Friday, 17 September 2010

Wolfgang Tillmans at the Serpentine

If you go to the Wolfgang Tillmans exhibition at the Serpentine, you are welcomed into a mix-tape of photography frailty, beauty, and (most importantly to the artist,) experimentation. Composed to uncomposed, perfected to left.

Tillman’s exhibition is one of varied taste – it’s not easy to gage what makes him passionate, yet this is far from disconcerting because it appears he has a passion simply for taking unique shots, and it is invested in individually unconnected, but very enjoyable outcomes. At points it appears it is light that interests him most, for example Paperdrop (Puma) 2007; sometimes composition e.g. Roy 2009; in some photographs narratives are exalted, Anders Pulling Splinter From his Foot, 2004; and on many it is photographic exploration: Gedser 2004. (I urge you to look these up as exemplary specimens.)

Now I know I have said this before about another piece of work (The Jewish Bride by Rembrandt, after seeing it in November), but I believe I’ve now seen the most beautiful piece of artistry put before my eyes. And, I don’t think it is completely unjust or fickle to change my mind on my favourites - to have found another which rivals the first in the course of a year, from the many exhibitions and permanent collections I’ve viewed, I think that it is still only proportionate and true to my devotion to good taste.

Ostgut Freischwimmer, 2004 by Wolfgang Tillmans, is both the most bewilderingly beautiful photograph (that which it is), and painting (that which it appears) I’ve come across, (those which are my two favourite mediums).

It is not often that I cannot correct any part of the work; to the extent that I am stunned by the work itself and have no consideration deeper into the realms of analysis – that’s when you know you’ve seen real beauty. You just want to stare: “Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Drop knowing something. You are not here long.” (Walker Evans, American photographer.) Just look at this piece and see how it captures your imagination, how it stuns your senses. It is somewhere between the tracts of a falling feather, or a rustling bag caught in wind, or paper as it floats to the floor. It’s alive with definite but delicate movement. It feels like it’s in a deep place, but not to the depths of entrapment, but to the depths of new unexplored places (the work itself is experimental, it’s new); like a sea creature gliding the sea floor. It’s a ballet dancer – Tchaikovsky’s Swan. It’s dumbfoundedly creative, and yet surprisingly simple and quiet. It’s a lady who is completely casual, but very prim. And I’ve watched how she charms on the catwalk.

If this doesn’t appeal to you, there will be something of Tillman’s that will: it is that varied.

This show continues until, at the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens, London.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Ernesto Neto: The Edges of the World

I was shamefully too late in noticing this show in order to recommend that you visit it (it closed on Sunday), so let this be a lesson, now that I know Ernesto Neto, that you should never miss out on an opportunity to follow his work: he is a truly surprising find!

The photo above evinced the odd feeling I possessed throughout: my father, a fair art fiend like myself reading the published literature, and in the background a child jumping around. There were times where I did not feel like I really belonged at this exhibition, not that I wasn’t welcomed…It was like being welcomed into a home with unquestionable hospitality to find the family are all Earl Grey drinkers and you are not and suddenly you don’t feel so comfortable. It was the weirdest exhibition I’ve been to, but it wasn’t disturbing like Dali - It was the one of the few shows I’ve been to when I’ve felt: art more than for all cultures, is for all ages. But let me correct you now – this was no playground. Ernesto Neto is in the discussion of intellectual and imaginative art. You only have to read the literature to know how deep his considerations go.

So let me explain, if I can. Your place is this world Ernesto Neto has created - in his five-room-spreading-instillation in the upper gallery (indoor and terraces) of The Hayward - is some fusion of alien, animal and amoeba. It is the most effective transformation of space I have seen done in the art world. When you go to the latest Turbine Hall instillation, you still know you are in the turbine hall. Neto’s earth is a world of its own: and he calls his show The Edges of the World and comments, ‘The idea of a boundary, a limit, is very important in my works as they are always in every sense, on the verge of something.’ There are parts that resemble our world, but not obviously enough for it to not engage your brain into the intrigue of its mystery. His point is that his world itself is like a body. There’s bone-like structures; a strawberry-shaped net pavilion that is the heart fitted with drum inside for its beat of life; and a womb-like tepee of which it is written, ‘it is here, perhaps, that we come closest to the sensation of being inside our own selves.’ There is also water, of which our bodies is made two thirds of (so maybe in this world we’re not aliens, animals of amoebas, but human); and blood – again in no sinister way, but in a matter-of-fact science museum style.

So what does this exhibition actually look like? Depending on the scale of your imagination: either we are roaming around inside our own regenerated magnified bodies; or we are exploring a varying and unfamiliar landscape. Neto said he sees the body: ‘more like a city than an emotional and psychological representation of a person.’ So his garden city is made of ‘large-scale sculptures of biomorphic forms and participatory, immersive environments.’ Sculptures, such as wooden look-out points that are plagued with large Dalmatian shaped holes that could also be like leaves woven around trees. When you step up onto these tree houses you emerge from within the layer below. This is perhaps my favourite feature about the show: the utilising of vertical space. Through netting, he has divided the areas; so that to below your head appears above the mist or clouds, but from above you overlook a canopy of new foliage. (The Rainforest feel is no doubt related to Neto’s Brazilian birthing.) From the first room to the second room, this scenery turns from open, white-netted coves, and collections of pebbles; to shoots of green tight life – ‘his work is characterised by the use of stretchy, transparent fabric.’ Coves turn to enclosed brightly colours tunnels, structured by skeletal wooden slacks, and scented like spices. Across the outdoor areas there are plant-like sculptures, and actual organic forms (that don’t appear half as fun and interesting anymore), and a swimming pool like no other!

As proved by this exhibition, Ernesto is truly in touch with his senses holistically, which wholly shapes the outcome of the art he forms. He recommends, ‘breath through [y]our pores, close [y]our eyes to see, smell to listen, dance to levitate.’ If you really fancy educating yourself, as the booklet exemplifies, I assume the catalogue will prove also, that reading into Neto’s thoughts will open your eyes to your world and his.

This show, part of Festival Brazil [19th June – 5th September] has now finished.