Thursday, 5 March 2015

REVIEW: Richard Serra @ Gagosian Gallery, London

Richard Serra
Gagosian Gallery, Britannia Street, London
11 October 2014 - 4 March 2015

The Gagosian Gallery, London recently exhibited a few select works by the renowned sculptor Richard Serra, perhaps most recognisable for his large scale steel installations. This exhibition was no different as the gallery featured the following works 'Backdoor Pipeline', 'Ramble', 'Dead Load' and 'London Cross'.

As is often the case with Serra's work, the sheer scale and mass of his sculptures dominate the space as you pass through it. The presence of these enormous forms have a breathtaking exchange that is only experienced face to face. It is only with such an interaction that you truly acknowledge and embody the physical grounding of the material and scale that Serra tends to work in.

Ramble (2014) by Richard Serra. Photograph by Mike Bruce

Ramble (2014) consists of a room filled with rows of oblong shaped forms that vary in size but are generally large enough to match the average height of a visitor or tower a few inches above. This immediately creates an interesting synergy between the viewer and Serra's forms, as we are made to create an instant relationship between us and this series of sculpture. The layout of these objects feels maze-like and one is compelled to meander their way through the plane of steel blocks. The distance between the blocks in some places is just wide enough to accommodate, once again emphasising the scale of the work in direct relation to the viewer. As well as appreciating the scale of each of these forms, I often felt a desire to touch them and truly appreciate their materiality and surface. There is obviously a fascination Serra has with steel and his repeated use of this material focuses the viewer's attention on just how this material functions and presents itself.

Backdoor Pipeline (2010) by Richard Serra. Photograph by Mike Bruce

A separate space housed Backdoor Pipeline (2010), a fifteen metre curved corridor that has a cavern like quality. There was something unusually organic about the form of this corridor, like a passageway leading underground or the path into a cave. Perhaps this felt even more so due to the weathering of the steel and how sound echoes and travels through the space. The slight curve in the work was just enough that at a certain point inside the sculpture you couldn't see the light at the opposite end of the tunnel. I noticed how I struggled to maintain a series of clear steps through the corridor. I found that the curve actually threw my balance off slightly and I would wobble or become overwhelmed in the height of the steel above me, that my feet would wander off kilter. There certainly was something odd about the passage from the inside that I couldn't quite place, but wasn't unpleasant.

London Cross (2014) by Richard Serra. Photograph by Mike Bruce.

Perhaps my personal favourite piece from the exhibition is London Cross (2014) which bisects one of the galleries with two sheets of steel, crossed over on top of one another. What I felt worked so well about this work was how it used the geometry of the white cube to bisect the space down its diagonal, and standing in each half of the divide felt like two completely independent spaces. I studied the corners of the room where the sheets of metal appeared to seamlessly continue into the walls. The way the steel crossed the room felt like extensions of what existing features were already there. Again that Serra used to correspond to the height of a visitor, enough to create a boundary that you couldn't quite look over, and yet not too dominating that it just felt like confronting barricade. It was an architectural sculpture that worked so well in its simplicity.

Serra continues to be one of the leading artists creating such monumentally works that engage with its visitors still on an intimate level. Serra's work can make you feel very small, in every possible way: in size, weight and general physicality. In doing so, you become unwittingly hyper aware of your own body and its vastly different characteristics.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

REVIEW: [Thinking with the Body] by Wayne McGregor @ The Wellcome Collection

Thinking with the Body by Wayne McGregor
The Wellcome Collection
19 September - 27 October 2013

This is my recent review I wrote for the online publishing site:

A study of mind, movement and dance, 'Thinking with the body' was the most recent exhibition presented by the Wellcome Collection in the increasing emergence of collaborative art and science practice. In recent years, artists have become ever more interdisciplinary and multi-faceted practitioners in their own right; engaging with an array of experts, scientists and consultants alike to fuel the research invested in their artworks. In this exhibition Wayne McGregor investigates aspects of perception, sensation and physical movement in relation to cognitive and social sciences, demonstrated through the art of dance itself.

The exhibition certainly addressed some really intriguing ideas around the body as a tool and vessel of physical expression. Using dance as a case study, this spontaneous and inexplicable expressive form of behaviour allows the dancer to use their body as their chosen medium. In fact using the body as an artistic medium is not purely restricted to just dancers, performance artists have been doing the same thing for years. Whilst watching the interchange between both the dancers and choreographers, you feel very much like a voyeur; looking in on a unique form of language by those who possess an obvious enriched understanding and utility of the body as an instrument. It goes beyond ordinary gesture, its flexible, sometimes exaggerated, sometimes amazingly subtle, as if they own a completely different embedded vocabulary of movements they are able to appropriate at will. Just like any other type of artist, dancing explores the endless possibilities of the chosen medium and in this respect, the limits to which the body can be used to express both emotion and narrative. Dance is certainly not just a visually spectacular practice but an innate form of expression drawn from the emotive core. As with many art forms; what appears on the surface  is only half the story, the rather more interesting art lies in the cognitive and psychological intentions driving the resulting physical catharsis.

What struck me as being so successful about this particular exhibition was its obvious awareness of the viewing public as an audience. Merging both art and science aspects is no easy feat and done badly can produce a bias in either direction, alienating those who have no knowledge of the scientific or artistic aspects. Creating a cohesive exhibition highlighting both areas requires a carefully considered approach translated in an accessible method of display. Through a series of interviews, rehearsal footage and filmed performance, viewers are able to hear the explanations of those involved in the featured projects from various perspectives of the practitioners involved. What was really pleasant was the degree to which the viewer is invited to participate and asked to engage. Titled as a series of activities asking the viewer to 'recontextualise', an area of the exhibition was reserved specifically for participation. Various forms of audio, visual and spatial installations allowed the viewer to challenge their sensory and spatial perceptions, and in effect offered the opportunity for the individual to literally 'think with their body'.

'Recontextualise' interactive area @ Thinking with the Body, photograph taken by Vivienne Du

The exhibition didn't feel like it belonged in a gallery. For one the white cube conventions were clearly disobeyed —and yet the exhibition didn't feel like a museum archive either; simply featuring detailed factual excerpts. In this instance, The Wellcome Collection delivered a resonant balance that did all the areas of interest justice, offering a depth of research and analysis through forms easy enough to understand from varying degrees of knowledge. It is definitely intriguing to note the Wellcome Collection's angle as an institution; aiming to exhibit from both a scientific and artistic perspective - there is a definite nod to typical aesthetic conventions in the finish and professionalism of the display, and yet the presentation doesn't quite pass as a typical gallery exhibit nor a museum archive. I am pleased to see such a refreshing stand between the two types of institutions, paving the way for a new hybridised approach that doesn't require either schools of convention to dictate.

So can such artistic phenomena be accurately explained through science? There are those who will certainly try, and such collaborations between art and science practitioners is an exciting new era of accepting that we require both in order to truly appreciate creative forms from all angles. 'Thinking with the body' asks you to think physically as well as physically think and I certainly enjoyed doing both.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

INDUSTRY: Art Internships

Since starting my fine art degree, I have been on three different art internships. All of these internships have varied from each other, not only in the tasks and roles I have been involved in but also in the nature of the actual organisations themselves.

The Cutting Room, Nottingham Playhouse, Nottingham
(3+ months)
The Cutting Room comprises two graduates from the NTU fine art degree course: Jennifer Ross and Clare Harris. One of the best ways of seeking out opportunities is to utilise the contacts and networks that already exist on your course and at your university. As recent graduates still based in Nottingham, they were offering internships to students particularly on our course. Not only did I benefit from being an intern in a working art organisation but I also gained valuable advice and mentorship from people who had already done what I had.

I did a huge variety of jobs whilst I was there but some of the highlights were looking through exhibition submissions and choosing artists for forthcoming exhibitions, filming and recording interviews for a private view showreel and designing the marketing material that eventually went to print.

The Way Forward (2012) Exhibition Flyer, designed by Vivienne Du

The Summer Lodge, NTU, Nottingham
(2 weeks)
As I mentioned above, my course was excellent when providing extra opportunities. Every year the members of staff run a two week artist residence in the university studios during the summer months. This residency brings together many of the lecturers and tutors on the course, local artists and graduates. As an intern, we were able to work side to side with those in the Nottingham art scene. One of the intriguing pleasures was working with tutors on your course and getting to learn about their practices and their working methods, it felt very much like a role reversal. At the end of the residency, every member and intern came together for a day long symposium that addressed some interesting issues of concern and debate. It was a fantastic series of discussions.

Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham
(3 months)
Having done internships with more familiar organisations, working at Nottingham Contemporary allowed me to get a completely new experience - one from a more established institution. Nottingham Contemporary is possibly the largest contemporary gallery in Nottingham, and getting an internship in their exhibitions department was a fantastic prospect. I was assigned to work specifically on their current exhibition Aquatopia, handling, organising and updating the status of over 100 artworks from galleries and museums alike. I was asked to correspond with the involved artists and intuitions. I did a bit of everything whilst working at this gallery, from hands-on installation and condition-checking of artworks, to sieving through artist submissions.

What I would suggest is taking any opportunity you can be offered. It may not be directly relevant to your practice but it really gives you a better understanding of the industry you want to work in, as well as the types of people you will be working with as an artist. Many internships no longer have the luxury of paying their interns anymore, but I wouldn't let this faze you. I have participated as a volunteer in a lot of unpaid jobs, and all of this amounts to a lot of experience on your artist CV.

REVIEW: [Dalston House] by Leandro Erlich @ Barbican

Dalston House by Leandro Erlich
Barbican Centre
26 June - 4 August 2013

I've always been a fan of interactive and participatory artworks and installations, and London's latest instalment Dalston House was just the type of work I love going to see. Having read about Leandro Erlich's work before, I was intrigued to experience his manipulation of visual and spatial dimensions in the flesh.

What struck me immediately was its nonchalant and honest simplicity. The first thing you see is the huge and imposing mirror, and in effect that is all there is to this illusion: the mirror. However I found myself drawn to the metal scaffolding holding the mirror up. Erlich has purposely allowed the viewer to be able to see the exposed mechanism behind the illusion. Nothing is concealed, there are no smoke and mirrors to the work's production. Every person participating in this work knows more or less how it works, how the illusion transpires and still...the magic and curiosity is still very much there. If anything, the pleasure received from the work is even more so somehow when you realise how straightforward it is in its construction.

People are always fascinated by their reflections. Even now when you see someone walk down the street and they catch their reflection in a mirror unexpectedly, they look intrigued or surprised as if seeing themselves for the first time. Seeing one's self allows an unusual, out of body semblance; an awareness of one's body and its ordinary constructs and restrictions in real time and space. Dalston House enables the impossible but not in actual physicality, just in the reflected image. Yet this is enough to reverse our rational understanding of our bodies and its capabilities. Participants became acrobats, superheroes, people with gravity defying abilities and contortions. Ironically enough, most viewers were adamantly trying to recreate a realistic portrayal of gravity, dangling upside down for example was popular, or sitting a window ledge from a seeming twenty or so feet off the ground. People were trying to create fantastical scenarios but within the realms of believable physics, as if this makes the illusion even more seductively deceptive. Creating a sub-real reality from the unreal. You get how it works, you see how it works, but you still find yourself staring at your own reflection thinking "I'm dangling upside down from a window ledge." You may know you're lying on the ground but this feels irrelevant when your body becomes the best full scale puppet you've ever had to play with.

It appears that Erlich's main intention is to encourage creativity and play within a collective group arena. It was an opportunity for imaginative activity where families, couples and groups came together to create the most original and inventive compositions. Anticipation was just as much a part of the work as the actual taking part, for those queuing would begin discussing their own grand master plans of what to perform next whilst observing those already doing so. The work becomes a playground for all ages, where all of a sudden anyone and everyone who approaches the work becomes a performer on a stage to be watched. It is just as enjoyable watching others perform as it is performing yourself.

Its placement on a sleepy London street means it could have been easily bypassed by anyone who didn't know it was there, suggesting that Erlich is trying to reiterate the spectacles we may find in the seemingly ordinary constructs of everyday life, easily missable if you don't care to look.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

tactile in texture

How do you define space?

Often I find this relentlessly perplexing. Space, to me is free, moving and fluctuating around us, it never holds any true form or dimension. I often experiment with the way in which space can be 'divided', how in which our perception of space can be manipulated through creating 'walls' within space.

What is a 'wall' and how can this represent solidness and physicality?

Because of this, I find myself drawn to materials that exist in a uncertain medium between opaqueness and transparency. There is always ambiguity, and I feel that my work should be an enquiry, a tool in which to allow people to question space in the same way. These tactile, moving, sensuous materials often allow me to play with this idea of the divide, of the barrier. Nothing is definite, nothing if finite or as simple as what you physically see. Is there such a thing as a barrier when space is constantly flowing around us. Is this actually a case of a somewhat mental barrier instead?

Reverse of Volume (2012) by Yasuaki Onishi
The Garden Document (2010) by Edith Maybin
Hero (2002) directed by Zhang YiMou

Sunday, 7 October 2012

a brush with space

Gregor Schneider

Walking in Contrapposto (1968) by Bruce Nauman

Walking in Contrapposto (1968) by Bruce Nauman

a route to nowhere

Ministry of Magic Set Design, Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix (2007) directed by David Yates

Resident Evil Retribution (2012) directed Paul W.S. Anderson

Sliding Doors (2003) by Carston Höller