Tuesday, 28 February 2012

GLAMOURIE – Project Space Leeds

Okay, so it's been a few days since I actually saw this exhibition, so there'll be a slight memory lag but I shall drag from the fuzzy mess of recollection what I thought all that time ago.

Literary just off the train, I meet my friend and we work alongside the river towards Project Space Leeds which is currently hosting the GLAMOURIE exhibition which aims to bring 'too-little know' artists. This is where a little knowledge could be a bad thing, having a small interest in that kind of stuff I know that a Glamourie is a kind of Magick spell which enables people to charm and seduce through artifice. Will I fall under their spell?

Entering the space and we are handed a leaflet detailing the artists in the exhibition, identifying which artist is in which room relies on a series of keys. So I am not really referencing it, until now. We moved passed some table and chairs and entered a space which is dominated by a large collection of cardboard, covered in dripping, sloppy gloss paint shaped to form two heads kissing. It's all sort of jolly in a cartoony way, my comment while looking at it was 'It's like something Noel Fielding would do.' Also in the room there is a model of a classic building, compacted and unable to let anyone in. The walls are covered with empty spaces, the artists have recreated those marks left behind when a large item has been removed, it's difficult to pin these down whether its acknowledgement in the beauty of the unintended or something about memory, I'm not sure. There's nothing to indicate either.

Moving back into the main gallery space we pass a vague reproduction of a Tapas Bar, I'm not sure what going on here or why I can't unpick the code. That goes for most of the work in the show not for the first time I get the sensation that I'm like Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters, pawing at his mash potatoes, trying to shape something and mumbling to myself '..this means something..'.

Hey, it's not all bad. I was genuinely impressed by Ant Macari's monastic installation Ruach Ha'Shem (Brain of God/Creation of Adam) a sort of mystic conceptualism which references Sol le Witt and Jorges Louis Borges. Maybe it's just the fact that I've been able to identify where the artist is coming from, to see that he is able to collate these references into something solid and interesting, I hope I'm not that shallow. It's not only stuff I can identify with I like another piece which stuck out for me where Paul McDevitt's series of drawings entitled Notes to Self, which could be regarded as uber-doodles. For the spraying bubbling forms which inhabit the drawings stem from the hastily scrawled notes , and seem to be extended versions of McDevitt's handwriting and why wouldn't they be. I was also attracted to Joseph Lewes, cobbled together versions of medieval instruments.

Looking back on it, what did I think? As an attempt to bring some lesser known artists to a wider audience it kind of works, but as what often happens the majority of artists involved can slip pass. Which is the main problem with these type of pack 'em exhibitions but what is the alternative? Also the attempt to allow the works to bleed through impacted on my ability to see the individual merits of individual works. It's as if the attempt to cast a glamourie over these artists has somehow produced the opposite effect. Like the Pil & Galia Kollectiv's (whose work I like) dresser marked with modern corporate sigils is interesting to look at but open the draws and there's nothing inside.

The exhibition runs until the 31st March.



Monday, 27 February 2012

Ben Rivers/David Thorpe/Heather and Ivan Morison – The Hepworth Wakefield

This is my second visit to The Hepworth since its opening last year, and it's where I left it standing like the centrepiece of some post-modern utopia all starkly beautiful concrete sitting upon the weir. I've came to see a trio of exhibitions, so moving through the light filled gleaming rooms the first exhibition we come across is Heather and Ivan Morison's Anna what greets me when I enter the space is a large balloon, of the kind that the Montgolifer brothers might of flown tied to what looks like a handmade stool. Across the floor there lays what looks like railway sleepers, each one is adorned with a number of arcane objects a waxy bunch of flowers, a waxy looking bulls skull what appears to be a Sheila-Na-Gig statue and Eggs. Within the middle of this all is a pile of waxy black bones, all presided over by two large, drawings? I am told that one is produced by using bone ash.

It feels like I've wondered onto a stage long after the players have gone, taking the narratives that where contained within the objects with them. It all gives the impression of some forgotten fairy-tale, of myths lost generation by generation. On reading the stuff on the wall I discover that the piece is inspired by the life and work of the author Anna Kavan, of who I know nothing, if I did would I feel different about the selection of objects. Perhaps the upcoming puppet show will provide a sense of completion. Sat on the floor we await the arrival of the puppets; the puppets are brought in by two of the Hepworth's invigilators who animate the puppets through a tale of love and abandonment. I think. Due the acoustics the heavy eastern European accents that provide the spoken narratives are hard to understand. The puppets provide an intriguing and charming element, which expands on the objects that form the installation, I wonder about the people unable to see this element of the narrative, are they missing out? Who knows?

While waiting for the Ben Rivers film to start again I fill the time looking at David Thorpe's work. In David Thorpe's work I can see the relation between object and production; I admire the beautiful and carefully created patterns recalling William Morris's Arts and Crafts movement I'm left oddly cold. It's only when I pick up a catalogue of Thorpe's earlier work and see pieces like The Defeated Life Restored (http://www.maureenpaley.com/artists/david-thorpe/images/1) I get the sensation of utopian ideas drawn from the past, of a world based on a deeper understanding of history which points towards a future. Of course in saying that I wouldn't say no to one of his beautiful watercolours.

The final element of this trilogy is Ben Rivers Slow Action (http://www.picture-this.org.uk/eventsexhibitions/studio/2010/slow-action) set in a darkened screening room; I take a pair of wireless headphones and try to settle on a beanbag. The film begins and it is film, Ben Rivers has a taste for using film as it seems to express a sense of time and place which only exists when the film runs through the projector. There is also a Proustian rush, especially if you're of a certain age, as the film apes the documentation style of The National Film Board of Canada, all passive observation. This leads me to what is being observed, which is world the films where shot in real locations but the things discovered there have seemed to lead to a series of possible fictions detailing the alternative lives of the islands and their inhabitations. There's something in this work is points towards to the way we as a race are able to engage our imagination to shape the world in which we inhabit, that imagination seems to be applied by the sack headed inhabitations of the final episode of Rivers film, who adorn themselves with sack cloth in an attempt to restore order to their world. (http://www.mattsgallery.org/artists/rivers/large-img/4-02.jpg)

On the whole the exhibitions reflect the Hepworth's commitment to contemporary art, it might sound trite but I hope that visitors to the gallery can see that art is a living thing that does have relevance whether it was created last week or fifty years ago.




Sunday, 12 February 2012

Richard and Famous - Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool

The other day I made a brief visit to The Open Eye Gallery to see their current exhibition with the puntastic title Richard and Famous. The exhibition is a collection of the photographs of Richard Simpkin detailing a lifetime of tracking celebrities and catching their image.

Surely that's not particular interesting; we are surrounded by reproduced images of celebrities in nearly all forms of media. Well what makes these celeb pics interesting is the appearance of Simpkin himself, Simpkin originally set out to collect autographs, until he realised that a photograph captured a moment in time, provided proof of occupying the same space of these elevated people.

Simpkins choice of the image over the written word strikes me as the right choice, as the image is much older then the word. When this thing called humanity began to communicate it did so with images, only when life became more complex more abstract the need for the written word arise. Its with these vague thoughts of cave paintings that make me think that these photographs, and maybe all forms of photography, are extensions of sympathetic magic. That the camera is a spiritual medium for us to capture a moment, or to transform a mundane moment into something more.

After all if a moment is caught by a camera there must be some relevance to that moment?

Simpkins photographs are a collection of those moments. What started out as a hobby transformed into a document of Simpkins life, beginning in his teenage years in 1989 through to maturity and the current day. Looking at the photographs spread across two walls underlined with a handy timeline the sense of a lifetime is there. As a look at the photographs, I realise that the 'celebs' that I notice seem to mark certain periods in my life e.g I spot Dave Mustaine, Rob Zombie, Chris Cornell there's something comforting and yet disturbing in the way my memory is connected with these famous faces. Maybe I shouldn't be so pleased to have spotted Pixie Lott on the wall.

This is Simpkins life he becomes the focus of the photographs and the famous people, the ever changing people next to Simpkins become transient less important. Stars may come and go but through these photographs Simpkins gains a sense of permanence. It easy to make a connection the way time is marked by Simpkins and the way time is marked in the work of someone like On Kawara, and when you think about it Simpkins or has all the hallmarks of Conceptualism. A simple rule repeated again and again, along with the use of the camera as passive observer.

The camera is the unsung hero in all this, as it is the tool that enables Simpkins in his quest it's also the device in which he, and perhaps we all do, attempt to immortalise himself to present himself to future generations who'll ponder the presence of this kindly smiling face who allowed himself to photographed with all these strangers.


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

On Saturday 4th February I attended The TEDx Merseyside talks on The New Futurism for The Double Negative.....here's some of my thoughts of the day http://www.thedoublenegative.co.uk/2012/02/tedxmerseyside-%e2%80%93-the-new-futurism/

and I promise I shall write something solely for confusedguff soon.......