Animal stories

Paula Rego, Pregnant Rabbit Telling Her Parents, 1982

As the cliché has it, a picture paints a thousand words. I’m not sure how often that’s actually true – if ever – but Paula Rego certainly gives it a good go. There is frequently a personal element to the stories she tells though for me the pleasure more often comes from setting the background aside and letting the image do the talking. Casting animals in the roles of her protagonists mean that Rego’s stories often make me smile. In this respect a particular favourite is Pregnant Rabbit Telling Her Parents. Actual rabbits of course must spend a good deal of time pregnant, so their parents would be unsurprised by the news the painting’s title character is breaking – indeed Rabbit has a somewhat brazen, what of it look about her – but actual rabbits would also have rabbits as parents. In the world of Paula Rego that would be far too easy.

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Solid water

20120222-161633.jpgRoni Horn, Well and Truly, 2009-10

The is a something visually confusing about Roni Horn’s Well and Truly, on show at the moment in at Punta della Dogana as part if the exhibition In Praise of Doubt. The work consists of a number of similar cast glass sculptures each of which looks like water, solidified – but somehow, inexplicably, as solid water, rather than ice – in the form of a low straight-sided dish (that is, as a short column with a slight rounding where the sides meet the base). The sides look sanded (though this is from contact with the mold during casting) but the tops, which dip slightly, are clear and reflect their surroundings.

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In the BANK

20120222-123622.jpgBANK, Fax-Bak Service, 1998

Invigilating exhibitions is fundamentally pretty boring. There is a lot of sitting around, often without anyone to talk to. In the days before smart phones, laptops and WiFi made spending the time pissing about on the internet an easy option, you had to make your own entertainment. In 1998, while running Gallerie Poo Poo, the artists’ group BANK did just that.

There is always reading matter in galleries. If nothing else, press releases from other galleries arrive daily and it was to these that BANK artists Simon Bedwell, Milly Thompson and John Russell turned to while away long afternoons in the gallery. They were artists after all, and running a gallery; why wouldn’t they want to stay abreast of what was on and read about art? As is happened though, they didn’t much like what they read.

And so it began: The BANK Fax-Bak Service: Helping You Help Yourselves!

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On seeing the wood and the trees

Giuseppe Penone, Tree of 12 Metres, 1980-82

Perhaps it’s down to my preoccupation with forests this week, but I decided it was time to revisit Giuseppe Penone’s Tree of 12 Metres at Tate Modern. The starting point of this sculpture – an industrially sawn timber beam – remains visible at the base of the pieces but Penone has carved it back meticulously and – by following the clues given by the knots in the wood – revealed the wood’s past as a tree.

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A web of enchantment

Lygia Pape, Ttéia 1, C (Web), 2011 (Installation view, Serpentine Gallery)

Perhaps it’s just my preoccupation of the week (or perhaps I’m desperate to make links here, no matter how tenuous), but seeing Lygia Pape’s beautiful installation of gold thread at the Serpentine Gallery put me in mind of a forest. The space is disrupted by thread that sparkles in the space rendering it unnavigable. The thread seems to form beams of light through the darkness, like sunlight penetrating a forest. Though the whole of Magnetized Space, Lygia Pape’s installation at the Serpentine Gallery, is fascinating and though this may be the only work I’ve seen in real life before, Ttéia 1, C is definitely the highlight for me.

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Shadows in the forest

Loris Gréaud, Gunpowder Forest Bubble, 2008

There is something enchanted about Loris Gréaud’s Gunpowder Forest Bubble (currently installed in Palazzo Grassi as part of the exhibition The World Belongs to You). By the light the moon, which hangs low in the shadowy forest, I can see that I am alone. The trees are bare and dark; they loom above me. There is a sense of theatre about the installation, albeit without a predetermined narrative. This is the forest as a fairytale space where anything is possible, and anything – perhaps especially – danger might be revealed. And there is danger here, notionally at least, for the stark carbonised trees are coated in gunpowder. Rationally I might know that the risk is minimal to non-existent, but still: gunpowder! That hardly seems safe.

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Small world

Mariele Neudecker, I don’t know how I resisted the urge to run, 1998

There is something oddly strange about the way the light streams through the trees in Mariele Neudecker’s I don’t know how I resisted the urge to run. But for the uneven ground of the forest floor, I think I’d want to run too. The trees are bare and though their trunks are healthily tall and straight their branches are short and spindly. That all is not well here is reinforced by the eeriness of the atmosphere; the scene is permeated by a slightly toxic-looking fog

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