Ladders are maybe a clunky route in to thinking about journeys or uncertain outcomes but the ladders in Jim Lambie’s Shaved Ice are pleasingly odd. The colourful ladders seem to offer the possibility of reaching some higher place but the addition of mirrors into gaps between some of the rungs distorts the space and makes it hard to either trench or understand one’s destination.
While Scotland is busy deciding its future, I find myself pondering the art of that country. It’s tricky. There are a lot of artists in Scotland. There are a lot of Scottish artists. The two groups overlap of course, but there draw things out as a venn diagram and the centre is less populated than I perhaps expected. As ever, of course, this may be largely down to my own ignorance; and, as regular readers will know, I’m easily confused.
The political debate in Scotland has been exciting. This is a debate driven in no small measure by passion and hope. The decision that is being made is a hard one and for many I suspect head and heart lie, somewhat uncomfortably, in different camps. It’s this sense of not knowing quite which way I’d jump if I found myself in similar circumstances that brings me, in a typically convoluted manner, to the work of Jim Lambie.
There are lots of drawings that fit neatly under Klee’s description of ‘taking a line for a walk’ but few that do it quite as literally as Ceal Floyer’s Taking a Line for a Walk, in which a line painting machine of the sort normally used to mark out tennis courts and the like is walked through the gallery space leaving a trace that takes the audience on a journey through the space.
I would say I promise to stop writing about Ceal Floyer’s work soon, but, well, there’s at least one more post forming itself in my head so who knows really. She provides just the right mix of ideas, empty white space (usually, but of course now another post, about work that isn’t empty or white is starting to form) and playfulness to make sure I’m fully engaged. In consisting largely of rawlplugs, Do Not Remove reminds me quite a lot of (some of) Susan Collis’s work which I’ve also written about here ad nauseam. Plus, there’s a sign and I rather like signs (indeed I find myself slight surprised to find that I haven’t tagged loads of posts as ‘signs’ but I suspect that’s down to shoddy tagging rather than a lack of posts about signs).
Chris Marker, A Grin Without a Cat installation view
I guess it’s seeing the two within a week or two that means that Richard Grayson’s Nothing Can Stop Us Now reminded me in a way of Chris Marker’s Silent Movie which is included in the Whitechapel Gallery exhibition Chris Marker: A Grin Without a Cat. The connection is a simple but somewhat tenuous one: both works feature five monitors. In Grayson’s piece, these run in a horizontal line across the front of the space using the full width of the building. In Marker’s Silent Movie the monitors are in a vertical tower. The tower is a bolt together structure which is both the simplest solution to housing the monitors and also, in its industrial simplicity, somewhat constructivist in feel.
Richard Grayson, Nothing Can Stop Us Now, 2014 (video still)
There’s something about the image on the Matt’s Gallery website to promote Richard Grayson’s Nothing Can Stop Us Now at Dilston Grove that makes me think of The Apprentice. I guess it’s the slightly upward camera angle and the way the group are gathered in front of a building that immediately suggests high finance. The five people in question – Leo Chadburn, Bishi, Laura Moody, Tom Herbert and Sophie Ramsay – are the performers in Grayson’s multiscreen sound and video installation at Dilston Grove, a former church in Southwark Park. The image is a screenshot from one of the five screens that see the performers congregate outside locations that of cultural, political and financial importance. That the act of gathering outside such locations now speaks both of solidarity and protest and of competition and capital and the power of the media is interesting in the context of the work.
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.
Peter Fischli and David Weiss, How to Work Better, 1991
There’s no one way to get through the day, of course, and there’s no one way to be an artist. But there is advice that works in many situations – often based on good old common sense – and the ten point list that is Peter Fischli and David Weiss’s How to Work Better is just that. It’s simple, it’s straight-forward and it’s something most of us would do well to follow.