Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Review of Jenny Holzer: Sophisticated Devices at Sprüth Magers


Jenny Holzer: Sophisticated Devices
Sprüth Magers
1 June - 18 August 2012

“When you’ve been someplace for awhile you acquire the ability to be practically invisible. This lets you operate with a minimum of interference” (from the Living Series, 1980-1982). Yet, despite having been on the art scene since the 1970s, Jenny Holzer (born 1950), whose text-based public artworks have been projected across venues as imposing as billboards in Times Square and the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, is anything but invisible.

To read the rest of this review please go to:

Copyright © 1893–2011 The Studio Trust. The titles Studio International and The Studio are the property of The Studio Trust and, together with the content, are bound by copyright. All rights reserved

Friday, 22 June 2012

Review of Doris Salcedo at White Cube, Mason’s Yard

Doris Salcedo
White Cube, Mason’s Yard
25 May – 30 June 2012

Colombian sculptor Doris Salcedo (born 1958) is probably best known in the UK for her Turbine Hall installation, Shibboleth (2007), a 167 metre fissure in Tate Modern’s concrete floor, said, by the artist herself, to represent “borders, the experience of immigrants, the experience of segregation, the experience of racial hatred.” Her latest exhibition, consisting of two new large-scale works at White Cube, Mason’s Yard, is no less politically engaged.

To read the rest of this review please go to: http://diary.darlingcollective.com/?p=634

Review of Danja Akulin: Penumbra at Erarta Gallery

Danja Akulin: Penumbra
Erarta Gallery
15 June – 14 July 2012

“When less than four years old I was standing with my nurse, Mary Ward, watching the shadows on the wall from branches of an elm behind which the moon had risen. I have never forgot those shadows and am often trying to paint them.” (The Life and Letters of Samuel Palmer, Painter and Etcher, AH Palmer, London, 1892)

Shadows, and the interplay of light and dark, have long been a matter of intrigue and concern, both for artists and philosophers alike. As early as Plato, the shadow was used as a metaphor for human knowledge and ideas, in his allegory of the cave, and, in the 19th century, Nietzsche equated light with knowledge and darkness with ignorance. The Greek myth of Dibutades tells of a young Corinthian maid who traces the shadow of her lover on the cave wall, and whose father, a clay modeler, then fills the silhouette with clay to produce the first sculptural relief. This tale has been reprised by numerous artists over the centuries, including Jean Baptiste Regnault as Origin of Painting (1785) and Joseph Wright as The Corinthian Maid (1782-1784).

To read the rest of this review please go to: http://diary.darlingcollective.com/?p=622

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Book review of love is... by EJ Major

love is… by EJ Major

Edition size: 150 Limited Edition
Place of publication: London, UK
Format: Hardcover
Number of pages: 450
Price: £100

Love. Both one of the simplest and yet most complex emotions that exists. Necessary, elusive, all-consuming, painful, joyful, enigmatic. Can anyone explain or define this confounding human state? With suggested synonyms ranging from the lustful “passion”, through the loyal “devotion”, to the somewhat more moderate “affection”, “attachment” and “fondness”, dictionary definitions flounder in their attempts to capture a term used variously to describe a bond based on kinship, sexual desire, or admiration; an assurance thereof; the object thereof; the action thereof; the godly personification thereof, and beyond. Is it any wonder then, that, in 2004, artist EJ Major found herself struggling with the subject to such a degree that she decided to begin a mail art project whereby she would seek out the responses of randomly selected members of the public in an attempt to glean some insight into this universal phenomenon?

To read the rest of this review please go to: http://www.photomonitor.co.uk/2012/06/love-is/

Review of Sadie Hennessy: Strange Hungers at WW Gallery

Sadie Hennessy: Strange Hungers
WW Gallery
20 June – 14 July 2012

I defy you not to crack a smile or chuckle to yourself if you go to see the current exhibition, Strange Hungers, by Sadie Hennessy, at WW Gallery. Greeted by a plethora of phalluses – a series of placemats depicting volcanic eruptions (Place Mat (i-iii), 2012); a child’s rocking horse-cum-unicorn (no prizes for guessing the embellishments around the horn) (Happily Ever After, 2012); a phrenology-cum-pornology head, again regally bedecked with protrusion (Unicorn, 2012); and a set of nine lighthouse postcards, with, of course, penises of varying shapes and sizes in place of the respective landmarks (Totem, 2012)– there is something very Chapman brothers-esque about the tone. A seemingly unrelated but humorous piece, Spoons (2012), consists of a velvet-lined case containing a set of seven teaspoons, one of Henry VIII, and one of each of his wives, with the heads of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard snapped off.

Nonetheless, it might not all be quite as light-hearted as it at first seems. Little Darlings (2012), for example, a matchbox filled with nametags for various dictators, seems to question the nature of evil: is it innate or learned, are we all born innocent and as blank slates, and are we all equal if dressed the same in school uniform?

It is an elaboration on this theme – what is visible on the surface, and what is the reality underneath – which is the overarching theme of the exhibition. For Peter (2012), for example, is a poignant image comprising two superficially identical portrait photographs of a young woman, one with her dress coloured white, one with it black, with the latter also marked by an inky drip, or tear, from her eye. The words “some days whole minutes pass without thinking about you” are superimposed, and suggest, perhaps, the hatred which might grow within a loveless (and, to extrapolate from the photos, possibly arranged) marriage.

Even within the bounds of a potentially “happy” marriage, things are not always necessarily as they seem.  Elephant in the Room (2011) is a farcical collage of a 1950s housewife, dressed in suit and white gloves and hat, caressing a larger-than-life black penis in her drawing room, with a man, presumably her husband, standing proudly, chin on hand, elbow on knee, by the window in the background. As the press release suggests, “taking a playful look at the slippage between repression and expression, decorum and disarray, the exhibition is a wry celebration of female empowerment.”

A number of other works (The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret (Porn Star Eyes) (i-xii), 2011, and A Celebration of Old Roses (i-iv), 2011) use collaged images of women from magazine covers, where they are depicted as gormless beauties with no minds of their own, and here, in a manner akin to John Stezaker, Hennessy has blacked out or replaced their mouths or eyes – an acute reference to that which remains unseen by others, and/or that which remains unspoken. Further magazine collages, such as Milf Magazine (2011), preposterously juxtapose images of a mother, child, and freshly baked cakes, cover-lines for kitchen planning, knitting, and cookery, with, suggestively, what the housewife readers might really want, namely “New Bonus! 2 Hardcore Movies inside! Over 3 hours! A $60 value!”

More blanking out, this time of the genital regions, occurs in a set of four porn collages, showing women masturbating or having sex (Pyre, 2012). What speaks most about this work, however, is its positioning, high up above a shelf, behind the gallery door, almost out of sight, reflecting the typical social stance towards a female’s own sexuality and the expression of her lust or desire.

For me, the main message of this show is not to judge on outward appearance. As Mother Love (2011) further reinforces, with its size 42F, stained, off cream, cotton bra, hanging from a wooden hanger, and adorned with red sequin heart-shaped nipple tassels, no one and nothing is ever quite as it seems.


Place Mat
Digital Prints on Somerset Paper
Image courtesy of WW Gallery
© Sadie Hennessy, 2012

Elephant in the Room
Image courtesy of WW Gallery
© Sadie Hennessy, 2011

The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret (Porn Star Eyes) (vi)
Image courtesy of WW Gallery
© Sadie Hennessy, 2011

Milf Magazine
Image courtesy of WW Gallery
© Sadie Hennessy, 2011

Mother Love
Image courtesy of WW Gallery
© Sadie Hennessy, 2011

Monday, 11 June 2012

Review of Jason Martin: Infinitive at Lisson Gallery

Jason Martin: Infinitive
Lisson Gallery (52-54 Bell Street)
11 May – 23 June 2012

Walking into the Lisson Gallery on one of the hottest days of the year, I already feel as if I am melting. To then be confronted with the molten metal slabs, vibrant pigment swirls, and larger-than-life burnt woodpile that form Jason Martin’s (born 1970) latest exhibition only seems to increase the intensity of the heat. His paintings have always been almost sculptural in their dynamic, dense, and hand-worked surfaces – an exploration of the materiality of paint – but these latest pieces are so full of vigour that they seem to be transmuting before your very eyes.

To read the rest of this review please go to:

Copyright © 1893–2011 The Studio Trust. The titles Studio International and The Studio are the property of The Studio Trust and, together with the content, are bound by copyright. All rights reserved

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Review of Giuseppe Cavalli: Master of Light at the Estorick Collection

Giuseppe Cavalli: Master of Light
Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, London
18 April–17 June 2012
In 1947, Italian photographer Giuseppe Cavalli (1904–61) co-founded the group La Bussola (The Compass), which, as part of its mission to “establish a valid aesthetic credo for photographers,” asserted: “We believe in photography as art. […] It is equally possible to be poets with the lens as with the brush, the chisel or the pen.” Certainly, the selection of Cavalli’s works currently on show at the Estorick Collection confirm this statement. Muted and monochromatic, yet exploiting myriad shades of white, his bleak, unpopulated land- and beachscapes, are prematurely postmodern, reflecting a further axiom of the group that “in art the subject has no importance at all”.

To read the rest of this review please go to:

Copyright © 1893–2011 The Studio Trust. The titles Studio International and The Studio are the property of The Studio Trust and, together with the content, are bound by copyright. All rights reserved

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Review of Steven Morgana: The Future Feels Like a Phantom Limb at La Scatola Gallery

Steven Morgana: The Future Feels Like a Phantom Limb
La Scatola Gallery
11 May – 15 June 2012

Questions of entropy have concerned artists since Robert Smithson’s early experiments and writings, back in the 1960s, and Rudolf Arnheim’s seminal essay, Entropy and Art, of 1971. Obviously, this issue of energy crisis and loss is renewedly salient in the current climate, with pressing environmental concerns, such as global warming and the depletion of fossil fuels. Emerging artist Steven Morgana, currently completing his MFA at Goldsmiths College, confronts these issues head on in his first solo exhibition, currently on show at La Scatola Gallery, an eerily minimalist space, at the foot of the banking world’s tall city towers.

Recurring motifs of a rainbow – symbolic of the beauty of uninterfered with nature, but also of peace – and repeated references to waste products and comparative value, serve as a timely commentary on issues of sustainability and human interference within our ecosystem. One of the two large sculptural installations, How Much Does Your Building Weigh? (2012), consists of a geodesic dome built out of cardboard, suspended from a pulley system, and held in equilibrium with a smaller stack of cardboard sheets, purportedly the waste matter from the construction. The dome itself is fairly non-utilitarian, and the pile of waste almost as substantial as the product itself. As Smithson said, in an interview a couple of months before his death:

“There's a certain kind of pleasure principle that comes out of preoccupation with waste. Like if we want a bigger and better car we are going to have bigger and better waste productions. So there's a kind of equation there between the enjoyment of life and waste. Probably the opposite of waste is luxury. Both waste and luxury tend to be useless.”[1]

A similar highlighting of the (im-)balance between commodity, value, and waste, is to be found in Alchemy and Chemistry (2012), a set of three inkjet prints, each depicting a plastic water bottle (Volvic, Highland Spring, and Evian, respectively), but filled with a yellow tinted liquid, which, it turns out, is actually unleaded petrol, although, at first glance, one might wonder about rain water, urine, or some other polluted fluid. The individual titles further give the comparative prices per litre of the original bottle contents and the pictured petroleum – the latter, surprisingly, being minimally cheaper in each case. Shocking really, when we are amidst a fuel crisis, and water is, in principle, something which is freely available.

Talisman (Energy Adventures in the Northern Peruvian Amazon) (2012) presents 
a photo-collage of a picture from a children’s colouring book overlaid upon a photograph of marching Peruvians with rainbow flags and rainbow coloured-scarves, protesting against exploratory well drilling in the Amazon Basin. The colouring image comes from a book produced by Talisman Energy, the company responsible for the drilling, and shows Terry the friendly Fracosaurus, dressed in hard hat and boots, and carrying a drill. It was widely distributed to children in Pennsylvania and New York before ultimately being withdrawn. Fracking, the blasting of land to release natural gas, is one of the most contentious issues of fossil fuel extraction.

The least pointed and most beautiful work in the exhibition is the second sculptural installation, It Was All Ephemeral as a Rainbow (Welcome to the Anthropocene!) (2012), which consists of a concave mirror, bisected by horizontal, rainbow-coloured, neon and argon lights, bending the other way. Reflected in the mirror, they form a complete circle of rainbow light. The work, however, is powered by a portable petrol generator, positioned prominently nearby, thus destroying any illusion of nature, and reminding visitors that even works of art leave their environmental footprint. The Anthropocene referenced in the title is, further, a recent coinage to refer to the extent of human activities that have had a significant global impact on the Earth's ecosystems. Whilst standing and enjoying the colourful illusion, the viewer’s own reflection also becomes captured in the mirror, reinforcing, once more, the unwelcome intrusion of man into nature.

As gallery director and curator, Valentina Fois, summarises, this exhibition seeks “to unravel the paradox between notions of beauty and nature, and concepts of social progress and co-operation.” The sparsity of works, the loftiness of the gallery itself, and the visibility of generators and disused packaging, invites strong comment upon the issues at hand: value, waste, and man’s interference with the Earth. Is entropy therefore unavoidably also a doctrine of inevitable social decline and degeneration? Morgana raises the questions; it’s up to us to think about the answers.


Steven Morgana: The Future Feels Like A Phantom Limb - installation views
Photos by Raymond Cheung
Courtesy of La Scatola Gallery 

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Review of Stephen Willats: Surfing with the Attractor at the South London Gallery

Stephen Willats: Surfing with the Attractor
South London Gallery
1 June – 15 July 2012

“You are in a street, any street, as you move forwards you are bombarded by a multi-sensory experience of random inputs happening at all levels simultaneously. How do I make sense of such confusion? Do I reduce those inputs to what at any one time I can accept as order, my order in relation to society’s order? The reduction in what I am attending to, so as to create perceptual coherency is tantamount to a model, a model that will infer a wider spectrum of references, and as I start to progress down that street so the model I have will continually change according to what I encounter.”[1]

It is thus that pioneering conceptual artist Stephen Willats (born 1943) describes the experience of walking down a street, and begins to elucidate his model for a “concept frame” in which the fragments of this experience might be pieced together to form a sequence, or “data stream”, which builds up a larger picture of the event.

“The conjoining of these random fragments creates a picture, a dynamic one in real time, but each person at the same spot in that street will see a different picture, maybe similar but nevertheless different.”[2]

In his current exhibition, Surfing with the Attractor – his second show at the South London Gallery, after a gap of 14 years – Willats presents just such a picture, juxtaposing two very different street walk experiences: one down Rye Lane in Peckham, and one down Regent Street in London’s West End. The results are presented both in video format, on two monitors mounted on plinths in the corner, and also on a monumental scale, as images and words, linked together by arrows, on a huge 15 metre long wall built down the middle of the gallery. Collaborating with 14 London-based artists, Willats allocated each a medium (camera, audio, rubbing) and a channel (facial expressions, street signs, sounds) with which to record their experience. They then assembled on location and walked en masse down the streets, each recording at will, as long as they remained within their designated frame. The results were then digitised, compiled, edited, and assembled to produce the data streams on display here.

Reading across the wall, the viewer follows the different snapshots made within each channel, and reading downwards, he can experience different viewpoints of one frozen moment in time. Each visitor can choose his own walk and create his own experience of the street, thus mirroring the reality of the myriad different individual experiences possible of any one given reality.

The wall depicts faces, signs and symbols, blurred images of passing pedestrians, push chairs, CCTV cameras, litter, graffiti, flowers and cars. No angle is left unexplored. There are also words immortalising snippets of overheard conversation and ambient sounds, such as “meat cleaver. Thud thud. * Gap * Thwack thwack.” (In case you couldn’t guess, this one belongs to the Rye Lane stream!)

There is, of course, an intentional contrast between two such different streets.
As Tom Morton suggests: “Regent Street and Rye Lane might be said to represent, respectively, affluence and poverty, the city’s famous centre and its forgotten periphery.”[3] Yet it is not immediately obvious which is actually which. Both are very multi-cultural, albeit one primarily in its mix of inhabitants, the other in its assorted tourists. There are also some images which recur on either side of the wall, such as street signs, pedestrian crossings, and bus stops. The difference, however, becomes more apparent in the words used to describe the background sounds, and, of course, in the shop signs.

Also on display are diagrams discussing the framework used to produce these data streams, which formed part of the process of Willats’ earlier South London Gallery exhibition, Changing Everything (1998). Comprising networks of arrows, words and geometric shapes, these illustrations look like something which might be taken directly from a sociology textbook. Certainly, they reflect the artist’s interest in creating a cultural model of how art might relate to society. One pencil and watercolour diagram outlines what he labels “four concept frames with four axioms – four levels of resolution,” which, in turn, he pinpoints as “presence, identity, behaviour and fabric,” and “beliefs, goals, norms and values” – all key ideas behind the works in the exhibition.

Other works from the 1998 show are also be re-presented, including a 14 screen TV tower showing filmed walks between the gallery and the now no longer extant North Peckham Estate, which was the “experiment”, or “art work”, which initiated Willats’ model reemployed this time around.

To further reach out into the local community, films of the new data streams are also being shown on monitors in two nearby shops – Persepolis on Peckham Road and the hardware shop on Camberwell Church Street. The idea is to examine the function and meaning of art in society by actually taking it out there, beyond the gallery space. Hopefully, in return, passers by might become curious enough to cross the threshold into the gallery, even if it’s not somewhere they ever would have found by themselves.

The use of multiple media and simultaneous presentation captures the dichotomous gulf between the limited perception of an experience by each individual and the (im)possibility of a collective perception. Juxtaposing word and image, and time and place, Willats’ work is both art as documentary, but also art as something creative, offering insight into, as one of his diagrams further puts it, “the world as it is versus the world as it could be.”

[1] from Stephen Willats, “Living with the Data Stream,” essay in catalogue to accompany the exhibition, p.31
[2] Ibid
[3] from Tom Morton, “Only Connect”, essay in catalogue to accompany the exhibition, p.41


Installation views of Stephen Willats: Surfing with the Attractor at the South London Gallery  
Photos: Andy Keate 
Courtesy: the artist, the South London Gallery and Victoria Miro Gallery, London