Though he’s made a pretty wide range of work in between, I was interested to find that my altogether half-arsed research for the previous post threw up an image of a recent work I didn’t know and whose existence surprised me. Frottage, made in 2009, close to two decades after Cave, is a rubbing of that same blue plaque. I’m guessing of course (yes, yes, I know, research is good but sometimes the path of least resistance is just so much more appealing) but I rather suspect this is a work made in order to use the title and the amusement to be gained from using a term that is technically correct in art terms but which also has sexual connotations. And why not?
The oblique reference to cave painting in the title of that last point was entirely to allow me to segue somewhat untidily from wall drawings to Gavin Turk’s Cave, an English Heritage style blue plaque that formed his degree show when he finished at the Royal College of Art in 1991. The show essentially consisted of an empty studio with a sign declaring that ‘Gavin Turk, sculptor, worked here 1989–1991’.
Richard Wright, Untitled, 2009 (Turner Prize exhibition, Tate Britain)
For all that I’m fascinated by Sol Lewitt’s conceptual approach, his wall drawings also bring the extraordinary beauty of Richard Wright’s wall paintings to mind and bring me back to work that can be enjoyed on a purely aesthetic basis. That’s not to say that there are no ideas in play here but faced with a work like the one Wright made for the 2009 Turner Prize exhibition my first reaction is one of wonder at both the extravagant beauty and the scale of the thing.
Drawing on a big scale – and some of Sol LeWitt’s larger wall drawings are on a very big scale, more installation than drawing really – can be quite an undertaking. Even if LeWitt had made most of his work himself he could have been forgiven for bringing in a team of assistants to help out. Given his strategy of generating instructions for others to follow though the process of drawing is, by definition, the domain of hired hands.
Thinking about the blurring of the boundary between sculpture and drawing brings Sol LeWitt to mind; add a fascination with geometry into the mix and I find myself looking afresh at LeWitt’s Open Geometric Structures in particular. There’s a beautiful simplicity to the structures – a term LeWitt favoured over sculptures – with the openness lending them a feeling of being drawings in space rather than, or as well as, being objects.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a sculpture. Or is it a drawing? It’s so hard to tell sometimes. Gabriel Orozco’s Dark Wave is a replica of a whale skeleton – so, clearly sculpture – on which a pattern has been drawn – a drawing then – it’s all so confusing. Quite apart from the overwhelming scale of the piece, what I like about this work is the ambiguity of the thing. There’s the starting point of it feeling like a readymade that’s been worked – an approach Orozco has used a lot in works like La DS– on but in fact the skeleton is remade resin and calcium carbonate before being draw on in graphite. Then there’s the way the pattern makes it harder to quite figure out the skeleton but still somehow manages to feel like it’s meant to be there, albeit in a way that makes the piece feel like it might be some sort of archaeological find.
Even knowing about Collis’s transformations of ordinary objects, there’s something surprising about her works that mimic laundry bags. These aren’t readymades subtly transformed by the inlaying of jewels; they’re even less what they seem to be at first glance. Rather than woven plastic, the bags are made of paper – okay for thoroughly dry laundry, but run out of coins in the laundrette and there’s a chance your bag could collapse on the way home – and their woven appearance is just that: an appearance. A very carefully drawn on one.
A stepladder. Every gallery should have one, of course. And every studio. And, come to that, every home. So what makes a stepladder worth writing about? Well, of course, you can analyse anything really if you set your mind to it. In the case of this stepladder, the signs are there. The traces of paint suggest it’s reasonably well used but it’s not completely covered in paint the way it would be if constantly in use for decorating. As a gallery step ladder, the odd bit of white paint is to be expected but it’s quite likely that it’s often in use for hanging work so a bit painty but not too painty makes perfect sense.
But why wouldn’t the gallery clear the ladder away when it’s not in use? That’s the question. And of course, it’s a question that makes it worth taking a closer look.