David Turner: A Series of Small Explosions,QSS Gallery Belfast, 23-25

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


Oil Rig Explosion, 2016, Hama Beads, 80 x 60cm


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)

nanodudes98a5f73b-afce-4ed9-8d7e-b17c555adf87The similarity between Turner’s current  softer approach with Modernism’s abstraction surface in several of the framed- like- picture  assemblies of the tiny Hama Beads.


Structural damage #1 and #2, 2016. Hama Beads, 40 x 30 cm



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.


Ship/Tug Bomb #1, 2017, Hama Beads, 40 x 30

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.


Ship/Tug Bomb #2, 2017, Hama Beads, 29 x 21


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. qssturner003

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.


About Slavka Sverakova

writer on art
This entry was posted in essay, review. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.