Monday, 29 March 2010

Language brings art alive

It has become apparent to me that regularly language used to analysis art is in fact a form of personification of art. A collection of sculptures I saw this weekend in ‘Sculpture Promenade 2010’ were said to 'interact', ‘offer’, ‘articulate[s] itself’, ‘reek[s]’, ‘allude[s] to’, ‘examine’, and 'dialogue.' This isn’t a wholly new concept - to use language to give art a life. This metaphorical analysis of art goes way back- as I referred to in the blog Beauty is a Woman. Allegorical uses to describe the character of art have been common throughout art history. It seems logical when we consider that all it is, is relating our human selves to a practice, to which we have made more human. Nick Turvey, a sculptor featured in ‘Sculpture Promenade’ said that art “reveal[s] the overwhelming nature of our desire to see ourselves reflected in the world around us.” Are we relying on language to make art alive? And for people to engage in modern art?

Let me exemplify with Two, currently exhibited outside the Fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge, as part of 'Sculpture Promenade.' Stood in front of it, I discussed with two others the possible meanings of it, possible intentions of it, and possible reactions it is aiming to provoke. Two, much like a lot of contemporary public sculptors such as that by Anish Kapoor, “are conceived and fashioned in ways that respond to changes in light, weather and the seasons; here the effects of exposure to the elements are welcomed as part of the works’ dynamic and evolving character.” This sculpture's surface is mirror-polished stainless steel and so its effect is reflective. Physically and otherwise. And here we go again - I have birthed out of a dead sculpture a life - a talking, thinking being - through imaginative use of language.

Stood there, we were discussing ambiguity - a topic inescapable in the discourse of modern art. I think ambiguity, often created through language, is the double-edged sword of contemporary art. Firstly there is the fun of it is in the audience's ability to interpret freely (sometimes to the extent that the piece is ignored on occasions). But then, as I recently I heard a critic say: our generation is in fact scared of modern art due to its often endless possibilities, and its over-complication of things. Maybe it is language that wards people off, as they seek a word-by-word translation. I know that primarily what I have learnt at art school is how not necessarily to be, but to sound like an artist.

Therefore the question is, is language of benefit, because it, like art, creatively explores the visual. Or does it explore beyond the intended visual exploration (as I proposed in ‘How It Is’ – The Black Box by Miroslaw Balka)? Is language praise-worthy because it brings art alive; or through its jargon and ponse does it hamper the audience from engaging fully with this weird and multi-dimensional character – Art.

So, Rob Ward’s humanized Two, has the physical appearance a silver lollipop and an inverted lollipop that invites us to dine with it, chew on some ideas of the relationship between yourself and it, between the 2D and the 3D, the actual and the metaphysical and which will accordingly leave you feeling the tension of your surreal environment.

It’s quite a lot of fun talking out of your bottom…!

‘Sculpture Promenade 2010’ in displayed in the grounds fronting the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge from 23 March 2010 until January 2011.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Franz Ackermann: Wait at the White Cube

I didn’t know what utopia was until I saw this collection of enigmatic paintings. Yet somehow, I had a real instinctive sense that the work in, ‘Wait’ were a living, breathing, 2010-utopia visually defined. There I was in that situation where you have before you a word you lack the knowledge to define, yet you unexplainably know exactly how to bluff it into context – and you bravely do so with false arrogance, completely ignorantly, in the hope you won’t be Balderdashed.

Apparently then, according to Ackermann’s work, my ideal place or state is a curious culmination of dense jungle, luscious greenery and great expanses of space of land like Tarzan entangled vine scenery (a personal favourite film of mine); and great expanses of atmosphere and space beyond and out of this world. This place is vibrant, florescent and luminescent. A vivid place of life, growth, movement, and constant buzz of activity that narrowly avoid frantic. There is a surplus of information, just about consumerable. Oddly the garishness doesn’t frighten you, it excites you.

This affiliation with landscape (tangible or otherwise) is not by chance. Ackermann builds this sense of location through cohesion of individual elements in a photomontage fashion. Together they form a pseudo-neo-cubist impression of one scene made of many. Fragments of cityscapes, interior and exterior, cultivate a conurbation, which is this utopian urban jungle. It will be unsurprising to you, therefore, that Ackermann’s speaks of his work as comments on urbanisation, globalisation, travel and borders.

In concept and in aesthetics, Franz looks at the big picture. This is to the extent that these paintings lose their impact up close. You will find it a futile task to understand them other than by standing back and slowing absorbing. True though that only by becoming intimate with them will you discover that these aren’t computer-generated images, but hand-built 2D planes, composed to a sense of the 3 and even 4D.

It’s unsurprising also that you will find I immensely enjoyed this exhibition as it conjured up such unearthly and insightful imagination in a fairly matter of fact character. Almost like dramatic irony, (I failed to note before entering the title of the exhibition,) I was hooked by these mysterious, bold and very beautiful paintings. They appear strikingly new. Giving me hope that there are new things to express, and ways to express it in art.

I have struggled to find words to give it justice…I feel like a child with a stutter…Please do go and see.

Pictured -‘Through the Woods’ 2010, Franz Ackermann

‘Wait-Franz Ackermann’ is on show at the White Cube in Mason’s Yard until 1 April.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Back Home

Antony Gormley is taking art back home, into the house of God. Flare II, Gormley’s latest wired figure has recently been installed into the most dramatic exemplar of church architecture in London – St Paul’s Cathedral. But the prodigal son that is Art, has been beckoned back under the pretence of an altered purpose. The cathedral has launched a programme of artworks so discussion can be reignited over the connection between faith and art.

There is more to this than the Church of England’s patronage backing contemporary art to giving it some 21st century kudos, and there is much more to it than them advertising their religion or using these as icon for worship. This is a celebration of creativity and the power of the visual to express the sublime – that which is ‘set or raise aloft, high up’ and beyond linguists – purely sentiment. In our post-modern age this may be aside from God, but it is the indescribable spiritual.

The sculpture is a delicate and dense wire mesh formed into a dramatic falling figure, or angel, within a cloud. It hangs suspended in a previously unopened stairwell, which could not be a better gallery space. Naturally lit, elegant curves of Sir Christopher Wren’s design, and a wealth of viewing points. The stairs perfectly frame and compliment its new piece of furniture.

The cathedral’s chancellor, in interview, compared faith to art, in that both require you to ask what else you see, and is there more to it. And so,“[t]he sublime is not so much what we’re going back to as where we’re coming from.” – J. L. Nancy.

‘The Sublime’ by Philip Shaw