The Human Factor @The Hayward

The Hayward gallery is usually ten leaps ahead of the more mainstream Tate Modern. At the Hayward, fresh, thought-provoking and superbly curated shows that use both interior and exterior spaces to dramatic effect are the norm. Don’t be put off by the weak and irrelevant Jeff Koons sculpture, Bear and Policeman (1988) that advertises the Human Factor, incidentally one of the oldest pieces here. This exhibition will deliver thrills and spills to all.

The thought of contemporary sculpture, particularly of the figurative kind, can be tiring. Not because it isn’t good – it is – but because we’re full to the gills with stuffed bunnies from Sarah Lucas, children with genitals on their faces from the Chapman Brothers, headless figures in batik from Yinka Shonibare and various takes on his own body by Antony Gormley, to name a few big guns on the scene. All too often body sculpture is made of wire, dirt and straw, or skinny distressed metal, or abstract pitted rock. Desperate to escape the tyranny of marble, the work becomes purely reactive. Not here. Creativity flourishes.

Read my full review here:

http://garagelandmagazine.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/the-human-factor-at-hayward-gallery.html#more

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Domestic Species @Flowers Gallery, Cork Street

Kevin Sinnott specialises in large scale, figurative paintings with rich brushstrokes which capture striking moments in ambiguous stories. These moments are always telling, often steamy, and frequently feature landscapes or details from his Welsh homeland, where one of his most popular paintings, Running Away with the Hairdresser, hangs in the National Museum of Cardiff. His latest work continues in a similar vein, but, as usual with Sinnott, there is a reworking and reinvention of themes. The exhibition’s title, Domestic Species, hints at the contrast between the familiar and the exotic in this show, which interweave to create a heady new world.

In his last set of paintings, shown at the Martin Tinney gallery in Cardiff, Sinnott used a challenging palette of colours, with surreal and vivid hues. While these have been dramatically toned down, the colours are still heightened, contributing to the visual impact of the works and contributing to the sense of an altered reality, a dream universe, in which these paintings take place. Red is much in evidence, in the many skirts lifted by the wind, or in the clothes gusting on washing lines – both leitmotifs in Sinnott’s work – as well as in the flushed faces of his characters.

Hanging Out (2014)

Hanging Out (2014)

And no wonder they’re a bit het up. “Domesticity is only on the surface, yet it provides the tension that real passion lives off,” says Sinnott, and his figures are certainly involved in ardent pastimes. Hanging Out (2014) sees a man and a woman pegging washing in a high wind, the man stripped to the waist, the woman’s top rising up over her midriff, while around them teenagers, children and geese frolic and cling. They create a fertile utopia, familiar but also singular. As in all the paintings, the characters’ faces are either obscured or their gaze is averted, adding to the impression that they are moving through a waking dream.

Cock a doodle do (2012)

Cock a doodle do (2012)

The mystical element is upped in paintings which feature domestic animals rendered gigantic through a trick of perspective, a new development in Sinnott’s work. Cock a doodle do (2014) sees an outsize cockerel seemingly pitted against a woman hanging her washing, his beak level with her chest, his crest pressing against her torso. As showy as the cockerel looks, his bluster is inevitably comic, while the woman is oblivious to his courtly strutting. In Three of Each (2014), three humans are matched by three outsize geese who take centre stage, each looking in different directions, more alert to the real world than their dreamy human counterparts. Like many of Sinnott’s figures, the people seem at risk of being carried away by the gust.

Three of Each (2014)

Three of Each (2014)

Another fairytale alliance between man and beast is presented in Restraint and the Stray Goat (2014), where the wind-buffeted figures are joined by the eponymous goat. The restraint is provided by the man who averts his gaze from the knickers flashed by a wind-fluttered red skirt. In the equally saucy Weak Days (2014), it may not be the wind causing a naked woman to trip behind her washing line, her drying bras preserving her modesty from the eyes of the viewer. The man she clings onto seems unsure what to make of it all, his hand reaching up to scratch his head as her hand reaches for him.

Restrain and the Stray Goat (2014)

Restrain and the Stray Goat (2014)

The more experimental Try! (2014) is the only painting without a scenic setting. On a dark background, a man dives headlong into a naked woman’s lap while simultaneously slapping a rugby ball to the floor, scoring in more ways than one. Balancing the composition is a partial outline of the Welsh dragon of the national flag, continuing the rugby metaphor with something of an insider joke.

Weak Days (2014)

Weak Days (2014)

The natural world is the backdrop for much of Sinnott’s work, but here it takes a central role. Animals become active participants and the wind is so strong that it has a presence, provocative and rhythmic, raising passions along with skirts. The repeated gesture of bare arms raised to hang washing becomes a tribal dance, its dancers not in full control of themselves, but in a somnambulant trance, moving to the wind along with the laundry. While Sinnott, as ever, shows a fascination with the interactions between people, he is now also interested in the forces which subsume the individual, like nature and instinct, myth and rite. The movement across the canvas is enchanting.

 Domestic Species is at Flowers Gallery, Cork Street until 17th May 2012

http://www.flowersgallery.com/exhibitions/flowers/2014/kevin-sinnott/

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A love letter to Jeremy Deller and his English Magic @William Morris Gallery

We Sit Starving Amidst Our Gold (2014)
 

I’m going to come clean. I’ve had an art crush on Jeremy Deller, if not since he won the Turner Prize in 2004, then at least since I saw his retrospective at the Hayward in 2012. He’s an artist with no formal training, who neither draws, paints nor sculpts, and he makes art that can’t be sold. Take that, Messrs Emin and Hirst. And his English Magic, on now at the William Morris Gallery (and then touring the UK) was commissioned by the British Council for the British Pavilion at the prestigious Venice Biennale 2013. A pied piper of popular culture, he creates what might be termed social interventions, part razor-sharp commentary, part wry and witty quip, part utopian fantasy.

The William Morris was the home of one of the founding fathers of the Labour Movement. Morris plays a key role in Deller’s exhibition, in Stuart Sam Hughes’ centrepiece mural We sit starving amidst our gold (2013), the title a quote from one of Morris’ socialist pamphlets, which are shown here alongside the work.
 
 
The painting references a 2011 incident when the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich anchored his yacht in the Giardini quay in Venice, in front of the park where the Biennale is held, restricting the use of the promenade for ordinary folk. Taking revenge on corrupt capitalism everywhere, a colossal Morris tips Abramovich’s yacht into the ocean. This act is shown alongside privatisation certificates and coupons from the era following the collapse of the Soviet Union, when men like Abramovich accumulated their wealth, as deceit, pyramid and Ponzi schemes flourished.

Read my full review here:

http://garagelandmagazine.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/jeremy-dellers-english-magic.html#more

Keep up with my blog – follow me on Twitter @bitesizedmary


What’s the point of it? Martin Creed @The Hayward

 

Following a perilous incident with some rotating neon letters, Garageland reviewer Mary-Claire Wilson explores Martin Creed’s decisively indecisive oeuvre.
 
Work No. 1092 MOTHERS, 2011
Martin Creed is infamous for winning the 2001 Turner Prize with his Work No. 227 the lights going on and off, the deadpan title of which, as ever with Creed, says it all. 
 
What’s the point of it? is the first major survey of his art and spans his most minimal moments as well as his extravagant room-sized installations. Creed’s slanted and playful take on what can be placed in a gallery and called art will always be challenging. This is because Creed refuses to make decisions. From this radical stance, nothing can be ruled out, which makes anything possible. His material might be Blu-tack or broccoli. He might paint without looking, or make a sculpture out of toilet paper. He embraces duality and ambiguity. This is the inspiration for his work, its challenge and its reward.

Work No. 79: some Blu-tack on a wall, 1993

The show’s opening piece is Work No. 1092 MOTHERS (2011), a huge wooden beam bearing the word in foot-high neon, revolving just high enough to avoid decapitating anyone. But only just. As well as juxtaposing safety with danger, it forces the viewer to duck as soon as they enter, an affective tour de force; a joke that brings physical jeopardy into the intellectualised gallery space. Films depicting people defecating and vomiting continue to play havoc with our instincts. Pushing duality to its limits, sick is presented as painting and shit as sculpture.

Read the full review here:
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Bloomberg New Contemporaries @the ICA

 

 

Practically the first work to greet you as you enter the ICA is Dante Rendle Taylor’s Show (2012), one of several video installations scattered about the gallery. On the screen, a disembodied male head, adorned with a beard of shaving cream, wears what is either a condom-style hat or a hat-style condom. On a background of senseless words, the head makes babbling noises. Sound tasteless? It is. It’s only after perusing the rest of the show that the theme of ludicrous modernity becomes clear, and the you realise that Taylor is poking fun at the worst excesses of contemporary art.

Isabella South’s Homer Wake Up You’re Alive (2013) provides a more pleasing double-take. The painting only becomes visible in light of its title. Coloured shapes, in some areas unfinished and in others viscerally dripping paint, emerge as an extreme close-up of Homer Simpson’s brown and yellow chops. He holds his hand in front of him in disbelief, as stunned by the fact of his existence as any Frankenstein’s monster. Indeed, if Homer were to come to life, he would be amazed by the popularity and resonance his dumb-loser persona has elicited in the public consciousness.

Hardeep Patel’s 2Pac Jumper by Mum (2012) and Bruce Parry Vest by Mum (2012) are exactly that – 2Pac’s and Parry’s faces knitted onto jumpers – and Thomas Aitchison’s Lynx Genesis (2012) is a thin sculpture made out of cans of that cheapest and cheesiest of aftershaves, Lynx. These entertaining riffs on popular culture raise a smile, but don’t exactly delve much deeper. The same can be said for Bucket of Chicken and a 40oz (2013), a video clip taken from YouTube and displayed here alongside a KFC plastic bag, in which the infamous competitive eater and drinker, ‘Tiny’ Tim Rauscheder, polishes off the eponymous meal.

Read the full review here:

http://onestoparts.com/review-bloomberg-new-contemporaries-2013-ica

Keep up with my blog – follow me on Twitter @bitesizedmary

 


Masterpieces of Chinese Painting @the V&A

 

 

The V&A’s latest exhibition is an intriguing survey of 1,200 years of Chinese painting, from some of its earliest surviving examples up until the modern period, when the European influence was just beginning to be felt. If this sounds daunting, take comfort – there are actually only 70 pieces to see, so you won’t be drowned in hanging scrolls and inky landscapes. You will be immersed in a world of beautifully composed paintings offering all the delicacy of the Oriental aesthetic. And you will leave knowing a lot more than you did when you arrived.

As in the European tradition, the earliest Chinese art was born of religion, and composed anonymously. During the Tang dynasty, votive painting took place in the remote Dunhuang region, out of reach of the royal court at a time when Buddhism was outlawed. Intricate silk banners and screens were painted or embroidered as offerings, or for use in the liturgy. Exquisitely detailed images of Buddha, his lesser-known incarnations, and of his celestial helpers, the Asparas, abound. A particular treat is Bodhisattva in Monastic Dress Standing at Prayer (c.950), a double-sided ceremonial banner in hues of gold and red, hung here as originally intended, in a three-dimensional display.

The Song dynasty, from 950–1250, saw a move away from the devotional and into the secular. Paintings were created for official buildings and their subject matter was taken mainly from nature. Artists were still anonymous. Owners stamped works with their own seal. The hanging scroll was invented in this period, and subdued landscapes where nature dwarfed man gave way to views in which man began to tame nature, seen in villages and homesteads set against mountains. Noteworthy is Sima Yu’s Dream of the Courtesan Su Xiaoxiao (1200–25), a representation of a story popular at the time, in which a scholar falls in love with the spirit of an ancient seductress. This stands out as the only nod towards the naughtier side of ancient Chinese art, in which even I know there is plenty of hardcore erotica.

Read my full review here:

http://onestoparts.com/review-masterpieces-chinese-painting-v-and-a

Keep up with my blog – follow me Twitter @bitesizedmary

 


Mad, Bad and Sad @The Freud Museum

 

 

If, like me, you’ve never visited the Freud Museum before, then you’re in for a treat. The house where the Freud family lived after their 1938 exodus from an anti-semitic Vienna is perfectly preserved, from Freud’s study and iconic couch to the trees that Anna Freud planted in the garden. If, like me, the advent of psychoanalysis intrigues you, then this house is a Mecca, a shrine to one of the 20th century’s greatest thinkers that must be visited at least once in a lifetime. The fact that feminine psychology was such a thorny issue for Freud makes this exhibition particularly piquant. The art is intensified by its unique setting.

Mad, Bad and Sad, a striking title borrowed from Lisa Appignanesi’s acclaimed book, Mad, Bad and Sad: Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800 to the Present, promises to “highlight the experience of women and their relationship to those who confined, cared for and listened to them”, and “how women today conduct their own explorations…in challenging works of art”. There is a wealth of material to sift through. In dialogue with a huge archive are pieces by contemporary female artists, not commissioned for this exhibition, but resonant with it.

Read the full review here: http://onestoparts.com/review-mad-bad-sad-women-mind-doctors-freud-museum

Keep up with my blog – follow me on Twitter @bitesizedmary