Tag Archives: Donald Judd

Frantic at the Fringe 2012 – Part II

28 Aug

So, only a week or so after my first trip I found myself back at King’s Cross early one Saturday morning boarding a train to Edinburgh.  Having previously realised that my aim to see everything in the Edinburgh Art Festival was a tad ambitious, I’d scaled back and had a more manageable list in hand.

My first visit was to the Talbot Rice Gallery – an absolutely stunning space .  The gallery has two main areas: first is the White Gallery which shows a changing programme of contemporary exhibitions.   For the EAF, the gallery is showing Tim Rollins and K.O.S.: The Black Spot which explores Rollins’ group strategy that enabled him to study literature and produce works of art as a response to the learning process.  Through this Rollins and his peers created their own unique aesthetic solution that inspired some intriguing works responding to literary masterpieces. The exhibition title comes from Treasure Island and the painting created in response summons audiences to reinvigorate a belief that the power of art can change lives.

Tim Rollins and K.O.S.: The Black Spot at Talbot Rice Gallery. Image courtesy of Chris Park and the Talbot Rice Gallery.

There is also the Georgian Gallery with an impressive neoclassical interior, originally designed by William Playfair as a natural history museum.  The upper level displays works from the Torrie Collection, collected by Sir James Erskine of Torrie in the early 19th Century. They are predominantly made up of 17th Century Dutch paintings across a range of different genres.  Erskine, a former student, bequeathed the works to Edinburgh University on his death.   Downstairs houses changing exhibitions and it is here that their second exhibition of Donald Judd drawings is located.  Talbot Rice Gallery are the first in Scotland to examine Judd’s working methods.  The exhibition brings together a number of Judd’s drawings and materials, mostly never before seen in public, all closely connected to his three-dimensional works.  Even after he abandoned painting, drawing was always an important component of Judd’s practice allowing him to problem-solve and express his thoughts and ideas.  The drawings don’t adhere to any formal method of composition-making and his lines escape from the pages, disappearing from our sight.

Donald Judd’s drawings in the Georgian Gallery.  Image courtesy of Chris Park and the Talbot Rice Gallery.

One morning, I realised that my flat on Abercrombie Place was very near a whole series of small commercial galleries and so after breakfast I set off, umbrella in hand, for a little stroll.  My first stop was the Open Eye Gallery who were showing John Bellany at 70 to precede a major retrospective of his work at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery which will celebrate his birthday.  Much of Bellany’s work focuses on the fishing communities and harbours that he saw when growing up in Port Seton.  Recently, Bellany moved to Tuscany and the bright optimistic colour range is a relatively new development inspired by his new surroundings.

John Bellany at 70. Own photograph.

Just along the road, Dundas Street is full of galleries.  Bourne Fine Art are showing an exhibition of works by Jock McFayden to coincide with his exhibition at the Fleming Collection in London.  McFayden defines himself very much as an artist rather than a painter and he sees his works as an organic way of describing the world we live in.  The gallery is very atmospheric but, fundamentally, it is just another commercial gallery where the exhibition spills into the office space, meaning you have to tiptoe past working desks to see all the paintings.  Underneath Bourne is the Dundas Street Gallery, a hire space that was closed and looking rather forlorn.

The closed Dundas Street Gallery. Own photograph.

Carrying on down the hill, I popped into The Scottish Gallery for their Duncan Shanks exhibition where large abstract paintings are filled with emerging heaving forms.  On my way back into town I stopped at the National Portrait Gallery.  This is a huge, beautiful gallery and one where you could easily spend hours or just pop in for 15 minutes to have a nose through one room and soak up the atmosphere.  When it opened in 1869, the space was the first purpose-built portrait gallery in the world and, since then it has expanded and grown from strength to strength. With works spread across 17 large galleries, here is somewhere to lose yourself, particularly during the Fringe when you’re longing for a bolthole away from the madness.

The National Portrait Gallery. Own photograph.

Although I had the amazing EAF art map to help me know where all the smaller galleries are, the blue festival signs outside all the venues are more helpful than you can imagine and act as art beacons around the city.  The Ingleby Gallery are showing Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Twilight Remembers which was included in lots of the festival previews and looked set to be a hit.  I wasn’t let down.  Before even mentioning the art, I have to say what genuinely nice people are working at this gallery.  You’re greeted on arrival and handed the information sheets.  They seem so pleased to see you and delighted that you’ve chosen to visit.  I can think of a fair few other spaces that could learn from this.

Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Twilight Remembers at Ingleby Gallery. Own photograph.

Downstairs is quite subdued with a video piece, Carrier Strike, models, postcards and rare works on paper. For me, this exhibition really comes alive on the first floor.  Three large boulders, bearing the names of Japanese war planes, become stepping stones from the Pacific warzone to Finlay’s famous garden, Little Sparta.  In the Pentland Hills, near Edinburgh, Little Sparta brings together Finlay’s work in a natural landscape which is shaped and changed around the artistic and aesthetic needs of the works.  The garden itself becomes an artwork, encompassing all the individual pieces under its ‘umbrella’.   Upstairs explores the garden offering puns and teasing evocations about what the five-acre outdoor space may offer.  Ingleby ran a number of trips throughout August but I only realised too late and then couldn’t free up the time – I’m gutted that I didn’t get to visit as it’s not regularly open to the public.

Finlay often explores the French Revolution in his work and two sculptures in the exhibition allude to specific historical moments – the Reign of Terror in 1794 and the Ventose, the sixth month in the new calendar adopted in 1792.  The spade refers specifically to the 10th day of that month and conjures up a layering of multiple evocative ideas.  Finlay’s use of objects such as spades and gravestones are a wonder.  Gelling seamlessly into the natural world, they are beautiful pieces of art that offer moments of reflection on all around us.

Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Twilight Remembers at Ingleby Gallery. Own photograph.

Later in the week, I found time to go to the Edinburgh College of Art where, alongside the postgraduate degree show, there is a video work, Apes as Family by Rachel Mayeri and also an exhibition responding to the cast collection at the college.  Although I personally didn’t think much of all the works in Cast Contemporaries,the method of display is great as the works have been shown in a cluttered curatorial arrangement, all mixed up with the actual casts.  Cast Contemporaries explores contrasting responses to the fate of the plaster cast collections in art schools which is particularly appropriate as ECA has one of the most important cast collections in the UK.  These casts are a feature of everyday life here and the exhibition considers them as catalysts for future visual arts experimentation.

Cast Contemporaries.  Image via http://fields.eca.ac.uk/

There was still so much to see that it was lucky I had a while longer…

Tim Rollins & K.O.S.: The Black Spot and Working Papers: Donald Judd Drawings, 1963-93 are at Talbot Rice Gallery until 22nd October 2012, www.ed.ac.uk/about/museums-galleries/talbot-riceJohn Bellany at 70 is at Open Eye Gallery until 4th September 2012, www.openeyegallery.co.ukJock McFadyen: The Ability to Cling…. is at Bourne Fine Art until 15th September 2012, www.bournefineart.comDuncan Shanks: Across a Painted Sky is at the Scottish Gallery until 5th September 2012, www.scottish-gallery.co.ukIan Hamilton Finlay: Twilight Remembers is at Ingleby Gallery until 27th October 2012, www.inglebygallery.comRachel Mayeri: Primate Cinema: Apes as Family and Cast Contemporaries are at the Edinburgh College of Art until 2nd September 2012, www.eca.ac.uk.

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Holes Under My Heels and Spots Before My Eyes

12 Jan

Sadly, councils do not take stiletto-wearers into consideration in failing to repair London’s streets.  The sea of holes I encountered on the way to Davies Street was quite alarming and so walking in my killer stilettos (the first London PVs of the New Year called for statement shoes) required more concentration than usual.  I confess to resorting to the safety of taxis for the second half of my evening.

Damien Hirst, Methoxyverapamil, 1991.  Image via www.independent.co.uk

Hirst’s dots are dominating tonight with worldwide openings across all 11 Gagosians (rumour has it that there may well be a third London space opening this year).   Conceived as one exhibition over a multitude of locations, the works range from the smallest, comprising a half spot measuring only 1 x ½ inch, to a monumental work over 60 inches in diameter, as well as the most recent work with 25,781 spots, all in different colours.  No-one, not even the most ardent Hirst fan, could argue that these are exciting.  With more than 300 of his Spot Paintings on display across the two London galleries, the works become a blur.  Rather than maintaining Hirst is a skilled artist, Gagosian are merely illustrating his (and indeed their own) commercial magnitude.  There’s no stopping the Hirst mass-marketing machine and it will continue throughout the year as he takes over Tate in April.

Damien Hirst, Levorphanol, 1995. Image via www.independent.co.uk

I wandered round the Davies Street gallery with a collector who has loaned a painting to the exhibition and he couldn’t even spot his own work.  We finally limited it down to three possibles, all of which seemed to be hung the wrong way up.  That, for me, summed up the problem with these works.  See one and you’ve seen them all.  While I love some of Hirst’s works, these lack the excitement and controversy we have come to associate with him.  He simply claims they are works to pin down his joy of colour, creating a structure in which to explore the full spectrum.  He has no pretensions about them and that, I suppose, is the perverse beauty of Hirst.  He once said he wanted to make art to get rich.  He does what he says – nothing more, nothing less.  The spots are his way to explore the potentials of the palette.

Damien Hirst, Bromchlorophenol Blue, 1996. Image via www.independent.co.uk

Just around the corner at Sprüth Magers is an exhibition of Donald Judd’s working drawings from 1963-93.  Do familiarise yourself with Judd’s work before visiting, otherwise his artistic vocabulary will be meaningless which would be a shame.  The drawings are all preparatory, bearing some connection to Judd’s three-dimensional objects.  They present a script of the artist’s thoughts and calculations, most apparent in the works in the glass desk where the intensity of his thought process fights for room on the page.

Some of the larger ‘working drawings’ in the show were made after the actual works; they are an act of documentation, of re-thinking, charged portraits of what Judd has created.

Donald Judd Drawings at Sprüth Magers. Own photograph.

From holes in the pavements to cobbles in Fitzrovia, I headed to the Josh Lilley Gallery who are back on top form with a UK premiere of works by Matt Lipps.  Lipps’ work exists within the realm of photography but he is far from being a standard photographer.  Instead, he extracts images from a diverse range of source materials, re-organising culture into his own compositions, often with a range of unusual juxtapositions.

Upstairs, there is a gentle introduction to Lipps’ work with a series from 2008, showing photographs from his childhood home, montaged against the dramatic landscapes of Ansel Adams.

Matt Lipps, Untitled (Stove), 2008. Own photograph.

HORIZON/S, his new series seen downstairs, transcends time, location and culture.  For this work, he took images from the first ten years of Horizon Magazine, a bi-monthly arts journal that aimed to present high culture to those who weren’t in the know.  After producing these almost sculptural collages, Lipps re-photographed the work, sealing the image onto one plane.  When finished, the works look as though they have been achieved in Photoshop but the very art of these works is the manual appropriation and re-mixing to form a unique vocabulary.

Matt Lipps, detail of Untitled (Women), 2010. Own photograph.

The work is organised into basic categories such as Women’s Heads or Men in Suits.  Boundaries of time and scale are ignored and distinctions between those pictured are eradicated.   The art world, and Horizon magazine, is often forced to organise objects.  Here, Lipps questions the logic of this through a different system of categorisation that includes an element of disorganisation.  Visitors to  the gallery were trying to identify the figures, to force them back into their normal social groups.  It’s absorbing to observe the need to understand and soak up culture in the way we have been ‘taught’.

Matt Lipps, Untitled (Men in Suits), 2011. Image via www.joshlilleygallery.com

Lipps’ reassembly of imagery comes together in carefully-balanced compositions.  Untitled (Horizon Archive), the centre point of the exhibition, is a complex tableau looking at the politics of organisation.  The six panels form an on-going image with a jumbled conglomerate of figures from various ages and cultures.  All are connected by the magazine-style stereotype which they embodied.  The fascination with these works is the act of encountering a dislocated image, transformed in size, that is designed to surprise.  They are particularly effective.  Are they sculptures, photographs, or found images?  They are not one thing, nothing with Lipps is meant to be that simple.

Matt Lipps, Untitled (Horizon Archive), 2010. Own photograph.

Talking to an artist outside the Josh Lilley Gallery I was directed to Gallery Vela (not one I’d heard of before), only a few minutes away.  Although a relatively small space, it has a welcoming atmosphere – a traditional gallery with dark wooden floors.  Focusing exclusively on the charcoal drawings of Matthew Draper, they are displaying two bodies of work, both very distinct in style.

Gallery Vela. Own photograph.

The first room shows Draper’s study of interiors where he plays with spaces and hidden depths.  The thoughtfulness of the framing enhances the effect of the drawings.  The darkened rooms are momentarily lit in his exploration of illusion. There is something quite primitive and basic in his style but the works have a lot of depth to them.

Matthew Draper at Gallery Vela. Own photograph.

Like Lipps, Draper also experiments with collage by drawing on montages of found materials.  In contrast though, he enjoys the random nature of selection and there is no specific intention in his choice of news story – newspaper is just a material that allows him to create a composition.

Matthew Draper at Gallery Vela. Own photograph.

To go full circle, I headed to Britannia Street to get a bit more dotty.

I can’t remember when the gallery was last extended to this size but it is stunning.  They have opened all their rooms to show the large-scale paintings.  There is no doubt that this is a beautifully hung exhibition, showing Hirst’s tried and tested formula at its best.  The colours shine from the canvases in the way Hirst intends.  Show me one of these works and I’ll think it’s quite ‘pretty’ but show me 300 and they become monotonous.  Hirst has done some nice variants on the spots theme but basically they’re still all spots; there are no surprises here.  Instead, the works begin to resemble pages from a child’s colouring book.

Damien Hirst exhibition at Britannia Street. Image via www.artnet.com

Gagosian have made a joke of the 11 exhibitions by offering a prize (a signed Hirst print) to those who make it to all of them.  I guess if you could afford to go to all those galleries in the first place then you could easily afford to buy a print or even pop to one of his many studios and make your own.  He’s always generous enough to sign them for visitors!

Even without drinks, Gagosian always pulls in the crowds but they are there for a good gossip and to people-watch rather than spot watch.  Gagosian’s shop has gone dotty too with mugs, bags and badges, pushing the commercial nature of their brand to a dumbed-down extreme.   Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Hirst hater.  In fact, I rather like him but, for me, this is overkill and dilutes what was once quite a good idea.

 

Hirst in New York, in front of Minoxidil, 2005. Image vi a www.independent.co.uk

It’s been a good art start to the year and the 2012 London programme looks exciting.  Although not the best art of the night, Gagosian was certainly the place to be spotted.

Damien Hirst: The Complete Spot Paintings, 1986-2011 is at both London Gagosians until 18th February 2012, www.gagosian.comWorking Papers: Donald Judd Drawings, 1963-93 is at Sprüth Magers until 18th February, www.spruethmagers.comMatt Lipps is at the Josh Lilley Gallery until 17th Februayr 2012, www.joshlilleygallery.comMatthew Draper is at Gallery Vela until 11th February 2012, www.galleryvela.com.

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