Simon Starling, Shedboatshed (Mobile Architecture no. 2), 2005
At first sight, Simon Starling’s Shedboatshed (Mobile Architecture no. 2) appears to be a readymade. It’s an old shed. It looks a bit the worse for wear, but age will do that to a shed. Things aren’t quite a simple as they appear though and the first clue’s in the title.
Shedboatshed is a shed. Shedboatshed started out as a shed. But it hasn’t always been a shed. Starling turned an old shed, which he’d found in the banks of the Rhine, into a boat which he then used to get to Basel, carrying the unused parts of the shed in the boat. On arrival, the shed was reassembled and exhibited in the Kunstmuseum Basel and later that year in Tate Britain as part of the Turner Prize exhibition, which Starling won.
Having seen quite a bit of work made from existing objects recently and having been reminded about Au Naturel by seeing Tracey Emin’s Dead Sea in her exhibition at Turner Contemporary, which I wrote about here a while ago, I find myself wondering why it’s taken me this long to write about Sarah Lucas’s work.
Essentially, Au Naturel is a very simple sculpture of a man and woman in bed, he represented by two oranges and a cucumber, she by a bucket and a pair of melons. What makes this work for me is that the visual joke of the assemblage triggers thoughts about language and the slang terms used for body parts. In particular, with works like this, Lucas draws attention to the derogatory way women’s bodies are often described colloquially.
Mel Brimfield, Vincent (Portrait with Fur Hat and Bandaged Ear), 2012
Mel Brimfield makes art about art in a very different way to others that I’ve written about here before (the reworkings of Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress by David Hockney and Yinka Shonibare or Gregory Crewdson’s remained Edward Hopper picture, for instance). As with Shonibare’s Diary of a Victorian Dandy, Brimfield’s work is performative but there’s a humour in the work that feels more connected to Nina Katchadourian’s Self-portrait as Sir Ernest Shackleton though in Brimfield’s work the performances are collaborations between artist and performer. The resulting works – photographs, videos and sculpture – reference not only the artists Brimfield is looking at but also our ideas about art and the way the artists have been represented in films. Brimfield’s exhibition Between Genius and Desire at Ceri Hand Gallery Project Space – the gallery’s first show in London – gave me a lot to both think and smile about.
It’s possible for text to become meaningless shapes when we’re too close to it, especially if it’s written in an unfamiliar script. At first glance, maybe even to those who read Mandarin, the colourful wall of the Haus der Kunst Museum in Munich which faced visitors to Ai Weiwei’s 2009 exhibition So Sorry, might have seemed more like a cheerful pattern rather than the poignant words of a grieving mother. The colour palette of red, yellow, green and blue is more redolent of children’s books than works of art and certainly doesn’t immediately suggest a memorial. Look closer and it’s clear that the building blocks of the banner are brightly coloured backpacks, the sort that children often use as school bags. But this is a work that needs an explanation.
I seem to be looking at a lot of art made from other stuff at the moment. The journey from Bruce Lacey’s assemblages and robots at Camden Arts Centre to Damián Ortega’s sculptures at White Cube Mason’s Yard is a short tube ride and a big conceptual leap. Both exhibitions include sculpture made from ordinary objects but the two shows feel worlds apart.
Marcos Saboya and Gualter Pupo, aMAZEme, installation in Royal Festival Hall, 2012
If someone had asked me to imagine what 250,000 books looked like, I’m not sure I’d have had a clue. A quarter of a million anything is a lot, that much I do know. But I was always rubbish at guessing the number of smarties in the jar at fêtes, and those numbers were always in the hundreds which is much more manageable somehow. Anyway, in case you happen to be wondering what 250,000 books looks like, there they are, made into a maze resembling the fingerprint of writer and educator Jorge Luis Borges by Brazilian artists Marcos Saboya and Gualter Pupo in the Clore Ballroom at the Royal Festival Hall. As with almost everything else in London this summer, it’s part of the London 2012 Festival, the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad.
The Bruce Lacey Experience at Camden Arts Centre is by turns funny, moving, charming and even a little bit irritating. The exhibition, co-curated by art historian Professor David Alan Mellor and artist Jeremy Deller, offers a comprehensive view of Lacey’s inextricably linked life and work. Bruce Lacey, a performance artist before the term was in use, has hung on to his inner child – and exhorts us to do the same – and used it to make work that is, well, more bonkers than most art. But in a good way.