Tread carefully

Susan Collis, The Oyster's Our World, 2004

Susan Collis, The Oyster’s Our World, 2004

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.

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Bodily forms

Cathy de Monchaux, Dangerous Fragility, 1994

Cathy de Monchaux, Dangerous Fragility, 1994

One of the things that really struck me looking at Alex Van Gelder’s Meat Portraits was that they reminded me of a very different body of work: Cathy de Monchaux’s small-scale sculptures made from materials velvet, leather and metal. Searching for the works that come most immediately to mind proves tricky; images of the works I remember best from de Monchaux’s Whitechapel exhibition or from the Turner Prize show the year she was nominated prove elusive but the seductive beauty of the lush red velvet held in oddly fleshy formations by brass fittings has stayed with me.

The pale pink leather of works like Dangerous Fragility is in come ways more bodily – clearly evoking skin – but it’s the combination of the softness of the velvet and its wound like appearance that I find particularly fascinating.

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Floating islands

Yutaka Sone Venezia 2013

Yutaka Sone, Venezia, 2013

Though I’d seen Yutaka Sone’s work before and found it fascinating, the work in his show at David Zwirner interested me more not just for the extraordinary accuracy of the marble cityscapes but for the places they represent. I think the only carved marble work by Sone I’d seen in real life before is Highway Junction 105-110 which depict freeway intersections in Los Angeles, a city I’ve never visited and only really know from films. The works felt a bit like architectural models, albeit it unexpectedly made of white marble. Here the cities are Venice, New York and Hong Kong. Admittedly I’ve only been to Hong Kong once, very briefly and a long time ago but the other two are cities I know well.

Sone has mapped the territory in incredible detail using methods as diverse as aerial surveillance and Google earth to gain as exact an understanding of the cityscape as possible before it is carved by hand into the marble.

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Picnic at hanging rock

 Fischei Weiss, Rock on Top of Another Rock, London 2013

 Fischei Weiss, Rock on Top of Another Rock, Serpentine Gallery, London 2013

I’ve written about Rock on Top of Another Rock before but at the time I entirely failed to get round to the follow-up post about its London incarnation so I’m quite pleased to find myself back with it now by a somewhat circuitous route. A recent visit – on a rainy winter afternoon – reminded me quite how much I like the way this work pairs a simple idea with a complex and audacious challenge in terms of sourcing the materials and installing the work. The Ronseal nature of the title imparts a sense of playfulness to what is also in some ways quite a scary piece of sculpture. It’s all a matter of balance.

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Suddenly last summer

Fischli Weiss, Roal Admundsen Asks for Directions to The North Pole from Suddenly This Overview, 1981-2006

Fischli Weiss, Roal Admundsen Asks for Directions to The North Pole from Suddenly This Overview, 1981-2006

Sooner or later I’ll change direction, I’m sure, but while I’m on a run of dog-related posts and while I’m drawing on the work I saw in Venice last summer (and autumn, though I managed less actual art that trip) it would seem a shame not to sneak in a post about Suddenly This Overview, Fischli Weiss’s collection of unfired clay sculptures, a body of work that always makes me laugh. I confess I was sure there must be a dog in there somewhere, and of course there is though the Husky in Roal Admundsen Asks for Directions to The North Pole is actually the only one I can come up with.

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Bronzed beauties

Lucas Venice 2013 bronze1

Sarah Lucas, in The Encyclopaedic Palace, Central Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale, 2013

I’m a firm believer in the idea that art can come from anywhere and be made of anything. And that means that just as an artist can turn everyday materials into art, so they can also choose to materials that have been the stuff of high art for centuries. But, to state the obvious, there’s a bit of a difference between nylon tights stuffed with kapok and bronze. Sarah Lucas has been working with tights for nearly two decades now. Her Bunny sculptures of the late 1990s and the more recent Nuds – often oddly sexual abstract forms – can be both funny and a bit disturbing. Either way, I like them a lot.

Sarah Lucas, Bunny Gets Snookered #10, 1997

Bunny Gets Snookered #10, 1997

So what happens when Nuds meet bronze?

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Way beyond the white cube

Sarah Lucas, Situation, Whitechapel Gallery, 2013

Sarah Lucas, SITUATION: Absolute Beach Man Rubble, Whitechapel Gallery, 2013

When it comes to exhibitions I’m usually all in favour of white space and plenty of it. I want to see the work and I want the installation of the work to be as unobtrusive as possible. If I’m spending time looking at the plinths or the frames or the way things are positioned then that’s less time spent looking at the art. Sometimes though the way the work is shown can become part of the show in a good way. Thinking back, there have been a few shows at the Whitechapel Gallery recently where that’s been the case (indeed, I wrote about two – the Gillian Wearing and Gerard Byrne exhibitions – a while ago for MostlyFilm) so I guess it should have come as no surprise that the Sarah Lucas show there late last year – which I caught just before it closed – was, let’s say, not the most minimal of installations.

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