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.