Archives for posts with tag: Conceptual Art

2nd part of David Cook and I talking about Mark Wallinger’s ID exhibition. Click through to read more…

London Eyeball

On May 1st, Richard Guest & I visited Mark Wallinger’s show  ID  at Hauser & Wirth London W1. Afterwards, we discussed the show by email. The following is the result of several weeks’ electronic toing and froing. Here is Part Two – you can read Part One here.

My accidental version of Shadow Walker in Lisson Grove – the twins in the camo trousers I was surreptitiously trying to photograph cropped off at the head! My accidental version of Shadow Walker in Lisson Grove – the twins in the camo trousers I was surreptitiously trying to photograph cropped off at the head!

David: Ever Since and Shadow Walker left me pretty cold I have to say, but there are a couple of things that make me scratch my head. Shadow Walker is on a screen resting on the floor, leaning against the wall. It was shot on a phone of some sort I think, it is very poor quality footage anyway, and it’s vertical). Ever Since is the reverse – very high quality and projected directly…

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5th January 2016, David Cook and I visited Michael Craig-Martin: Transience at the Serpentine Gallery in London. Afterwards, we discussed the show by email. The following is the result of several weeks’ electronic toing and froing. I’m afraid the exhibition is over. Anyway, here’s part two…

David: Instead of the old Paul Klee adage of ‘going for a walk with a line’, Craig-Martin’s version might be ‘going to the gym with a line’ – what you end up with is very strong but robotic, and yet the paintings and the wall drawings still have the human hand in them. They aspire to the condition of machine-made things – a very Modernist conceit – but they are not. They are fascinatingly three dimensional when you view the paintings from a glancing angle – they reminded me of the Nazca lines in Peru. They are slight vertical disturbances on an otherwise flat surface and they have a circuit like quality – they are not lines that are easily interrupted or changed.

Michael Craig-Martin: Transience, installation view by David Cook

Michael Craig-Martin: Transience, installation view by David Cook

 

Nazca Lines, Peru

Nazca Lines, Peru

When I first saw the show though it was on a very damp rainy day and the humidity in the gallery caused some of the black acrylic tape in the wall drawing (in the last pic) to peel off. A gallery assistant in surgical gloves was reverently smoothing it back. This might have been supposed to remain hidden, this sort of performance aspect, but it was revealing of the human qualities of the line and its scale and how the hand had made it. It caused me also to look much more closely at the lines. The tape is very flexible but it does have trouble with some of the tight corners MCM asks of it, bunching  up and slightly lifting off the surface and there are places where the hand of the gallery assistant did not quite join the supposedly continuous line exactly so that it reminded me of a medieval engraving.

The show’s title is Transience – and some interviews suggest it is just about evolution of electronic product design. This is surely disingenuous. In the interview I read Craig-Martin pretends to be amazed at the obsolescence of the items in his work. He must have been aware of it even though he could’t predict the future, but is his choice of subject matter simply a case of him painting the first things he saw or are other factors in play?

Richard: I don’t think the objects are just the first things he saw – there is no kitsch – everything depicted is in some way functional. And in some way  everyday. These are the objects that surround us in our daily lives. I think it’s also important to MCM that what he paints is contemporary at the time of painting; these are all things that (for MCM) were in the “now”. One of the things I get from looking at these works is a sense that MCM is examining the objects, interrogating them almost – trying to show us the mystery at their heart. Their oddness, their alien nature. The blanker the object, the stronger the effect for me – the credit card being a good example.

Michael Craig-Martin: Transience; Installation view; Serpentine Gallery, 25 November 2015 – 14 February 2016; Photograph © 2015 Jerry Hardman-Jones

Michael Craig-Martin: Transience; Installation view; Serpentine Gallery, 25 November 2015 – 14 February 2016; Photograph © 2015 Jerry Hardman-Jones

David: The credit card is a great example and an inspired choice of subject because our relationship with it is so abstract. Although we handle it, its value is defined by the abstract concept of money. We know how to use it, but it is somehow not of our world. Almost in a religious sense. I don’t think Craig-Martin is suggesting that we should worship money or material things but perhaps he is suggesting we do, and the shift into unnatural colour in his paintings strips away the connection we normally take for granted and we can see the idol of materialism as just so many ephemeral plastic shapes. It is clever to use colour in this way, but I think there is a price to pay – it makes the paintings very hard on the eye!

Yes, the colour is striking. Really like being hit in the face almost. The central room is painted in a vivid Teal (see pic)

Michael Craig-Martin: Transience, installation view by David Cook

Michael Craig-Martin: Transience, installation view by David Cook

a colour Craig-Martin seems to like a lot. The predominant colour scheme is secondary colours and black with few primaries. Where present they will be clashing, as in the red and pink of the credit card. There are one or two moodier olive and maroon combinations that veer toward the tertiary spectrum. But basically he is using the colours of anoraks – orange, teal, cerise – it was like walking round Snow & Rock to be honest. They are commercial colours that have not been big in the history of art, partly because they feel very synthetic. I am pretty sure that orange teal and magenta do not occur together in nature and the flat unmodulated nature of his paintings accentuates this plastic quality.

I was unsure also about extending the colour onto the walls as well as the paintings. Should art end at the edge of the canvas? Or in MCM’s case aluminium mounted on a small frame whose dimensions imitate a canvas? It was intruding on the headspace of the viewer. It was not a setting for the painting- it felt immersive, almost church like and slightly oppressive. In that way it was almost like the Rothko room at the Tate. If you spend long enough in it your eyes will see the complementary colour.  Have your eyes recovered?

To be continued…

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Ashley Lily Scarlett and I have started a new blog together. It’s a conversation in pictures and it’s called Between Scarlett and Guest

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5th January 2016, David Cook and I visited Michael Craig-Martin: Transience at the Serpentine Gallery in London. Afterwards, we discussed the show by email. The following is the result of several weeks’ electronic toing and froing. The exhibition ends today.

David: I was extremely keen to see this show, but my expectations of it were uncertain: I was familiar with Michael Craig-Martin’s work but I had never seen a large body of it together. To some extent I am still ambivalent, but I am glad to have something solid to be ambivalent about. I was very impressed with a wall drawing of a coffee cup that was in the R.A. summer show, but I have also been less impressed by some things he has said and slightly put off by his role as the midwife of Goldsmiths’ YBA talent factory. Did you have any preconceptions about the show?

Richard: Yes, I was really glad you suggested this show, because I didn’t have a fixed idea of Michael Craig-Martin. I knew about his 1973 work , An Oak Tree, and the fact it is acknowledged as an important conceptual work. It’s a glass of water on a wall-mounted glass shelf accompanied by a short text; for more information go here: https://offthewalls.wordpress.com/2009/01/31/an-oak-tree-michael-craig-martin/. Apart from that I had seen a few of his wall drawings, sat in front of him at a showing of a Bruce Nauman clown video at D’Offay’s (he laughed all the way through), and read an interview with him and Damien Hirst at the height of the YBA frenzy. So I came to this show wanting to find out more. At the moment, I feel irritated by the show, which is often a good sign for me…

The first image in the exhibition is Untitled (xbox control), 2014. What do you think it tells us about Michael Craig Martin?

Michael Craig-Martin; Untitled (xbox control), 2014; Acrylic on aluminium; © Michael-Craig Martin; Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery; Photo: Mike Bruce

Michael Craig-Martin; Untitled (xbox control), 2014; Acrylic on aluminium; © Michael-Craig Martin; Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery; Photo: Mike Bruce

David: It is held together by its own contradictions. It is such a considered image, it is almost hard to react to it or to deduce anything about the artist from it. Some artists go to great trouble to try to remove themselves from their art. And yet it is a painting. I don’t know the detail of the process, but it was made by a skilled hand rather than by a machine.

It seems to take the term ‘plastic arts’ very literally: it is an image of a mass market consumer object, a plastic object rendered in a plastic paint. So I could hardly call it conceptual. But his reputation suggests that he is from a place that distrusts objects, especially art objects. This is a post-Warholian, post-Duchampian art object. It distrusts itself in order to sell itself. The more Craig-Martin believes in it, the more one suspects he is undercutting something else. It is the undercutting that he believes in.

The view chosen is full frontal, the object is divorced from its context but still ultimately recognisable. Perspective is absent, it’s like an orthographic or a design view. Centred in frame, depicted on a plain background in flat colour – all that remains is the shapes. All this give is an iconic, devotional quality.

The shapes are very strong – uniquely of our time. Craig-Martin clearly has a great sensitivity to the power of line. He once said dismissively that drawing was ‘a trick with a pencil’. I read this remark out of context and thought it was infuriating but now his work seems to me like drawing in its purest form. Would you agree with that?

Michael Craig-Martin: Transience; Installation view; Serpentine Gallery, 25 November 2015 – 14 February 2016; Photograph © 2015 Jerry Hardman-Jones

Michael Craig-Martin: Transience; Installation view; Serpentine Gallery, 25 November 2015 – 14 February 2016; Photograph © 2015 Jerry Hardman-Jones

Richard: Yes, I would. And drawing is fundamental to every work in the show. The paintings and wall drawings are diagrammatic – each one lays bare the outlines of an object’s most important features – what we see is a pared-down, instantly recognisable outline of an everyday object. They remind me of the first page you see in an instruction manual. They are removed from context in the same way. And I think your iconic statement is spot-on. At first I thought the “objects” were removed from context so that we could more easily contemplate them, but MCM’s use of colour causes interference. These are not straightforward representations, because the colour puts a spin on them. And the lines are not as perfect as they first appear…so are we supposed to infer some kind of message from them?

 To be continued…

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This post is dedicated to George Weaver. She was a wonder. I will miss her.

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Ashley Lily Scarlett and I have started a new blog together. It’s a conversation in pictures and it’s called Between Scarlett and Guest

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Between 1988 and 1990, I produced a series of book works, juxtaposing (mostly) found text and images. Index and Interviews compiles all the text used in those books. Two interviews with prominent scientists (more of which later) conducted for Pant Magazine are also included.  Index and Interviews was published in an edition of 1 in 1990.

Texts were reproduced without their accompanying visuals.

In the bottom right-hand corner of the page on which the text was reproduced, I listed every instance of the text being used in the series. In this instance, the text appeared in the book Blood, Skin, Bone on the listed pages.

Texts were arranged alphabetically and preceeded by a page (like the one above) which listed the found images that had been used in the book works alongside the texts. But not in the order they were used – in alphabetical order.

No Bulbs is the third track on The Fall’s Call for Escape Route EP (1985). You can read all about The Fall at The Fall Online.