John Pawson, Perspectives, 2011 (installed in San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, 2013)
So, having lost my blogging mojo in 2013, it’s clearly time for a bit of a fresh start and a resolution to get back to writing random stuff about art on a vaguely regular basis in 2014.* It seems appropriate to start with a bit of a catch-up on things I’ve seen or been preoccupied by recently but not rambled on about. In some ways I quite like getting a bit of distance on stuff before posting so expect a preponderance of posts about the things that have stuck in my mind most clearly from 2013.
It was, of course, as odd numbered years are these days, a Venice year. And this time I managed more than one trip: the first in the summer as my holiday and the second with students in the final week of the Biennale. I’ve already written about the biennale for MostlyFilm so I’ll focus here on individual works that have stuck in my mind. Pondering which works have really stayed with me could mean it’d take days to actually get anything written and some of the things I most want to write about deserve more attention than I have to spare today so I’ll start with something I saw a bit by accident and enjoyed in no small measure because of the way the work made me focus of the beauty of the space it inhabited.
John Pawson’s Perspectives, first shown in St Paul’s Cathedral in London in 2011, is a Swarovski crystal lens, 40cm in diameter which reflects and magnifies the space it’s in. In Venice it was installed in the Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore, an extraordinary building designed by Andrea Palladio in the sixteenth century (and finally completed in 1610, three decades after Palladio’s death). In 2011 the basilica hosted an ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful to the point of invisibility (thanks to technical problems) work by Anish Kapoor (which I touched on in an earlier article for MostlyFilm); it was the memory of that work (and the enjoyment that came from watching visitors concentrating really hard in an attempt to catch sight of the work during its fleeting appearances.
The simplicity of Perspectives is its strength. The crystal itself is beautiful precisely because its form is determined by its function as a lens. The concave lens demands that the viewer lean in to catch the image but ultimately it’s all about that image of Palladian splendour. One of the great joys of the Venice Biennale is the way in which the contemporary interacts with the history and preposterous beauty of the city; Perspectives does just that. Beautifully.
* Yeah, yeah; I give it a week too.