Sunday, 18 March 2012

Review of the Crisis Commission at Somerset House

The Crisis Commission
Somerset House
14 March – 22 April 2012

“Bleak, dark, and piercing cold, it was a night for the well-housed and fed to draw round the bright fire, and thank God they were at home; and for the homeless starving wretch to lay him down and die.” (Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist)

As poignant now as in Dickensian times, this citation is wrapped around the astronomical globe, placed in lieu of a head, on Yinka Shonibare’s Homeless Man (2012), a life-sized model of a man bent double under the weight of 11 suitcases, precariously balanced, on his back. Carrying the burdens of his past life on his shoulders, this sculpture is one of 14 works of art by prominent artists (all but one of which were created specifically for this commission), in a new exhibition on show in the East Wing Galleries of Somerset House, in collaboration with Crisis, a national charity for single homeless people. Alongside these donated works, five pieces by artists who are themselves homeless or vulnerably housed are also on display. These bear testament to the benefits of Crisis, which, as well as formal learning opportunities providing a route back to paid employment, also offers a wide range of art activities, in the form of practical and creative workshops, for homeless people across the UK.

To read the rest of this review, please go to:

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Review of Alberto Burri: Form and Matter at the Estorick Collection of modern italian art

Alberto Burri: Form and Matter
Estorick Collection of modern italian art
13 January – 7 April 2012

Despite considerable international attention during his lifetime, and being hailed in the USA as a significant influence on the abstract expressionists, Alberto Burri (1915-1995) has been largely overlooked in the UK, and the current exhibition at the Estorick Collection is his first major retrospective in this country.

Although the exhibition opens with some of his more rare figurative works from the late 1940s, the main body of the show focuses on his experimental abstract works, using a variety of materials, including sacking, cellotex (a type of insulating board), sand, sawdust, PVA glue, pumice stone, iron sheets and tar. In part inspired by Umberto Boccioni’s Technical Manifesto of Futurist Sculpture from 1912, which called upon artists to reject their exclusive use of “noble” materials such as bronze and marble, his incorporation of such common or garden materials was a clear forerunner of the arte povera movement of later years. Burri himself was, however, labelled as a leading protagonist of art informel, a European-wide trend which focused on the artistic process itself, as much as on the finished work. It is perhaps not surprising then, that, in 1954, he also began to work with fire, scorching his materials, thereby incorporating a greater element of chance into the procedure.

Born to a wine merchant father in the central Italian region of Umbria, Burri was trained in medicine, and served in the Second World War as a doctor in North Africa. From 1943 until the end of the war, however, he was interned in a prisoner-of-war camp in Hereford, Texas, which is where he first began to paint, turning to it as a replacement career in 1946. This background has clearly exerted an influence on his work, with his palette remaining simple, and comprising blacks, reds, and browns – the colours of heat, dryness, and blood. Red Plastic (1961), for example, made of plastic, acrylic, and scorching on cellotex, has a distinct medical look to it, with the wrinkled and shrunken plastic appearing like stretched skin, and the red as vivid as highly oxygenated blood. Similarly, many describe his sacking works, torn, wrinkled, rumpled, glued and sewn together, as resembling lacerated and stitched flesh. This is certainly a plausible impression, but not necessarily what Burri himself intended in his “poetic exploration of matter.”

The effects of charring in works such as Combustion (1958) (a title and date borne by several works in the exhibition), where pieces of paper are overlaid, creating a collage-like result, are dark and all-consuming, but actually not altogether different from the deep blackness of his paint and tar works (Tar II, 1949; Black T, 1951), and even from his later Black Plastic Combustion (1964), made of scorched plastic on board, which, even close up, could easily be mistaken for very very thick swirls of oil paint. It really does seem, then, as if Burri’s main concern was with experimentation with different materials and processes, with composition and with form, and not so much with representation or reference – even his titles refer to the materials and processes used.

In the 1970s, he produced a series of white work called Cretto, using cellotex surfaces, cracked with deep fissures, dehydrated and parched like the deserts of North Africa. Again, this is applying biographical detail where it maybe isn’t intended, but the intruding inferences are hard to overlook.

This is an exhibition which both invites and defies criticism. Faced with the works, one is overwhelmed by so many impressions and possible interpretations, feelings and responses, that a written account could almost never end, yet, at the same time, Burri himself insisted: “Words are no help to me when I try to speak about my painting, they talk around the picture. What I have to express appears in the picture.” And, so be it. I shall say no more. Go and see for yourselves!


Alberto Burri (1915 to 1995)
Sacking and Red, 1954
Acrylic and hessian collage on canvas
86.4 x 100.3 cm
Tate, London
© Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini, Collezione Burri, Città di Castello, 2012

Alberto Burri (1915 to 1995)
Red Plastic, 1961
Plastic, acrylic and scorch marks on cellotex
75 x 56 cm
© Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini, Collezione Burri, Città di Castello, 2012

Alberto Burri (1915 to 1995)
Combustion, 1961
Scorch marks, fabric, paper, acrylic and PVA glue on cardboard
22 x 17 cm
Fondazione Magnani Rocca
© Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini, Collezione Burri, Città di Castello, 2012

Alberto Burri (1915 to 1995)
White Cretto, 1975
Acrovinyl on cellotex
42 x 85 cm
Galleria delle Arti, Citta’ di Castello
© Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini, Collezione Burri, Città di Castello, 2012

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Review of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham: A Scottish Artist in St Ives at the Fleming Collection

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham: A Scottish Artist in St Ives

The Fleming Collection
10 January – 5 April 2012

“Wilhelmina Barns-Graham is usually regarded as a St. Ives School painter which does not do justice to the immense influence that Scotland had on her work,” says Selina Skipwith, Keeper of Art at The Fleming Collection. “The centenary of her birth provides us with an appropriate opportunity to set the record straight.” And so it is that the Collection is now hosting a small but thorough retrospective of the painter’s works, centering on this new thesis by curator and biographer Lynne Green, which highlights her prominent position as an abstract painter and colourist, greatly indebted and loyal to her Scottish roots.

To read the rest of this review, please go to:

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Review of Johan Zoffany RA: Society Observed at the Royal Academy of Arts

Johan Zoffany RA: Society Observed
Royal Academy of Arts, Sackler Wing
10 March – 10 June 2012

“Zoffany has come home!” says MaryAnne Stevens, Director of Academic Affairs at the Royal Academy of Arts and organising curator of the first exhibition of the works of Johannes Josephus Zauffaly (1733-1810), better known as Johan Zoffany, since 1977. And, indeed,  Zoffany was a very early member of the Academy, personally nominated by King George III himself a year after its founding, thus bypassing the election process to which he refused to submit. A great deal of research has been carried out on the German-born painter in the past 35 years, and this forms the basis of this new exhibition (and its accompanying catalogue), which, although relegated to the Sackler Wing (whilst Hockney continues to fill the main galleries downstairs), features over 60 oil paintings, alongside a selection of drawings and prints, some of which have rarely or never been exhibited before.

The exhibition is arranged thematically, and, according to its curator Martin Postle, “you get many different Zoffanys as you walk through this show.” A peripatetic artist with an “exceptional Wanderlust,” visitors are led on an “extraordinary adventure through his art and life.”

Born near Frankfurt in 1733, Zoffany trained as history painter, working with largely mythical (Greek) and Biblical subjects. However, when he came to England in 1760, he failed miserably to promote himself in this genre, and, his success plummeting, he turned to drawing portraits in pubs. Happily, his talent was recognised, and he was taken under the wing of Benjamin Wilson who, two years later, introduced him to the celebrated actor and theatre manager, David Garrick, an event which changed the course of his career. Taken to Garrick’s family home in Hampton, Zoffany painted four family portraits, including Mr and Mrs Garrick by the Shakespeare Temple at Hampton (ca. 1762), which so pleased its subject, that the artist was invited to begin working as a theatre portraitist. From his historical training, Zoffany had a good understanding of narrative, and knew how to capture moments of drama. This skill shone through in his theatre paintings, in which he often captured the most popular and exciting moment of the play, as, for example, in Samuel Foote as Major Sturgeon and Hayes as Sir Jacop Jollup in ‘The Mayor of Garret’ (1763-4), which depicts the comic highpoint at which, intending to draw a sword, the protagonist instead pulls out his walking stick!

Through his work with the stage, Zoffany grew to understand more of English society, but, despite the cosmopolitan scene, he still gravitated towards the Royal Court of George III and his German queen, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Zoffany himself had been educated alongside German princes, and so, although quite often badly behaved, he nonetheless knew about etiquette. His portraits for the Royal Court are unique in their portrayal of the family within domestic settings and showing their human face. George III (1771), for example, depicts the king as a soldier rather than a monarch, emphasising his devout patriotism.

It was Queen Charlotte who asked Zoffany to travel to Florence and record the celebrated works of art on show in the Grand Ducal Gallery of the Uffizi (also known as the Tribuna). The resulting work, the rambunctious The Tribuna of the Uffizi (1772-77), is deemed by many to be his masterpiece, although its “improper” satirical elements, including the portrayal of painter, engraver and caricaturist Thomas Patch, who had been thrown out of Rome for his homosexual activity, pointing not, as expected, at the Venus de Milo, but rather at a sculpture of two male wrestlers, led to George III’s reluctance to buy the work (he eventually did, but it was relegated to Kew Palace), and, effectively, signaled the end of Zoffany’s court painting career.

Nevertheless, he went on to travel to India, according to one of his friends, “to roll in gold dust,” where he was picked up by Governor General, Warren Hastings, and introduced not only to the tea-drinking society of British India, but also the more native aspects of Indian India, as shown in the atmospherically lively Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match (ca. 1784-86). As Martin Postle puts it, this was not so much a passage to India, as a passage through India.

Returning to England in 1789, Zoffany continued as an active Academician, but his health slowly declined, and, ultimately, he developed dementia. The exhibition closes, as it opens, with a self-portrait, once again showing his intensity of observation. This work, Self-Portrait with Hookah (1800-03) is possibly his final portrait, and is a far cry from the Hogarthian Self-Portrait with Friar’s Habit (13 March 1979), painted on his 46th birthday, in which he scandalously hangs 2 condoms next to a string of rosary beads on the wall behind him!

It seems perhaps true then that there are many Zoffanys on show here, but, even if the exhibition is taken as a consistent progression through his life and works, there is certainly not a dull moment along the way. 


Johan Zoffany 
The portraits of the Academicians of the Royal Academy, 1771-2 
Oil on canvas 
100.1 x 147.5 cm 
The Royal Collection 
The Royal Collection Copyright 2011, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Johan Zoffany
Mr and Mrs Garrick by the Shakespeare Temple at Hampton, c. 1762
Oil on canvas
109.9 x 134.6 cm
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection 

Johan Zoffany
Queen Charlotte, 1771
Oil on canvas
163.8 x 137.5 cm
The Royal Collection, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Photo The Royal Collection copyright 2011, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 

Johan Zoffany
The Tribuna of the Uffizi, 1772-7
Oil on canvas
123.5 x 155 cm
The Royal Collection, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Photo The Royal Collection copyright 2011, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 

Johan Zoffany
Colonel Mordaunt's Cock Match, 1784-86
Oil on canvas
103.9 x 150 x 2 cm
Tate, London: purchased with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the National Art Collections Fund, the Friends of the Tate Gallery and a group of donors 1994.
Photo copyright Tate, London, 2011

This exhibition is co-organised by the Royal Academy of Arts and the Yale Center for British Art. 

Review of David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture at the Royal Academy of Arts

David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture
Royal Academy of Arts
21 January – 9 April 2012

“I love looking at the world. I get intense pleasure from my eyes. The enjoyment of landscape is a spatial thrill.” With attitudes like this, it is perhaps surprising that it has taken until his 75th year for David Hockney (born 1937) to be given his first major UK exhibition of landscape works. Nevertheless, the time has now come, and David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture, at the Royal Academy of Arts, places him firmly in the tradition of great British landscape artists, such as Constable and Turner. The idea for the show came about following his phenomenal 50 canvas work, Bigger Trees Near Warter (2007), which was displayed across the end wall of gallery 3 in the 2007 Summer Show, and the current exhibition includes some 150 works, spanning a variety of media, from more traditional paintings, drawings and sketches, to thoroughly modern iPad drawings and multi-camera film works.

Throughout the show, Hockney, like Monet with his waterlilies, examines certain motifs over and over again, starting in room 1 with four paintings, each made up of eight canvases, of Thixendale Trees. Each work depicts the same location, but the scenes move through each quarter, from winter 2007 to autumn 2008, documenting the seasonal changes.  These are grand scale works, in vibrant greens, blues, and oranges, capturing the essence of nature and its strange and miraculous beauty. Nevertheless, at this stage, Hockney was still painting largely from memory and a series of drawings.

Certainly, landscape painting has been a preoccupation of Hockney’s for much of his life. Room 2 presents an overview of some of his older works (1956-1998), including the breathtaking A Closer Grand Canyon (1998), comprising 60 canvases, smothered in reds, oranges, yellows, and purples, almost abstract, yet still recognisable for what they depict, with visible brush strokes, dots, dashes, and cross hatching effects, as intense as a burning fire, so that they almost jump off the wall at you. At the other side of the room, we see some of Hockney’s early photocollages, also of the Grand Canyon (e.g. Grand Canyon Looking North, Sept. 1982), which are impressive in their own right, but, at the same time, a little disappointing in comparison to his amazing painted renditions. What is perhaps most interesting, however, is the similar jigsaw-like effect brought about both by the photocollage technique and his use of multiple canvases. It is as if he were deliberately creating frames within the frame, or parerga, in the Derridean sense, with which to break down and attempt to get a hold on the otherwise overwhelming scale of nature in all its sublime. 

In room 3, we turn to Hockney’s first Yorkshire landscapes, dating from 1997, when he returned home for six months in order to be near to his close friend, Jonathan Silver, who was terminally ill. During this time, he refamiliarised himself with the landscape of his youth, saying now: “it’s a landscape I know from my childhood, so it has meaning, [although] I never thought of it as a subject until ten years ago.” Although all of these works are painted on just the one canvas each, he still brings about a jigsaw-like effect through the inclusion of field boundaries and winding roads, which carve the paintings into segments. At this stage, although still painting from memory, there is nevertheless evidence of intense observation, and a luminosity of colour akin to fauvism. This continues throughout the show, culminating, perhaps, in the promotional image, Winter Timber (2009), comprising 15 canvases of blue trees, a purple path dotted, as if printed on fabric, with ferns, a pink road, yellowy orange piles of timber, and pink and blue tree stumps. As Hockney quite simply says:  “to see colour, you have to look.”

Less vibrant, but still reaching out from the walls, are the watercolours and first oil paintings from observation (2004-5) on display in room 4. These have been given a deliberately dense hang to give a sense of the sheer number of small-scale paintings that Hockney produced during this period. In the words of Marco Livingstone (co-curator of the exhibition), “he’s produced the equivalent of a lifetime’s work over the past seven years.” Wolgate Mist (November 2005) is simply magical, with its masterful evocation of nebulosity, as the clarity of the foreground dissolves as the road disappears on the horizon, and Wheatfield off Woldgate (2006), reminiscent of Van Gogh with its tall green grass, red wheat and flowers, animatedly captures the movement of their waving and bending in the wind.

And so it continues. As we move through the galleries, we see series of a track which Hockney refers to as “the tunnel”; repeated versions of the same scene in Woldgate Woods, playing with the possibilities of light and colour, investigating the geometry of nature, and capturing its growth, verdancy, lushness, and dense foliage; visions of cream hawthorn blossom, which you almost expect to be able to smell as you approach; and finally, ending his study of the cycle of nature, a room looking at trees and totems, or, more plainly, death and decay.

We then move on to Hockney’s most recent works, filling the large space in room 9, all produced in 2011, with the knowledge that they would be exhibited at the Royal Academy. Alongside one large painting hang 51 prints, originating from drawings made on his iPad (some of which are also on display, alongside a selection of sketchbooks, in room 12). Although not all of the same scene, they capture snapshots from different points along the same road, as the artist tracks the arrival of spring. His penchant for the inclusion of tracks and lanes is, he explains, to give the idea of travelling through the landscape oneself, experiencing it subjectively.

And perhaps the ultimate invitation to be there and experience the Yorkshire countryside for oneself is offered with the film work, running on a loop in room 11. Showing on nine screens, building up one image, the eye has to scan the multiple perspectives in order to build the complete image, just as it does in reality. Following one view across the whole year, the film, like the preceding paintings, captures the minutiae of the seasons as they change.

Although the show closes with recent work from Yosemite Valley in room 13, labelled as being “explorations of sublime landscape,” this, to me, is something of an anticlimax after the celebration of the sublime on our own shores. For the exhibition truly is a celebration of British countryside and its changing seasons, its colours, and the visual pleasure it can give, if only you take the time to look. As Hockney says: “I think there’s a lot of blindness,” with people going about their busy lives, without stopping to take notice of the wonders of nature. “Having this exhibition [open] in January,” he continues hopefully, “will make people watch the spring more and have a little more enjoyment.” Let’s hope this wish indeed comes true.


David Hockney
The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty eleven) - 12 April 
iPad drawing printed on paper
144.1 x 108 cm; one of a 52-part work
Courtesy of the artist
Copyright David Hockney 

David Hockney
The Road Across the Wolds, 1997
Oil on canvas
121 x 152 cm
Private Collection
Copyright David Hockney
Photo credit: Steve Oliver

David Hockney
Winter Timber, 2009
Oil on 15 canvases
274 x 609.6 cm
Private Collection
Copyright David Hockney
Photo credit: Jonathan Wilkinson

David Hockney
Winter Tunnel with Snow, March, 2006 
Oil on canvas
91.4 x 121.9 cm
Courtesy of the artist
Copyright David Hockney
Photo credit: Richard Schmidt 

David Hockney
The Big Hawthorne, 2008
Oil on 9 canvases
275.5 x 366 cm
Courtesy of the Artist
Copyright David Hockney
Photo credit: Richard Schmidt 

David Hockney
Nov. 7th, Nov. 26th 2010, Woldgate Woods, 11.30 am and 9.30 am
Film still
Courtesy of the artist
Copyright David Hockney

Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in collaboration with the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao and the Museum Ludwig, Cologne 

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Review of Needle’s Eye at Transition Gallery

Needle’s Eye
Transition Gallery
18 February – 11 March 2012

Surrealism, abstraction, curiosity, multiple meanings – all of these are features which abound in the works by the four artists – Kim Baker, Louisa Chambers, Lisa McKendrick and Ben Walker – whose paintings are included in the current exhibition, Needle’s Eye, curated by Ruth Solomons, at Transition Gallery. Explaining the title, Solomons says: “the eye of a needle represents an allegorical portal of impossibility through which the participating artists employ symbology, gesture, and playfulness to push their subject matter.” And, indeed, a sense of playfulness, albeit unsettling at times, is rife in the small and full gallery space by Regent’s Canal.

Both Chambers’ and McKendrick’s works transport the viewer into alternative universes, the former echoic of the surrealist landscapes of de Chirico, decorated with geometric structures, pyramids (Pink Pyramid, 2011; Beams, 2011), rays of light, and strange hybrid monsters composed of birds and robots (Transformation, 2011). McKendrick’s visions, whilst situated more in the real world, layer up elements acutely at odds with one another, such as chemistry lab paraphernalia surrounding a smoking figure, in the palimpsest which is Multiplicity (2011). Indeed, there are myriad possible stories which the viewer is left to imagine, but yet finds it almost impossible to decipher. In Shadowland (2011), for example, a wolf and bird each cast square block shadows, falling in opposing directions, and with no apparent light source in the heavy ochre sky, whilst in Urban Myth Part 2 (2006), we are confronted with a strange contraption, comprising arm, face, tubes, and wires – unsettling yet compelling in its intrigue.

Walker equally leaves the viewer to create his own narrative. Painting on linen, his sparsely detailed oils leave the texture to show through his sub fusc palette. Figures are seen bent over, at work, pensive, bringing with them a sense of turning back time to the early 20th century. The Perfume of Strangers (2011), in muted blues and greys, is subtly different, depicting a young girl viewed from behind, naked, vulnerable, with a strange totemic symbol ‘drawn’ in the top right hand corner of the canvas. What does it all mean? Some kind of ritual or sacrifice? The loss of innocence?

Baker’s bouquets of flowers also bring with them a sense of loss and mourning, explicitly implied by the titles of the two larger canvases, Memento Mori 6 and Memento Mori 13 (both 2011). More abstracted than her smaller works, the brush strokes here are purely gestural and fleeting, capturing a moment as if in great haste. Time is running out. In Memento Mori 6, there is the suggestion of falling leaves – the waning glory of a once beautiful bouquet? A wave of sad forlorn nostalgia, yet the colours of the petals – oranges, yellows, peaches, and maroons – remain bright, joyful, and full of life and promise…

And so it is that one leaves the show – confused, uncertain, neurons firing rapidly in an attempt to fit the imagery together and decode its meaning, wondering on which side of the portal one is now standing. Once your eyes have been opened to the possibilities beyond, can you ever fully return?


Louisa Chambers
Acrylic and oil on canvas

Lisa McKendrick
Oil and pastel on canvas

Ben Walker
Too Much of Heaven's Eyes
Oil on linen

Kim Baker
Memento Mori 6
Oil on canvas

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Review of Alice Channer: Out of Body and Edward Thomasson: Inside at the South London Gallery

Alice Channer: Out of Body
Edward Thomasson: Inside
South London Gallery
2 March – 13 May 2012

The South London Gallery is currently staging two separate exhibitions, both by recent young graduates: Alice Channer (born in Oxford in 1977, graduated from Goldsmiths College in 2006, and from the Royal College of Art in 2008) and Edward Thomasson (born in Staffordshire in 1985, and graduated from the Slade School of Fine Art last summer). Although their works are, on the surface, radically different from one another, there are, nonetheless, undercurrents in theme and concept which might be seen to bring the upstairs and downstairs galleries closer together, and, unsurprisingly, these fit neatly with the South London Gallery’s commonly recurring emphasis on the exploration of place, space, and boundaries.

Channer’s monumental crepe de chine digital prints, Cold, Large, and Warm Metal Body (respectively, all 2012), which hang the full length of the lofty main gallery, are curiously distorted, and arrest the visitor as he enters. Worked up from prints of stone-carved classical drapery, these images are now scarcely recognisable, and tower above us in a foreboding manner, weighted down by displaced marble limbs. The title of the exhibition is Out of Body, and, indeed, it is as if remnants of the external cladding of modern day mankind have been scattered throughout the gallery space. The walls are lined with rows of rectangular aluminium frames, each one hand-covered in machine-sewn Spandex sleeves, digitally printed with ink impressions of the artist’s arm. Inspired by the shape of Yves Saint Laurent’s drawings for his famous Le Smoking suits, to me, they sooner recall playground hula hoops, distorted and compressed, but beckoning the visitor towards them, almost teasing him to clamber through. Back again with the arm motif, between these frames, on the right hand side, are two silvered cuffs, protruding from, or disappearing into, the wall, depending on how you interpret it. The theme of clothing is further continued in the large scale floor sculptures, Amphibians and Reptiles (again, both 2012), which wind between the hanging drapes, digitally cut and industrially rolled, shiny mirrored arcs, with aluminium casts of stretch-fit Topshop clothing standing to attention, curving in harmony, as if starched and pressed into a life – or death – of their own.

“The work is me,” Channer says, “breathing, feeling and thinking with, through and as part of the processes and materials that make up the industrial and post-industrial late-capitalist world that I live in and that constitute my work.” The raising of every day objects to the level of works of art, replacing the beautiful, in a world controlled by consumerism. The question would be, are we actually out of our bodies, or far more so trapped within them, and within the fashionable appearances controlled and contrived by the world around us – a world which swallows us in and solidifies, forcing us to remain conformist? The works here capture this external framing of the body and show it, magnified, distorted, and reflected back.

Upstairs, however, Thomasson’s video work, Inside (2012), looks in the opposite direction, trying to discover what is going on within the human mind and body, so, instead of the inner eye looking out, we now have an outer eye looking in. Growing out of a series of workshops, in which the artist collaborated with actors, musicians and singers, the 14 minute long video has three narrative strands, each relating to the breaking of boundaries between interior and exterior, or public and private spaces. One is simply footage of an acupuncturist piercing the skin of a client, whilst the other two relate to the improvised performances which came about when participants were asked to respond to newspaper articles about people who had been arrested for killing intruders to their homes. In one, a couple sing a song telling just such a tale; in the other, we observe, fly on the wall, as a group of women prisoners undertake an art therapy session, in which they are asked to close their eyes and draw outlines of their bodies. Again, the idea of the self being represented by this shape, and what is inside being brought to the surface through the process of looking at ourselves as others see us. As one prisoner (conceived and played by an actor) explains: “I was sent to a woman once. When I sat down, she asked me how I felt inside. […] Noticing my discomfort, she said: ‘I don’t want to intrude,’ and I thought to myself: ‘Well, you bloody well are!’”

And it is this sense of intrusion which resonates throughout both exhibitions. Intruding on other people’s lives, into other people’s space, and even into our own inner person, as we are confronted with the reflection of our commodified outer selves within which we so often seek to hide.


Installation views from Alice Channer: Out of Body at the South London Gallery, 2012. 
Photo: Andy Keate. 
Image courtesy the artist and the South London Gallery

Video still from Edward Thomasson: Inside, 2012.
Image courtesy the artist.