What made me start thinking about Ceal Floyer’s work was the idea of emptiness and of the work making the whiteness of the space. And in that respect the work that came to mind was from an exhibition I saw at the Lisson Gallery rather longer ago that I first thought. It seems on the whole improbable that it’s three and a half years since I saw Facsimile – though the evidence is unambiguous – given that it remains very clear in my head. The projection – almost completely white – fills the wall. It takes a while to get the significance the slight trace of movement that constitutes the image: the video is of a fax machine; the paper being passed through it seemingly blank. If the fax is sending rather than receiving a message, there could of course be all manner of important information on the other side of the page but there is no visible trace so it reads as a transmission of emptiness. In the days when fax machines were commonplace – and I don’t know about you but it must be years since I’d sent a fax even in 2010 when Floyer made the work – it seems entirely possible that I regularly got confused about which way up to put the paper and send page after page of nothingness to confused (non) recipients but the deliberate whiteness of Floyer’s Facsimile is intriguing. I find myself enjoying the emptiness rather than wondering what message I might be missing.
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.
Martin Creed, Work No. 88, A sheet of A4 paper crumpled into a ball, 1995
There’s something about a blank page. There’s a sense of possibility, of course: this could be where it all goes right – this page could soon be home to the perfect drawing or piece of text – but there’s also a sense of anxiety, after all what can go very right can also go very wrong. We’ve probably all been there, stuck in the cycle that sees each new page end up in the bin. You write. You read. You screw up the page and start again. If the blank page carries a sense of possibility I guess the scrunched up ball of paper carries the sense of exasperation.
In the case of Martin Creed’s Work No. 88, A sheet of A4 paper crumpled into a ball the connotation of disappointment at things not going according to plan is there to an extent but the tight roundness of the resulting ball is too close to perfect to be the result of anything other than a more careful, considered crumpling up of the page.
Regular readers will know that when it comes to art, I do like white things. Maybe it’s the visual simplicity. Maybe it’s that I’ve made quite a lot of white things myself. Maybe it’s the enjoyment of trying to figure out what’s going on in the work when there’s so little to actually look at in terms of colour and form. Who knows? Whatever the reason, I often do find myself prepared to put in the time to look again if at first the work seems empty.
It’s unsurprising then that when I visited Jack Brindley’s show Sweat at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery it wasn’t the more colourful works that really held my attention, it was the sheets of (sort of) plain white paper.
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.
Robert Rauschenberg, White Painting (Three Panel), 1951
After yesterday’s pile of shit, today is perhaps a day for a bit of breathing space: art with nothing to look at. It stands to reason: if there’s nothing to see, there’s nothing to get squeamish about.