Size Isn’t Everything: Josh Lilley and Lisson

13 May

As there was only a week or so left of Josh Lilley’s latest exhibition, I decided to pop in to see their presentation of sculpture by a trio of artists – Bryn Lloyd-Evans, John Nielsen, and Jonathan Trayte.

The exhibition is quite a mixed bag, highlighting the variety of sculptural practice that exists in the contemporary art world at the moment – some playful, some serious.  These works are designed for presentation in a gallery such as this and are intrinsically aware of their audience, made with us in mind and moulded for us to look.  They wouldn’t exist without their audience.

Downstairs at Josh Lilley Gallery. Image via www.joshlilleygallery.com

The works are not as simple as they first appear.  Nielsen, in particular, presents domestic objects, based on recognisable objects, that aren’t domestic at all.  The works’ overt self-consciousness takes us by surprise as the artist’s personality and process is evident.  His works are intended to function in conversation with one another.  Nielsen wants us to regard his sculptures of historic artefacts from another time or place rather than modern sculpture, provoking questions of interpretation, narration and fiction to become embedded in their meanings.

John Nielsen, The Means of Separation or Common Ground for Strangers. Image via www.joshlilleygallery.com

All three artists present very contrasting pieces.  Trayte’s works have a surprising delicacy considering their highly stylised colouring inspired by the glossy packaging of modern-day products.  Yet, the works originate from organic objects that are cast in bronze and then painted in meticulous layers.  The contradictions inherent within the works present a state of fragility.

Jonathan Trayte’s works at Josh Lilley Gallery. Image via www.joshlilleygallery.com

This exhibition takes an interesting look at young artists who are already making a rapid impact on the art world.  Although the individual pieces didn’t cry out to me, they work as a collective group, showing the artists’ acute engagement with the parameters of gallery display.

From there, I headed to the Lisson Gallery for the opening of two new exhibitions.  Jason Martin’s paintings are intoxicating, focusing on the purity and mesmerising power of paint itself.  Applied in thick brushstrokes, sweeping arcs of colour dance dynamically across Martin’s canvases.  Martin plays with paint – for him it is not just the tool with which he creates a work but the core of his practice.  He pushes the boundary of the medium, sculpting his pigment to create densely-worked surfaces.

Jason Martin, Rumi, Camber and Rugen. Own photograph.

In Behemoth, Martin has transcended the two-dimensional, creating a monumental work comprising layers of stacked virgin cork coated in black pigment.  This is a radical departure for Martin and shows his theatrical use of pigment in a new, unruly manner.  Behemoth is a mythical beast mentioned in the Book of Job that has become a metaphor for any large entity.  The work’s physical presence in the gallery almost denotes another being; around which we are forced, simultaneously inspired and intimidated.

Jason Martin, Behemoth. Own photograph.

Across the road in Lisson’s second space is an exhibition of works by Richard Deacon.  Again, it is the monumental that makes the most impact.  Congregate is a large stainless steel sculpture with interlocking frames that come together to form an intricate and challenging single entity.  The work is playful and vibrant, challenging the viewer mentally to untangle its intrinsically linked, individual elements.

Richard Deacon, Congregate. Own photograph.

Fold, the second of the monumental works, is a glazed ceramic sculpture hypnotic in its design.  Once more, the work is composed from multiple elements that come together to form an oversized piece, foreboding in size yet inviting in form.

Richard Deacon, Fold. Own photograph.

The remainder of the exhibition consists of smaller rectilinear works, interesting in their intimacy and not at all what I have come to expect from Deacon.  They, however, lack the impact of the larger works.  I know that size isn’t everything but for me they seemed to be the forerunners to the overall construction of the larger pieces.  Deacon has always been fascinated by construction and the exhibition furthers these preoccupations, analysing how single objects unite to form a whole.

Richard Deacon at Lisson Gallery. Own photograph.

Although I wasn’t able to afford them huge amounts of time, both exhibitions at the Lisson were worth the dash down the Bakerloo line – they are reflective shows concentrating on the progression of two artists who present interesting cross-overs in their radically different practices.

Bryn Lloyd-Evans, John Nielsen, Jonathan Trayte is at Josh Lilley Gallery until 18th May, www.joshlilleygallery.com.   Jason Martin: Infinitive and Richard Deacon: Association are both at Lisson Gallery until 23rd June 2012, www.lissongallery.com.

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