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Mat Collishaw: Thresholds

May 16, 2017 by Mary

Mat Collishaw is restaging one of the world's first major exhibitions of photography for his forthcoming exhibition, Thresholds. The artist has created a virtual reality artwork that will reference the world-changing innovations of early photography and provide a window into parts of our cultural heritage that can no longer be accessed.


To recreate the 1839 exhibition, the artist has collaborated with a host of experts including VR specialists, architectural historians and world experts on photography to produce an experience that delivers multiple levels of reality. Through both a VR engine and an actual room with tangible objects, the physical experience will be seamlessly synchronised with what is seen in the VR headsets. The result is that visitors will be able to walk freely and untethered around the exhibit, with the ability to actually touch displays and even feel other sensations such as heat from a fireplace.

Collishaw said of the exhibition, ‘I have been looking to work with virtual reality for a number of years and it has now become a feasible medium for me to use in an artwork. VR’s ability to enable visitors to revisit the birth of photography – a medium that has come to saturate our lives – is uncanny and compelling. It’s also quite appropriate as VR is the total 360-degree immersion of a subject within an image, and is itself one of the many innovations spawned by the invention of photography.’

THRESHOLDS opens at Photo London on 18 May and will be on view at Somerset House until 11 June 2017.

Fiona Banner: Runway (AW 17)

April 27, 2017 by Mary

In the work of British artist Fiona Banner (Merseyside, 1966), opposites play a significant role. This concerns the relationship between words and images, man and machines, but also between the physical world and the virtual one. Her work comprises sculpture, drawings, video installations, performances, posters and books. This exhibition is Fiona Banner's first major presentation in the Netherlands, and comprises sculpture, video, photography, and bookworks.


Nose Art, 2015
Graphite, Harrier Jump Jet nose cones

In the vast industrial space of De Pont’s main gallery, Banner creates a theatrical mise-en-scène where towering helicopter rotor blades and re-purposed military plane parts become the unknowing cast. Her deft handling of these objects reveals their anthropomorphic potential: Gazelle helicopter rotor blades are reminiscent of totem poles; a pair of Harrier nose cones suggest breasts, and elsewhere faces emerge from the juxtaposition of Jaguar drop tanks with abstract graphite drawings of full stops in different typefaces. Banner has long been fascinated by military aircraft, finding them at once beautiful and horrifying; almost ‘prehistoric, from a time before words’. 

This relationship to language and conflict underpins much of her work. For Banner, the ever rotating criss-cross of blades as they mark out time and space is like a language trying to happen or a text trying to be formulated, ‘It’s like they are trying to spell out something that can’t be said.’ The exhibition’s title Runway (AW17), refers to a runway as a space of performance, evoking the architecture of fashion shows, as well as a space associated with aircraft. By deploying the double meaning she draws parallels between the haiku theatre of a catwalk show and the theatre of the exhibition space. From an adjoining space, the noise of a drone melded with a tribal drumbeat can be heard. 


Tête à Tête, 2014
High definition digital film, monitor, steel easel designed by the artist, 210 x 40 x 60 cm

The video installation Phantom (SS16) reveals only the shadow of the Drone Phantom camera as it aims its lens at a magazine. The pages flutter about and the publication is chased as the helicopter’s propellers stir up wind on its approach. This drone’s mission is doomed to failure; the magazine remains unreadable. Protruding from both sides of the projection screen is a long raised platform, evoking the drama of fashion shows. In this case, the catwalk is host to a graphite drawing where pinstripe patterning morphs into runway markings, a possible stage for the cast of characters seen in the main space. The prey being hunted down by the hawk-like Phantom is Banner’s recent publication Heart of Darkness, an illustrated reprint of Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novella. Conrad’s tale is a story of trade and corruption, and of our own conflicts and desires. From a boat moored on the banks of the River Thames in London, the protagonist Marlow narrates his story in which he travels to the heart of the Congo in search of renegade ivory trader Kurtz, who has mesmerised and enslaved his workers. 

Banner’s reprint takes the form of a glossy fashion magazine. Its text is paired with images of the City of London that Banner commissioned from Magnum conflict photographer Paolo Pellegrin, having asked him to photograph this global financial centre as a conflict zone. The book also contains Banner’s drawings depicting close-ups of pinstripe, a play on the livery and camouflage of the Square Mile. The same motif surfaces again on two nose cones from Harrier fighter jets. The title of this work, which is part of De Pont’s collection, Nose Art (2015), alludes to the aviators’ old custom of painting popular icons or pin-ups on their fighter planes.

Banners work is characterised, as she once said, by a ‘dysfunctional relationship with the image.’ That began early on when she came to a dead-end while painting images from Hollywood films such as Top Gun while at Goldsmiths College in London. She attempted to circumvent the problem by describing in words the images and movie narratives. These texts often took the form of ‘wordscapes’: films that she verbally transcribed, often making vast cinemascope drawings. On being nominated for the Turner Prize in 2002, her controversial contribution to the show consisted of a description of the porn film Arsewoman in Wonderland. In De Pont’s collection, the sculpture Work 1, a life-sized scaffold tower made entirely of glass, embodies a fragile recollection of installing such oversized wall pieces.
Banner’s relationship between the virtual and the physical is ever-present. She has often described words as her medium. She combined existing typefaces that she had used a lot in her work to create new typeface called Font, which anyone can download for free ( Gruesome images from war movies and porn films appeal to the same primitive instincts. War arises when communication and words fail. Runway (aw17) exudes an atmosphere of imminent invasion, similar to the climate now gripping European politics, but there is also something playful about it. Connotations of words and artworks change. They are not carved in stone. ‘The work is un-static’, says Banner, ‘and that’s what really interests me about being an artist.’ 

29 April – 27 August 2017
De Pont Museum
Wilhelminapark 1, 5041 EA Tilburg, Netherlands

Mat Collishaw: The Centrifugal Soul

April 11, 2017 by Mary

‘We put too much of ourselves into our product facades, spinning too much mass to our outer edges where we hope it is both publicly visible and instantly lovable. One problem with this strategy is that it leaves too much blank space in the middle, so there’s not much of ourselves left for lovers or friends to discover in the long term. This could be called the centrifugal-soul effect.’ - Geoffrey Miller


Mat Collishaw, The Centrifugal Soul (detail), 2016
Courtesy the artist and Blain|Southern, Photo: Rémi Chauvin 

In The Centrifugal SoulMat Collishaw’s exhibition at Blain|Southern, the artist presents new sculpture, installation and paintings. Drawing on various forms of illusion, the exhibition explores ideas of superficial truth and the erosive effect of our primal urges for visual supremacy.


Mat Collishaw, GASCONADES (KillingIt), 2017, Courtesy the artist and BlainSouthern, Photo Prudence Cuming

Collishaw worked with evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller - whose theory is that the origins of art stem from natural instincts of courtship and reproduction - to produce the title work and centrepiece of the exhibition. The Centrifugal Soul is a sculpture in the form of a zoetrope, a pre-film animation device that produces the illusion of motion through rapid rotation and stroboscopic light.


Mat Collishaw, The Centrifugal Soul, 2016, Courtesy the artist and BlainSouthern, Photo Peter Mallet

The zoetrope animates scenes of bowerbirds and birds of paradise as they perform elaborate mating rituals. The work offers a captivating demonstration of how aesthetic diversity has evolved through sexual selection and also reflects the artist’s ongoing examination of our insatiable appetite for visual stimulation. Collishaw’s sculpture embodies Miller's idea that evolution has created an inescapable drive to be noticed above the visual competition, feeding our need for self-promotion.

Elsewhere in the exhibition, a new body of work continues the examination of visual power play. Twelve trompe l'oeil paintings of British garden birds tethered to perches reference the seventeenth-century fashion for commissioning portraits of prestige pets, made popular through Carel Fabritius’ painting The Goldfinch (1654). The colourful graffiti-tagged walls against which the birds struggle to stand outprovide a contemporary example of aesthetic boasting as a form of sexual signalling.


Mat Collishaw, Installation view, 2017, Courtesy the artist and BlainSouthern, Photo Peter Mallet

Albion is a new installation that takes as its subject the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest, Nottingham, which has an almost mythical status. This centuries-old tree has at its core a hollow rotten trunk, and since the Victorian era its vast limbs have been supported by an elaborate system of scaffolding. Collishaw's monumental, slowly rotating image of the oak is a ghost-like apparition generated by laser scanning. The image represents a living object that is trapped in perpetuity to present the illusion of life. As with the tethered birds in Collishaw’s paintings, it presents a tension between the beautiful and the abject.

Throughout his work, Collishaw has examined the way in which we consume imagery and how our biology has conditioned us to respond. The exhibition reflects the consistent themes addressed in the artist’s practice and the diversity of his chosen mediums. Moreover, it questions how much choice we have in accepting what seems to be a natural preoccupation with self-image.

The Centrifugal Soul will be accompanied by a detailed catalogue which features texts by art critic Waldemar Januszczak, evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller and an artist interview with writer James Parry.

The exhibition precedes Collishaw’s new virtual reality installation Thresholds. Launching at Photo London, Somerset House on 18 May, it will recreate one of the earliest exhibitions of photography.

Please note that this exhibition contains strobe lighting.

7 April — 27 May 2017

4 Hanover Square, London W1S 1BP

Rachel Howard at the Italian Cultural Institute & the Jerwood Gallery

March 14, 2017 by Mary

Rachel Howard’s first work to combine painting and sculpture is included in Sette Opere per la Misericordia or Seven Works for Mercy - an exhibition curated by Mario Codognato at the Italian Cultural Institute, London.

Howard’s work Controlled Violence (2015-2016) was acquired for the collection of the Pio Monte della Misericordia church in Naples, following the fourth edition of Sette Opere per la Misericordia in 2016. The exhibition’s title derives from Seven Acts of Mercy, the title of the famous Caravaggio painting, also housed in the Church, alongside which contemporary works, including Howard’s, were sited.


The curator Mario Codognato asked artists to respond to the themes of the seven works of corporal Mercy: to give water to the thirsty, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned and bury the dead. Other participating artists include Antonio Biasiucci, Roberto Caracciolo, Piero Golia, Anish Kapoor, Henrietta Labouchere and Olaf Nicolai.

Sette Opere per la Misericordia (Seven Works for Mercy), is at The Institute of Italian Culture – 39 Belgrave Square, Belgravia, London SW1X 8NX – from 15 March 2017.


Rachel Howard: You Can save Me
oil and acrylic on canvas, 30 x 36”

Also opening this month, Rachel Howard’s work You Can Save Me will be on view as part of Look Back Now: Jerwood Gallery is 5. Aquired for the Jerwood Collection, the painting was part of her 2015 solo show At Sea; a signficant body of works which drew parallels between the sea, memories of childhood and ideas of being adrift.

Jerwood Gallery – Rock-A-Nore Rd, Hastings TN34 3DW – from 15 March until 21 May 2017. 

Rachel Howard and Phillip Allen at the Drawing Biennale 2017

March 1, 2017 by Mary

Drawing Biennial 2017 offers insights into how artists contend with a world in rapid and disorienting flux. A snapshot of contemporary drawing practices, the exhibition includes more than 200 new and recent works on paper by leading international artists of different generations.


Rachel Howard: Night Drawing, 2017
Unique ink on paper, 210 x 298 mm

Culminating in an online auction in the exhibition’s two final weeks, individual works are available from £250. Proceeds from the auction support Drawing Room’s ongoing programme. Invited by Mary Doyle, Kate Macfarlane and Katharine Stout (Directors, Drawing Room) with nominations from leading international experts, all the drawings are on A4 supports, with each piece given equal prominence in the exhibition.

2 March – 26 April 2017

The Drawing Room
Unit 8 Rich Estate, 46 Willow Walk
London SE1 5SF

Gavin Turk: Give In

February 8, 2017 by Mary

Ben Brown Fine Arts presents Give In, an exhibition of Gavin Turk's highly influential works to coincide with the artist's major survey show, Who What When Where How & Why at Damien Hirst's award-winning Newport Street Gallery. Give In transforms the gallery into a Museum of Curiosities, with pseudo-archaeological objects in cabinets punctuating the space, an installation cum magician's trick, and brand new trompe l'oeil sculptures.


Gavin Turk, Painted Bronze Paint (Albers Table), 2016
Painted bronze, limited edition of 8, 28 x 148 x 60 mm

Over the last three decades, Turk has relentlessly challenged the notions of value, authorship, and identity in his work, audaciously intermingling references both to modern masters and to himself, in the pieces he creates. Give In plays with the modernist framework; the works presented allude to the nuances of language, philosophy and to the Age of Reason and beyond. Paternal art historical references are layered like geological strata: Josef Albers, Joseph Beuys, Christo, Marcel Duchamp, Damien Hirst, Donald Judd and Joseph Kosuth, are familiar forbearers who resonate in his work.


Gavin Turk, Edgar Allan Poe Award Painting
Painted bronze, limited edition of 8, 410 x 270 mm

Turk will premiere new works inspired by the defining 'boxes' Judd began in the Sixties.Balloons, Nature Nurture, Purgatory and Ship in a Bottle (all 2017) cleverly fuse the careful minimalist structures of the Juddish boxes with the worn and discarded found objects within. Viewers are forced to look, and then look again. By juxtaposing these materials, Turk elevates familiarly banal objects to undeniably significant pieces of art, pushing the viewer to take notice of the form and function of the object. This idea is echoed in Rotrophydhian (2017), the museum's high alter, in which the sleek, clinical Pop Art aesthetic of Hirst's iconic 'medicine cabinets' are challenged by the very detritus that fills it - making provocative references to utopian images of an ideal society and addressing age-old philosophical preoccupations with birth, death and decay. These latest works add another layer of illusion to the artist's subversion of the rules of commercial art.


Gavin Turk, White Square after Malevich, 2015
Unique found canvas mounted on linen, 575 x 570 x 45 mm

In our post-factual reality, the transition between throwaway rubbish and that which is elevated to the bastions of high art - through casting in bronze with Turk's pioneering trompe l'oeil surface - is not so instantly perceptible and requires our close observation. Injuries also Occur in the Language(2015), Triple QX, ATF Plus (2015), Killer Filler(2017) and Painted Bronze Paint (2016) are exquisitely detailed sculptures that resemble punctured and depleted footballs, petrol cans, car filler and paint tubes respectively.

As visitors walk through the gallery they will eventually come to enter Give In (2017), an installation that welcomes, puzzles and intrigues. An impish reference to Duchamp's infamous last major artwork Étant donnés (Given) (1946-66), Give In is an optical illusion, visible only through a key hole in an old wooden door; instead of Duchamp's tableau of a nude woman lying on her back, Turk presents his audience with a distorted examination of self, through the lens of the artist.

Ben Brown Fine Arts
12 Brook’s Mews, London W1K 4DG

9 February – 12 April, 2017

Tim Noble and Sue Webster: Sticks with Dicks and Slits

February 2, 2017 by Mary

Tim Noble and Sue Webster return to Blain|Southern London to present a new body of sculptural works. In their third exhibition with the gallery, STICKS WITH DICKS AND SLITS, the duo present pairs of giant self-portraits. These stick figures are sculpted in twisted bronze, an entirely new method for the artists.


Based on handmade maquettes made with electrical wire, the sculptures are an act of upscaling playful ephemera into physically domineering artworks with a permanency and scale that transcends human limitations.

The artists are well known for reacting to circumstance. They find inspiration by walking city streets and making sculpture from materials closest to hand in an urban environment. In the past this has included inner city detritus, discarded personal objects and animal carcasses. However, the initial maquettes for this new body of work were created during a residency on the Caribbean island of St Bart’s. This idyllic environment was initially challenging for these urbanites who found themselves stripped of their usual impetus. Struggling with this creative impasse, they began doodling with electrical wire, quickly and intuitively producing two intimate self-portraits.

Part of a great tradition of artists-as-art, their personal image and the dynamic between them is an integral part of their work. As with previous self-portraits, these new paired sculptures express the artistic personae of the duo. One pair features nudes of Tim urinating and Sue lactating — engaging in basic bodily functions is a recurring motif for the artists. As much as they have used refuse in their sculptures, the artists employ their own naked forms as a way to make art with a rawness and truth, using their warts-and-all inseparable dual image as a tool to critique narcissistic obsession.

As with the punk and 2 Tone bands who had such an effect on the artists, what defines this duo is a drive to convey a particularly British ‘kitchen sink’ reality, pushing against the polished veneer of the presiding culture. Their systems of imagery, language and material are as confrontational as early punk gigs where both critique and praise were delivered through bodily fluids. As with this music, the artists play with the tensions of structure and form, purposefully teetering on the edge of chaos.

The size, medium and aesthetic of their new sculptures are yet another bold development in a practice that Noble describes as ‘consistently inconsistent.’ Working at a scale that seems to contradict the materials, the artists achieve the sketchy, continuous effect of wire by employing the traditional technique of lost wax casting. The technique involves manipulating and casting rods of wax, before pouring molten metal into cavities to recreate the final sculpture in bronze. The resulting casts retain the spontaneity of the sculptor’s hands, and remain humanised and true to the subject. The dimensional qualities vary between each pair yet they are united by a fluidity and lightness of gesture that is rare to see in large-scale sculpture.

Blain|Southern London
4 Hanover Square, Mayfair, London W1S 1BP

Private View: Thursday 2 February 2017, 6-8pm
Exhibition: 3 February – 25 March 2017

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