.
The spiral of manufacture and use of goods has a latent force to turn – reminiscent of Karl Marx’s ” locomotive of history”. The relaxed ice axe waits, as if, to be grabbed “for the emergency break” of Walter Benjamin.
The spiral’s freedom/ambiguity becomes visible in comparison to concentric circles.
The spiral promises to go on, grow bigger… it is inviolable by additions – sharing its relaxed boundaries with the classical view of the ocean – which bounded the known world, the inhabited Earth, oikoumene, with yawning voids around it.
The spiral is a conscious field – reaching on the possible thresholds, evoking structure visible at present and remembered from previous encounters. Such synaptically mediated interactions forge an instant assembly as well as a winner-takes-all competition. Your conscious field may stabilise an aesthetic experience very different from mine, a difference that is not only welcome but also defining how we each are.
The Snow-White Rose of Paradise may be ironic – it is also sincerely beautiful.
Images accessed on Facebook…
They called it INTER-BEING, durational performances.
Here, on the steps, ascending, Dorothea Serror carries a silver head box, and, Linda Montano holds a silver bucket before descending and getting out of the building, to light a fire of sorts.
Silently at times.
She is both ordinary and not so ordinary – melting into a visitor who does not look at the museum installations anymore, as if tired of the multitude of art. The slight gesture of both hands issues an authority sign for difference and control. She is not a consumer, she is a producer by the virtue of that difference. Keeping performance art only a hair thickness away from ordinary behaviour, of expected being, demands other skills. I regret to have missed those phases of her work on Saturday.
Alastair MacLennan grounded his art in the rhythm as slow as he could bear, while distancing from that monotony by introduction and manipulation of objects. Walking barefoot, his boot was free to become a container , a vase – no vase , for a fragile white rose.
Deliberate distancing from the poetic nature introduces incongruence, established as a strategy in visual art a century ago by the Dadaists and Surrealists. Thankfully, every time, it brings the fresh touch to a recalled similarity. This is a vital nonsense, it intensifies dislocation of the walking man from purposeful walk in a museum.
MacLennan sometimes introduces a clown as his alter ego, as if wishing not to look like a shaman figure. Here he has a black lense over as if over a wounded eye – allowing that the viewer sees through the pretense and simultaneously, inviting the viewer’s choice how to interpret that detail.
I addition to the objects he holds here, MacLennan included a bronze legs of a bird in a splendid isolation of any context. Yet, it becomes entangled in the rest by the virtue of being there.
The multicolour ribbons do not appear often in his work – he preferring the heavy largo to dancing allegro any time. Even here, the lightness of the colours is disabled by binding them to a dead, dry, lifeless branch.
If he meant the colours to work as symbols, I am glad that when I watched him, he failed to succeed. They evoked an association of maypole – like a passing breath, quickly gone.
Looking down towards small mezzanine – shaped like a box that lost its lid – Sandra Johnston sits at a glass top table.
This is the second sitting down performance I witness. Both elaborate a paradox between destruction and making.
In this case, a cap is dismembered and left on the floor in utter isolation.
Crockery is being deprived of its decoration by coarse sandpaper biting into the colours until they are no more.
Broken of a hawthorn, overwintering branches are condemned to sleep forever now in a thorny arabesque of absent, but visually implied, if not torture, then tension. The monotony of erasing the pattern from the china’s surface – while on purpose – does not maintain a convincing sense of relevancy. Unless, to revive A Loos’s dictum that ornament is a crime – is the central raison d’etre of this performance. I doubt it, but do not rule it out. Nevertheless, its tender indifference to dominant impact, comes out as its strength – free thought.
Dorothea Seror hangs clothes and shoes on ropes.
To get it there, she makes a nest of them first on the floor of the foyer, and then puts them on, one by one, to take them up stairs.
Up there she takes the item off, ties the rope to it, and sends it down as far as the rope goes.
She uses a lift.
She climbs the stairs, never taking off that silver box worn over her head.
What such a freewheeling performance offers? Does it have to offer anything? The idea that art has to “do” something beyond being art , keeps popping up again and again in all its irrelevance. This performance is easily converted into a comment on consumerism – but I resist that – allowing myself freewheeling perceptions of colours, shapes, details, the artist’s youthful energy and obedience to some simple plan, and letting my imagination just touch and go.
Dominic Thorpe complicates my playing with what I see by drowning his performance in semi- darkness. Impaired, my eyes give rein to tactile and sound perceptions. It works. I hear the table creaking in response to Thorpe’s steps – he moves around his own axis.
His hands produce a sound too – screeching metal on stone in his palm. He emailed me later, saying that he sharpened a spoon destined to dig.
Should I feel empathy with the table? My memory of earlier Thorpe’s performance wrestled for attention. Repetitive labour, repetitive life, repetitive being. As if a visual translation of the myth of Sysiphos from classical Greece into contemporary Belfast was worth having. Maybe, I missed the moment, Albert Camus described, as the moment of happiness. It was a durational performance, all were.
What if the protagonist is prepared to die rather than lie? Camus dealt with that in the Etranger, recently translated as The Outsider. All these performances were “outsiders”, “strange” to various degree and intensity. One, the next one, stayed committed to the cutouts of history.
Brian Connolly disabled his eyes by attaching cardboard tubes that hold a role of toilet paper, in front of each lense of his glasses, destiny of impaired vision.
Yet, the disciplined hand cut confidently straight lines from a set of images. Some connected to the museum installation of The Troubles. Watching the display was the time necessary to unwind the toilet paper from the role, to free the tube, to make it functional for the main part of the performance.
The pathway was left as and where the paper fell. As if freeing the tube was done just by the way and as if watching the video was the important action. The main part of the performance, the subsequent part, proved this meaning erroneous. The shift from what is true or not continues throughout this work. The cut outs forge the kind of oasis, walls around empty space, incapable of any answer to any question.
The move from the serious museum display to the construction of paper thin walls as enclosures around empty spaces, no entrances or exits, no roofs for protection – kafkaesque habitat, void of life. Void of a chance to move on.
The play with disabled vision is pertinent – think of Breughel’s painting on that theme – it brings irony inside a take on history that undermines the received view.
The event was organised under the title Inter-being. Not a helpful choice.
Images courtesy of Jordan Hitchings.