The means of production

Ceal Floyer, Overhead Projection, 2006

The relationship between art and technology is a long and complex one and not something I want to explore in any depth today. In these works the means of production is there for all to see so I’ll use the simplicity of the work as a space for contemplation of the possibilities offered by low technology, in this case the humble overhead projector.

Continue reading

The art of the fall

Yves Klein, Leap into the Void, 1960

Is art really as easy as falling off a log ledge (roof, canalside, whatever)? The evidence is plentiful.

In Leap into the Void, Klein certainly makes it look easy, no matter how much our common sense tells us all is not as it seems. Though I love the mix of an earnest look and a preposterous act in Yves Klein’s photograph, his is not the fall that makes me smile the most.

Continue reading

Drawing and the process of looking

Claude Heath, Venus of Willendorf (detail), 1995

Drawing and looking are inextricably linked but just as there is more than one way to draw there is more that one way to look. If the aim is to get as close as possible to recording what something looks like, a camera will generally do a better job but drawing can bring something extra to the equation. It might be about making a representation that’s more expressive, or one that offers multiple viewpoints simultaneously or a version of how something feels for instance.

Continue reading

The process of play

Peter Fischli and David Weiss, In the studio

With term starting tomorrow, my thoughts turn to the work my students will be making over the next few weeks in the studio and in particular to seeing them explore a range of different processes (exploring different approaches to making art, putting materials through a number of different processes – be they physical, chemical or whatever – for instance, or making work that involves following a particular conceptual process etc). To help things along, colleagues and I will show them some art and introduce them to some processes, materials and possible ways of working. Which means that this week my preoccupation will definitely be process…

Continue reading

Wintery thoughts

Gerhard Richter,  Abstract Painting 912-1, 2009

Taking a last look at Gerhard Richter: Panorama at Tate Modern, which finishes tomorrow, I was struck, as at previous visits, by the large, predominantly white, abstract painting in the final room of the main show. The white of the painting makes it feel like a large, snowy landscape at once charming me and reminding me that this winter has so far failed to bite.

The traces of colour coming through the white make me think of Peter Doig’s Ski Jacket, a painting of a similar size and somewhat similar palette, though Doig’s painting makes much more use of colour. (It also reminds me of Wilhelm Sasnal’s Photophobia though that lacks scale by comparison.)

Continue reading

Fact and fiction: Jeff Wall at White Cube

Jeff Wall, Hillside near Ragusa, 2007

I went to Jeff Wall’s show at White Cube unsure quite what to expect. At some point when I wasn’t paying attention, Wall left behind the elaborate tableaux and sometimes less than obvious references to the history of painting and started to tell different stories – somehow simultaneously simpler and more complex – through his photographs. The work here is from two separate bodies of work that feel in some ways as though they could have been made by two different people.

In the ground floor space there are three photographs of the Sicilian landscape. Described as ‘documentary pictures’ in the press release, these tell of a landscape fundamentally unchanged over time but one in which the modern world is nonetheless constant visual presence. The drystone walls in Hillside near Ragusa might have been there for centuries staying low to blend into their surroundings; man is not a recent incomer to this place. By contrast, the electricity pylons stride across the hillside with a confidence that its natural inhabitants – the short, windswept trees growing on the low ground – don’t seem to share.

Continue reading

Recollections of Frieze

Pierre Huyghe, Recollection, 2011 (live marine ecosystem, glass tank, filtration system)

In these early days of the year, I want to think back to work I’ve seen in the last year to see what’s stayed with me. A good starting point for that is to think about the big stuff: the days when art overload is a significant threat. Days like Frieze Art Fair. I don’t always get to Frieze; some years I just can’t face it. The scale of the thing puts me off somewhat and I’m really not a fan of the art world en masse. It’s possible I’m just slightly allergic to art fairs. Art needs time and at Frieze the pressure to see everything can be overwhelming so last year I decided to browse in a really unsystematic way and just spend time with the things I chanced upon that interested me most. Perhaps inevitably that means that what I remember most clearly are some of the things that were tucked away in corners, works that could be seen in isolation rather than against the backdrop of the fair.

Continue reading

The art of destruction / The destruction of art

Ai Weiwei, Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995

To a greater or lesser extent, the destruction of the past is an on-going, universal project. Whether it’s demolishing old buildings to make space for new ones or cutting down woodland to accommodate agriculture on an industrial scale, we can’t ever really let things be. If we never destroyed anything, the world would be an even more weird, uncomfortable and overcrowded place but nonetheless there’s often more to our reluctance to let things go than simple nostalgia. In the last half century or thereabouts, China has witnessed wholesale destruction of its history in the name of both ideology – the Cultural Revolution – and, more recently, progress, as the past is razed to make room for the future. Nonetheless, Ai Weiwei’s destruction of ancient ceramics in the name of art might seem in some respects excessive. It certainly has the power to shock though perhaps one of the most surprising aspects is that the value of what one might assume to be priceless ancient artefacts such as a Neolithic urn dating from 5000-3000BC can be increased by the addition of a Coca-Cola logo.

Continue reading

Watching and waiting

Panorama, Gerhard Richter’s exhibition at Tate Modern, includes so many show-stoppingly great works – Aunt Marianne and Uncle Rudi (the juxtaposition of which I wrote about for, the paintings of Richter’s daughter Betty, squeegee paintings both large and small to name but a few – that it’s a surprise when something quieter, seemingly simpler, works its way under my skin. But two rural landscapes, both painted in the mid-1980s, did just that. I was reminded of the time I spent with Barn and Meadowland last weekend at the Whitechapel Gallery when Wilhelm Sasnal’s rather larger argricultural lanscape Pigsty grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go.


Continue reading

Two towers

ColumnAnthony McCall, Column (Wind) (drawing, 2011)

As at the start of every year, there are things in the art calendar I’m really looking forward to and things I’ll go out of my way to avoid seeing. Oddly, this year the two things that immediately spring to mind are both public art commissions related to the forthcoming Olympics and both take the form of a tower of sorts. One – Anthony McCall’s Column – I’m ready to travel half the length of the country for despite knowing its ephemeral presence may disappear in some weathers. Sadly, unlike the last work I saw by the same artist, the other – Anish Kapoor’s Orbit – will be all too visible.

Continue reading