Tag Archives: Fabian Seiz

Ooops, I love it again! Peacock Trousers at Josh Lilley

1 Jul

There is an exception to every rule.  My rule is not to write about each show a commercial gallery puts on but the Josh Lilley Gallery is my exception.  This is now my third Artista post on their exhibitions and I’m still smitten.   As long as they keep curating shows of this calibre, I feel I have to keep sharing.

Peacock Trousers is a joint show of works by the artists Gabriel Hartley and Appau Junior  Boakye-Yiadom.

The exhibition opens in the upstairs gallery with a solitary sculpture by Hartley, a 2005 graduate from the Royal Academy Schools who is already developing an international reputation.  Instead of being tempted to overcrowd the room by displaying more works, this beautiful piece has cleverly been given the space it deserves.

Gabriel Hartley, Split Piece, 2011. Own photograph.

More of Hartley’s works are to be seen downstairs – delicate  sculptures with fascinating texture and colour; the works appear momentarily frozen in the act of collapse -they are so light that an attendant was hovering nearby to prevent people from walking into them.  They look very tactile but don’t get any clever ideas about touching them while you’re down there.  Hartley builds and abstracts the works; an inherent contradiction is present in each sculpture as the subject seems in flux – is this raw form a figure or what does the abstract mass represent?   These aesthetically simple works have a powerful emotional resonance.  The sprayed and tarnished surfaces of the works tease, confuse and intrigue the viewer, presenting a mysterious conundrum.

Own photograph.

Hartley’s sculptures look heavy, as though carved from marble whereas, in fact, they are sheets of crumbled and folded paper, covered in fibreglass and resin and then carved away or smoothed over.  The resulting effect resembles metal or stone.  Coloured wallpaper, made of collaged A1 drawings (the same paper used to construct the sculptures), forms a backdrop for the sculptures.  The basic elements evoke the wall paintings made by Paleolithic cave-dwellers to protect themselves from supernatural forces and to act as a magical guard – the mystery of Hartley’s sculpture is almost magical in form.  It is possible that the aesthetic value of cave painting was unintended, but became evident as tool working moved beyond the strictly utilitarian into something more aesthetically pleasing.  Although Hartley’s drawings are aesthetically pleasing, as a backdrop, they become purely decorative, enhancing and dramatising the sculpture.

Gabriel Hartley, Heel, 2010. Own photograph.

The Josh Lilley Gallery magically transforms itself for every exhibition.  Although my stilettoes have grown accustomed to tottering down the steep staircase, I never know what will await me.  They’ve done it again; it couldn’t be more different than the set-up for the Fabian Seiz show.  There is a feeling of a wonderful and exciting contrast, creating a distinct divide, as the exhibition passes onto Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom, an artist who uses the readymade, or everyday object, as his starting point to instigate a performance.  He enjoys transforming objects into absurd sculptures, filled with humour.

Own photograph. 

These works aren’t so much ‘my thing’ but they are very successful.  Peacock is a series of eight rainbow-coloured photographs, each showing a low-lying lampshade (perhaps the reason why the works themselves are hung so low) with an increasing number of lightbulbs underneath.

Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom, Peacock, 2011. Image via www.joshlilleygallery.com.

These works recall historic still life where the light source is external to the composition.  Here, the whole subject is the light source, as Boakye-Yiadom breaks with tradition and moulds convention into his own stylistic motif.  For me, Peacock lacks the excitement of some of the artist’s earlier works.

Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom, Peacock, 2011.  Own photograph.

Boakye-Yiadom’s video installation, Golden Underground, is, however, superb; it shows him playing a piano with a paintbrush.  The film stops and starts, leaving the viewer in pitch darkness listening to a rendition of Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag.  The video exposes the vulnerability and banality within the artist’s practice, focusing our awareness on the role of the artist and also on the artist’s self-awareness.  It is very easy to become immersed in this piece and love it.  Whether for its more complex undertones or for its jovial styling, it made me smile.

Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom, Golden Underground, 2011. Image via www.joshlilleygallery.com.

One of the things that makes these two bodies of work successfully alongside one another is their contrast and, somewhat different but equally experimental, use of practice – Hartley’s use of paper as a medium for sculpture and Boakye-Yiadom’s playful treatment of the everyday.

I don’t know what made me fall for this gallery. It’s not just me as other visitors I spoke to at the exhibition seemed equally enamoured.  Regular readers will know I’m not generally slow to criticise but I haven’t yet seen anything here I would want to criticise. Josh Lilley’s exhibitions hit the nail right on the head.

After the exhibition, we headed for dinner at Elysée on Percy Street, a wonderful little Greek restaurant, only 5 minutes away, where we were treated like gods and fed delicious food until we were ready to explode.  All in all, a great evening.

If you haven’t been to the Josh Lilley Gallery yet then shame on you – you’re missing some excellent exhibitions.  Hurry along!

Peacock Trousers: Gabriel Hartley and Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom is at the Josh Lilley Gallery until 13th August 2011, http://www.joshlilleygallery.com.

Making a Mark – Richard Long: Human Nature and Giuseppe Penone at Haunch of Venison

12 Jun

Friday evening marked my second visit to Haunch of Venison’s Richard Long exhibition.  The two visits could not have been more different.  A couple of weeks ago, when I first popped in, the gallery was a space of peaceful tranquillity with only a few people admiring the works.  Last Friday, the gallery was taken over for The Courtauld Summer Party with hundreds of Courtauld alumni buzzing around the rooms.  The exhibition was almost forgotten as the hub swelled and gossip escalated.  Mine were not the only heels in the gallery and the sweeping staircase that leads to the first floor acted as a ‘would-be’ red carpet for glamorous alumni.

Haunch of Venison staircase with Giuseppe Penone, Ripetere il bosco – frammento 28, 2007.  Own photograph.

In spite of the fun that overwhelmed Haunch that evening, this exhibition is certainly not one to be missed.

Long is the walking artist, a pioneer both in Land and Conceptual art; his works are characterised by simplicity, precision and economy, exploring complex ideas about time and space, movement, natural forces and human experience.  The exhibition features works in a variety of media that have arisen from, or been inspired by, his walks.  Whether huge stone sculptures or smaller photographs, the works all share this common theme, focusing on the effects of his recent travels.

Richard Long, Stone Print Spiral, 2011.  Own photograph.

Although the show presents new works, there is no doubt that Long is following his well-trodden path using a tried and tested motif that he first happened upon in his teens (when he photographed the tracks created by a rolling snowball and poured plaster into the sunken holes and crevices that remained) and has developed over the years.

Long’s work is created outside the traditional artist’s studio.  His studio is the landscape and his tools are nature’s creations.  These works, often in the form of huge sculptures, appeal to our sensual natures while his photographs and text-based works allow our imaginations to do the work.  These two practices come together most successfully in the largest room at Haunch where, in North South, the white Portland stone circle, divided by an upright line of Cornish Delabole slate, is surrounded by text works.  Compass points in North South evoke the world outside the gallery – although Long has brought nature inside, it is impossible to confine his natural ideas.

Richard Long, North South, 2011, and other works.  Own photograph.

The text works range from small framed pieces to word-installations that take over entire walls.

Richard Long, Fibonacci Walk, Somerset, 2009.  Own photograph.

As Long introduces nature’s materials into the galleries, imposing himself on the works, they become objects of contemplation rather than mere evocations of his journeys.  With society’s continuous destruction of our natural landscape, Long’s work is still as powerful as it ever was.  His relationship with our environment strikes a resounding chord.   Long studied at St Martins under Anthony Caro alongside some of our greatest modern artists and was encouraged to pursue whatever art form he wished.  His own interpretation of painting is seen in one work, from which the exhibition takes its title, where he has thrown watery clay and pigment at the wall, using his hands, rather than man-made tools, to create shapes.  The pigment in this work is an unusual inclusion for Long but aims to show the often necessary and harmonious marriage of man and nature.  Long’s work is very much about himself, the way he interacts with natural forms.

Richard Long with Human Nature, 2011.  Image via www.thisislondon.co.uk

Long’s work is about journeys and, as we walk around the exhibition, we make our own journey.  You may remember that I wrote about the Fabien Seiz exhibition (at the Josh Lilley Gallery) a few weeks ago where visitors’ footprints mark the bitumen on the gallery floor.  Here again, although less explicitly, we can think about our own journeys, conscious of the marks we leave behind all day whilst walking along the streets, running for the tube or ambling through London’s parks.

Also using the natural landscape as its focus, the concurrent exhibition at Haunch shows the works of Giuseppe Penone.  Take care not to confuse the two artists as a number of the larger upstairs galleries are filled with Penone’s work, not Long’s!  The press release at the reception desk has a helpful map to guide you through – sense the irony that a map is helpful to understand the journeys taken by these two artists.  Working with natural elements, Penone’s work seeks to reveal realities through mark-making, studying the interaction between
man and his environment, showing nature’s resilience in spite of our frequent interventions.

Giuseppe Penone in the mezzanine gallery.  Image via www.haunchofvenison.com.    

Haunch is not the only place where Long is currently exhibited – as well as being included in major collections across the world, he also has a work in the Summer Exhibition, just a short walk down Burlington Arcade.  The Summer Exhibition work, which I’m fairly sure also appears downstairs at Haunch, Untitled (2010), is made using white china clay on black card showing a journey of hands.  Maybe this is a designed as a taster to lure people up to Haunch – you see one, you love it and you want to see more.

Richard Long, Untitled (2010).  Image via www.haunchofvenison.com.    

Or if you’re heading abroad there are two further Long shows in Berlin and New York.

Richard Long: Berlin Circle, installation view.  Until 31st July 2011 at the Haumburger Bahnhof Museum für GegenwartImage via www.therichardlongnewsletter.org.

Long has quite a busy exhibition schedule at the moment and maybe this explains why the Haunch show was, sadly, a tad smaller than I expected.  Although he may not have succumbed to the celebrity that compels some artists, Richard Long is undoubtedly one of the most important talents to have emerged since the 1960s.

Richard Long: Human Nature is at Haunch of Venison until 20th August 2011, www.haunchofvenison.com.

Take only memories, leave nothing but footprints: Michael Sandle and Fabian Seiz

6 May

Last night was May’s First Thursday and openings across London were calling out to me but I had to be selective and picked two to totter to.

Flowers on Cork Street has an exhibition of new works on paper and sculpture by the esteemed Michael Sandle.  Well-known internationally for his monumental public sculptures, a sense of heroic grandeur runs through all his works, yet, they often have a surprisingly intimate and profound feeling.

Own photograph

He is renowned for not following fashionable trends, criticising what he terms ‘the heroic decadence’ of capitalism through his work.  Themes of war, death, destruction, inhumanity and media-manipulation are rife in everything he does.  Even in the smaller-scale works, his distinctive sculptures display an energy and vigour emphasised through the evident strength of his craftsmanship.   

Seeing the sculptures alongside the works on papers is a joy.  I have always admired Sandle’s work and chatting to him at the PV was enlightening.  The tonal qualities and warmth of the watercolours really set these works apart. 

Michael Sandle, Another Broken Bridge, pencil and watercolour on paper, 2011.  Image via www.flowersgalleries.com

So, onto the Josh Lilley gallery.  Unlike my previous embarrassment of geographical ineptitude, this time I was able to competently clack all the way there and found myself in Riding House Street (see, I know where it is now) without any hitches.

Own photograph

I can’t imagine ever disliking anything in this space and, once again, the gallery has hit the nail on the head with a perfect, and beautifully curated, show.  The space has been completely transformed with a troop of assembled sculptures – a family of works – by the Austrian artist, Fabian Seiz. 

Fabian Seiz, detail of On/off II, wood, plastic and rubber, 2010.  Image via www.joshlilleygallery.com

The sculptures respond to humanity’s need to leave a record on the world – a footprint or a stamp.  Illustrating this, the upstairs gallery contains an immersive sculpture.  The floor is covered with sheets of bitumen on which Seiz has marked the words ‘I was here’.  Viewers are implicated and implicit in the interactivity of the work, leaving their footprints on the floor and, therefore, their marks on the exhibition, and in turn, the world.  I wasn’t alone in thinking this was highly successful.  My stilettos left wonderful point marks on the floor – small, striking and precise.  The best imprints were caused by dirt from outside entering the gallery space, a mark of where people had been that day.  I wish some of the footprints could have been more emphatic and a tray of dirt by the door may have helped those who wanted to indulge their egos and really dominate the floor.  Like the hand and footprints outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in LA, where stars have been immortalised, we too are given our ‘15 minutes of fame’. 

Own photograph

The title, The French Park, stems from the popular use of perspective in 17th century pictorial landscape where the vanishing lines converge in infinity within one’s natural surroundings – an emblem of man’s attempt to control and manipulate nature.  Seiz’s interest lies in our constant search for orientation as a means of defining ourselves.  The works in this exhibition convey the measured and well-planned ideals of the ‘park’, while exploring different systems and motifs.

Own photograph

Atlas consists of corrugated cardboard which flops around a central structure; in opposition to the rigidity of the wooden base, the tactile and scrappy cardboard fails to support itself.  Coloured splashes on the board reference our system of colouring countries on the atlas, in accordance with our colonial histories, in an attempt to create neat order.  Seiz mocks humanity’s attempts to measure and define everything we do.  In this humorous comment on today’s obsession with order and regiment, the use of materials such as the weak cardboard reveals our inadequacies.

Fabian Seiz, Atlas, wood and cardboard, 2009.  Image via www.joshlilleygallery.com

Ein kleines Monument uses wood and fabric to create a monument that attempts to evoke grandeur through the use of red velvet (also seen in Prinz) that has been rolled out ‘red carpet’ style.  Exploring the notion of how ideas such as these are conceived, the work questions the constructs of celebrity that underlie today’s society.  This monument, made from only wood and fabric, gently mocks our often over-the-top constructions, suggesting impermanence.  The works have an endearing simplicity.  The difficult and skilled sculptures appear intentionally naïve; like the paintings of Busuttil, in Lilley’s last exhibition, where the simplicity was only powerful due to the artist’s highly skilled execution, these works show off Seiz’s intricate methodologies. 

Fabian Seiz, Ein kleines Monument, wood and fabric, 2009.  Image via www.joshlilleygallery.com

The range of materials used by Seiz – bitumen, wood, rope, fabric, plastic, rubber, styrofoam, cardboard, card, balloon, metal, mirror – reminded me of Kurt Schwitter’s collages made from the waste materials he collected from the streets and parks of Hanover.  In them, he saw the creation of a fragile new beauty rising like a phoenix from the ruins of German culture.  Like Schwitter, Seiz gives all these unusual materials equal rights.  As you move around the exhibition, you are able to explore the sculptures, becoming involved with the pieces and their relationship to each other.  Sculpture is intended to be seen from all angles and that is particularly apt with these which have been positioned brilliantly so that you can circumnavigate the works.

Kurt Schwitters.  Image via http://www.superfundungeonrun.com

Magritte’s seminal Ceci n’est pas une pipe is recalled in Seiz’s Ceci n’est pas une problem.  Magritte’s painting seems to present a contradiction but, on closer inspection, is actually a truth.  The painting is not a pipe but an image of a pipe that cannot satisfy our emotional needs or fulfil the purpose of the object it depicts.  Seiz’s sculpture lacks a purpose so, while resembling a machine from afar, it is actually an object without purpose.  But this is not a problem and mocks our need for everything to fulfil a role – an idea echoed in other sculptures as wellThis link is made more overt by Seiz’s choice of the same typography used by Magritte.

René Magritte, La Trahison des images (Ceci n’est pas une pipe), oil on canvas, 1929.  Image via art-related.tumblr.com

All the sculptures leave their mark.  By not serving a functional purpose, their role is to leave an imprint.  I Was Here ­– he certainly was, I was (as my stiletto marks prove) and you should be there too.

Michael Sandle is at Flowers, 21 Cork Street until 28 May – www.flowersgalleries.com.

Fabian Seiz, French Park/I Was Here is at the Josh Lilley Gallery, 44-46 Riding House Street until 24th June 2011 – www.joshlilleygallery.com.

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