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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Toilet humour

Sarah Lucas, Cnut, 2004

Sarah Lucas, Cnut, 2004

I guess the leap from thinking about a woman artist making a sculpture of a cock to Sarah Lucas’s work is a distinctly literal one, but as I saw Lucas’s exhibition at the Whitechapel shortly before it ended last month, her work’s been on my mind.

There is of course a long history of toilets in the gallery space but it’s a form few have used with such determined consistency as Sarah Lucas. And while Duchamp’s Fountain – like the works that reference it very directly, such as Sherrie Levine’s Fountain (Buddha) – seems somehow more about the form than the function of the artefact and Claes Oldenberg’s Soft Toilet can be enjoyed for the strange disjunction between the form and materials used in the work and the function of the object on which it is based, Lucas’s toilet works are often grubby and unpleasant to look at.

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Blue humour

Katharina Fritsch, Hahn/Cock, 2013

Katharina Fritsch, Hahn/Cock, 2013

Not before time, thinking about Marc Quinn’s Alison Lapper Pregnant brings me back to London and to the oversized cock that is Katharina Fritsch’s work for the fourth plinth: Cock (or Hahn/Cock to give it its full German and English title). Of all the works yet to grace the plinth, and there have been some great ones, some less great ones and one that seemed to make it rain all summer*, I think Hahn/Cock is probably the one that has amused me the most. In the damp greyness of this less than satisfactory winter, it stands proud on the plinth ready to make people chuckle.

It’s big. It’s blue. It’s a cock. What’s not to smile at?

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Pregnant pauses

Marc Quinn, Breath, Venice, 2013

Marc Quin, Breath, 2012 (Isola de San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice)

My summer trip to Venice – being a holiday and all – included some things that simply weren’t part of the biennale at all. I’m no longer entirely sure why one of those things was visiting the Marc Quinn exhibition at Fondazione Giorgio Cini. I’ve liked some of Quinn’s work well enough in the past and I guess I was curious. Plus, the exhibition announced itself in that one of the works on show outside the Fondazione Giorgio Cini building was an 11m tall sculpture. Or, more accurately, an 11m tall inflatable version of an earlier Quinn sculpture. This time in a not at all fetching shade of pink.

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An explosion of seating – nowhere to sit

Ai Weiwei, Bang, 2013 (installation in the German Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale)

Ai Weiwei, Bang, 2013 (installation in the German Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale)

The first thing that confused me about the German Pavilion at last year’s Venice Biennale was that it was in France. Well, not France the actual country, but in France’s pavilion: the two countries swapped buildings for the 55th Venice Biennale as a cultural exchange. Walking into the building the first work on show – in a large central space that generally dictates the tone of anything shown there – was Bang, an installation made of an exploding forest of wooden three-legged stools by the not even a bit German artist (and subject of my last couple of posts) Ai Weiwei. What did it all mean?

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A moveable feast

Joana Vasconcelos, Trafaria Praia, 2013

Joana Vasconcelos, Trafaria Praia, 2013

Given that this is the season on sparkly lights, it seems timely to remind myself about Joana Vasconcelos’s Trafaria Praia, the Pavilion of Portugal at the 2013 Venice Biennale. Part art installation, part ferry, this was an unusual space even for Venice. Vasconcelos transformed a Lisbon ferry into an installation that made regular tours of the lagoon. The boat was moored close to the exit of the Giardini – one of the two main Biennale sites and home to many national pavilions – but those who timed their visits right could take a short trip around the lagoon on the Trafaria Praia.

Given more time, I suspect I’d have enjoyed the trip well enough but the pressure of trying to see everything I want to at biennale is such that time based works are inevitably tricky and this is a city where being on land is the novelty so my visit to Trafaria Praia was restricted to visiting the boat at its mooring point. Until I boarded the boat I’d kind of forgotten about the excess of Vasconcelos’s work but, even if it’d been really fresh in my mind, nothing of hers I’ve seen before would have quite prepared me for this.

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Starting over

John Pawson, Perspectives, 2011

John Pawson, Perspectives, 2011 (installed in San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, 2013)

So, having lost my blogging mojo in 2013, it’s clearly time for a bit of a fresh start and a resolution to get back to writing random stuff about art on a vaguely regular basis in 2014.*  It seems appropriate to start with a bit of a catch-up on things I’ve seen or been preoccupied by recently but not rambled on about. In some ways I quite like getting a bit of distance on stuff before posting so expect a preponderance of posts about the things that have stuck in my mind most clearly from 2013.

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Visualising an idea: Fischli/Weiss’s Rock on Top of Another Rock

Fischli/Weiss, Rock on Top pf Another Rock, 2010, NorwayFischli/Weiss, Rock on Top of Another Rock, 2010

By the side of a tourist route in Norway a large rock sits improbably on top of another rock. Were one to drive past and fleetingly glimpse this rock pairing, it would be possible to catch sight of them and wonder idly whether this was a balancing act made by man or nature. Are the rocks there to mark the way? Are the the site of some ancient ritual? Are they like that following a landslide? If one weren’t looking out for them, contemporary art probably wouldn’t be one’s first thought. In fact though, this curious arrangement – the momunmental equivalent of countless pictures on Flickr – is Rock on Top of Another Rock by the Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss. Londoners might know a newer incarnation of the work which currently occupies a site in Kensington Gardens just outside the Serpentine Galley (of which, more later I rather suspect).

What interests me here isn’t the work – though that does fascinate me and it’s a work I’d really love to see – it’s the process of proposing such a sculpture. Just as Michael Landy drew out his idea for Break Down – the subject of a previous post – so, according to Peter Fischli, who spoke about the work and the process of its commissioning at the V&A earlier in the year, Fischli/Weiss used an image as a core element of their proposal. Unlike Landy though, they didn’t make a drawing. Instead, they found an image on the internet. The nature of the image may come as a bit of a surprise…

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Looking back

Tate St Ives Summer 2013

Linder, Joining Valley, 2013

There’s a lot to enjoy in the summer exhibition at Tate St Ives, some of which I’ll quite likely write about later, but the work that really made me smile was one of Linder’s collages. I was already enjoying looking at this work and at the way the series of small collages shared a space with sculptures by Barbara Hepworth, but my enjoyment of Joining Valley wasn’t really about the work at all. It was one of those moments when something you haven’t thought about in years is suddenly brought back to mind by a chance encounter with an image on a gallery wall.

For me, Joining Valley is all about the kettle.

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Comfy chair

Sarah Lucas, Mumum, 2012

Sarah Lucas, Mumum, 2012

I’ve always rather loved those 1960s’ bubble chairs. They manage to look simultaneously comfy, oddly cool and kind of scary. Okay, maybe I’m just easily alarmed, but I have a suspicion that if I ever managed to get into such a chair I’d only get back out by some sort of falling. Getting in or out would at very least result in a degree of ungainliness, I’m sure of that. The comfy part is all about the way the chair envelops its occupant, of course.

So what could make such a chair both more comfy – maybe, I’m not completely convinced on that one – and more scary? Why coating it, inside and out, with what appear to be breasts made out of old tights, of course.

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