Ceal Floyer, Monochrome Till Receipt (White), 1999 (2009 version, Tate)
This wasn’t what I expected to write about next. In fact, when I thought about writing about Ceal Floyer’s work it wasn’t this work that had popped into my head but, once it had, it wouldn’t make way for anything else. Regular readers will know that I do tend to like work that’s white to the point of almost vanishing into the wall and that I find the strategy of showing a tiny work on a big empty wall appealing. It must also be fairly apparent to anyone that’s read more than a few posts here that I do like work that makes me smile. When these two things coincide, so much the better.
Monochrome Till Receipt (White) isn’t invisible, but it is quite a slight presence on a big white wall. The real whiteness of the piece becomes apparent up close though. Read the receipt (go on, click on the image and you can, the detail is all there). Floyer has made the work by going to the supermarket. The whiteness comes from her purchases: Allinson flour, Kraft Philadelphia, ‘M’ haddock portions, organic chocolate (white, one assumes), white kidney beans, pickled eggs, Nivea shower… and the list goes on. 49 items. All white.
One thing does surprise me about this work though. I first remember hearing about it in 2002 when it was included in Colour White at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill on Sea – a stunning, and famously white, art deco building on the south coast – an exhibition that explored the meaning of white in art. The version shown in that exhibition was made in Sainsbury’s in Whitechapel in 2001 but the date of the work is 1999, so it wasn’t, as I’d always supposed, made specifically for Colour White.
And what of the different dates on the various receipts? Well, as anyone who’s ever shopped will know, till receipts really don’t last. The paper yellows, the text fades. And as if that wasn’t enough, when the work is shown the receipt is stuck to the wall. Effectively the work, as bought by Tate, is the original shopping list repurchased each time the work is exhibited to generate a new receipt.
The idea of going shopping as a way of making art is an unusual one and this is certainly a work where the idea is key and, with the shopping coming in at under eighty quid as recently as 2009, this was hardly a costly work to make, especially as Floyer (or whoever remakes it when it’s renewed) could eat or use the byproducts of its making. As the monochrome nature of Floyer’s shopping reveals itself to me as I read the list, I find myself amused by both the simplicity of her idea and the notion of the artist pushing a trolley round her local Morrisons as a way of making work. Regular readers will also, of course, know that I’m easily amused.