Thursday, June 09, 2011

By the way ...

I've just passed the 5th anniversary of this blog. Just over 300 posts. Current average of 700 pageviews per month.

HUGE thanks to everyone who reads these "insane ramblings of a Welshman".

Art Mash-Up

A few weeks I ago I went to an exhibition called “Pile”. The show included a diverse range of works – painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, textile and animation – by some 30 British artists. The interesting thing was that the work wasn’t set out like a typical group exhibition.

Rather than present each artist’s work in a defined area of wall or floor space, the pieces were grouped together throughout the gallery. Different pieces were leaning against each other, jostling for space like naughty children in a group photograph. In some cases, they were literally piled up on top of each other (the artwork, not the naughty children).

There was no sense of hierarchy or individual autonomy. It wasn’t always possible to tell where one piece ended and another started. It wasn’t possible, either, to tell which piece belonged to which artist. The collection of individual pieces became one large scale, multi-faceted exhibition … the vision of the curator rather than the individual artists.

This kind of mash-up made for a very interesting, exciting and engaging show. I went to see it three times. The “Pile” of art in this show broke down categorisations between artistic disciplines and challenged many of the viewer’s preconceptions about what constitutes “art”.

This has got a particular appeal for me in the context of where I work and who I work with. The studio in London is now home to I don’t know how many people who work there occasionally or with some regularity. Inviting people in is interesting because you start to see things through their eyes. Everywhere you look there are paintings, sculptures, drawing, photos, cutting, slogans, fabrics, samples. There are tables, desks, exposing units, sewing machines, easels and a loom. Every surface is covered and the floor is a mess. It’s a pile, a mash-up of ideas, inspiration, projects and cross-fertilisation. It’s a wonderful place to be and to make ‘stuff’.

And I like the idea of curating shows that have this ethos. Shows that have a serious intent but that are also joyful, intriguing and surprising.

Friday, June 03, 2011

To frame or not to frame ... part 3

Some years ago I met a Korean artist named Jeon Won-Gil. I went to an exhibition of his at the Sackville Gallery in central London where I bought one of his paintings. Later I went to his home for dinner with him and his wife. While there he gave me one of his many framed drawings. I’m looking at both of these pictures as I write this.

If my house was on fire (if I had a house, that is) I would probably save these to pictures before I saved any of my own work.

Later, Jeon got in touch to tell me he was doing a one-year MA in Fine art at ChelseaCollege of Art. He invited me to visit hm there to see what he was working on.

The MA project he had undertaken was to draw and paint an apple every day for a year. The same apple.

Each day’s work was done on an A5 piece of paper using different media, techniques and styles. Obviously the apple was changing shape, texture and structure every day as it rotted - which was what he was documenting.

It was fascinating to see how he was pushing himself to view and depict the same object in as many different ways as he could think of every day for a year.

At the end of the year I was invited to view the final show, title “The Space of an Apple”. I expected a selection of the best pictures, framed and displayed. Like you do.

This was something altogether different.

Jeon had taken the measurements, done the calculations and constructed a free-standing room to house all the pictures. The pictures were unframed and simply stuck next to each other all over the walls and the ceiling. With no gaps between them, they filled the space with the images - or rather, the one image repeated in 365 different ways.

Stepping into the room and standing there - trying to take it all in - was a zen-like experience. And I haven’t had many of those. All I could do was look - allowing my focus to drift in and out on different images. I would try to look at one individual image but they were so close together that many of the others would fill my field of vision at any one time.

To avoid being overwhelmed by them I had to let go and allow my senses to be surrounded by the walls and ceiling of imagery. I sat on the floor and soaked up the experience.

365 days of work for one sensational - and, for me, spiritual - moment.

Looking back on this helps me to think more creatively about the many different ways there must be to display art and engage the viewer.

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