Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Find me on WordPress

Dear readers,
I have now migrated to WordPress. Please find me at this link and read my latest blog on the earth-shattering exhibition of Japanese video artist Tabaimo at Parasol Unit.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Trinity Buoy Wharf and life ever-lasting

What is it with artists creating digital works that have a long life-span? Recently I saw John Gerrard's 'Oil Stick Work' at Canary Wharf that will go on for 30 years and now on my visit to Trinity Buoy Wharf (above) I see that Jem Finer's 'Longplayer' is a sound installation that will reach completion in 2999. Is this a ploy by artists to get lots of exhibitions? Is it a case of digital art gone mad - just because we have the computer technology to create digital works that play continuously without repetition should we use it? These are the questions we should be asking.

In Finer's case, as in the case of John Gerrard, there is reason behind this madness. 'Longplayer', which is the melodic sound of Tibetan singing bowls played in the lighthouse here, is a thousand-year composition that reflects the number of times the earth has spun around the sun – a mind-blowing idea. It's intended as a travelling exhibition, which does provide an interesting aspect to the concept of a gradually evolving work because not everyone will hear the same thing – and that's what art is about, subjectivity. 

On the other side of the coin, destruction in art has always been a popular pastime - take Cai Guo Qiang's gunpowder works that explode and disappear in a cloud of smoke – but now the fashion is longevity, in digital art anyway. It seems artists as philosophers will always be obsessed by time and death.  

Parliament Hill Fields' Art Deco Lido is one of my favourite places to go to swim, sunbathe and picnic. On a recent visit, after taking a dip in the freezing cold water that looks so sparkly and inviting, I noticed Ruth Corney's fantastic photos of the many characters that visit the pool. The Lido is excellent for brazenly people watching and Corney's shots capture not only the many individuals of all ages that come but also the strange behavioural instinct that comes over Londoners when entering the Grade II listed arena - friendliness.   

Monday, 17 May 2010

I'm looking forward to seeing the new addition to Trafalgar Square's Fourth Plinth: 'Nelson's Ship in a Bottle' by artist Yinka Shonibare. It will be launched on Monday 24 May.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

John Gerrard's tunnel vision

Art on the Underground is one of London transport's greatest assets, bringing fun and culture to our daily journeys. Its latest commission to be unveiled is an installation by Irish artist John Gerrard in Canary Wharf station. 

As the suits descend the escalators in the futuristic, grey interior of the ticket hall they now face a different view – Gerrard's huge digital moving image of a landscape depicting a grain store in America. It's called 'Oil Stick Work (Angelo Martinez/Richfield, Kansas)’ and will be exhibited here for one year until 14 May 2011. Angelo Martinez is the small figure who is painting the barn black. The scene runs 24 hours a day, the light altering according to the time, and it turns showing different angles of the building.  

Gerrard is the only artist working in this hi-tech medium of realtime 3D and this work is designed to gradually build up digitally over 30 years – it began in 2008 and ends in 2038. 

I met the artist yesterday to discuss the purpose of public art. "All good art is public art in that it’s not selfish," says Gerrard. "It speaks to society in a real, meaningful sense. In this context the term is very appropriate because 45 million people use this station daily. It’s an ideal setting."

'Oil Stick Work' has an environmental message - like many of Gerrard's other works, it comments on depleting oil supplies. The site used to be one of the biggest oil producing regions of America and the work is due to reach completion on the day that American oil supplies are predicted to run dry. It's also in the artist's words, "a dreamscape", "an anti memorial", "an exit into another world", "a mirror to a computer-powered world". My favourite description of Gerrard's is, "It feels like a postcard inserted into this end of the station."

But the real significance of 'Oil Stick Work' is that it's constantly unfolding underneath the City, which was built on things such as oil and grain wealth. And, as well as the moral message, its minimalism suits the space, giving commuters a five-second glimpse of a work with many layers of meaning.  

Sunday, 2 May 2010

The Jannis Kounellis litmus test

I like to play a game when I go to exhibitions – to try and guess what the artist is on about by simply looking at the art. This is the test of ‘good’, ‘successful’ art according to some critics, so I thought I’d try out the theory during my first visit to a Jannis Kounellis show at Ambika P3 gallery in Marylebone (on until 30 May). 

Looking round, I jotted down some notes: ‘reminds me of a past time’, ‘fits with the industrial-looking space’. The main installation (above) is like a coal train and standing next to it you can feel its gravity. The black fabric stretched across it looks like the curtains you get in the theatre. In the adjoining space, smart black coats hang in a sort of locker room – entering it there's a sense of isolation and it reminds me of London's banking culture. I especially liked the silk negligee strung up by a metal hook and wire – perhaps a feminist comment? But, what does all this mean? I'm still thinking about it – a sign of a good exhibition.

Upon reading the literature afterwards about Kounellis, a Greek artist living in Rome and a proponent of the Arte Povera movement (which is, in part, to do with using "found", recycled materials), I found that many of my observations were correct. He chooses the locations for his work carefully, having shown in warehouses, churches and castles before, he likes to integrate theatre into his work and the smaller pieces here symbolise human presence and man's existential difficulties. 

Kounellis, you've passed the test. I didn't need to read all your brochures to get some understanding of your work.  

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Some/Things magazine party

I went to the party to celebrate the first and second issues of Some/Things magazine on 8th April – lured by the fact that Jarvis Cocker was DJing – and found myself in an artists' studio space surrounded by models with black lipstick and their hair in top knots and men wearing top hats. That’s the sort of East London party it was but I also gained an insight into a print publication daring to do things differently. 

Some/Things is a Paris-based bi-annual arts book, produced in limited editions with strong photography and no adverts – issue one (above) includes photographs and text by one of my favourite Magnum photographers who I once saw give a talk, Antoine d’Agata; issue two, fiendishly entitled ‘The Black Book’, features a behind-the-scenes shoot with Gareth Pugh (pictured). 

The hefty issues of Some/Things are made from quality paper stock and are hand bound in Lithuania, where editor in chief Monika Bielskyte is from. She says that print must offer something extra if it’s going to compete against digital media: “With the digital media evolution one has to completely reconsider making a paper publication today. Some/Things tries to offer readers something that is associated more with books and deluxe artist publications than with magazines." 

Bielskyte works with a team of 10 staff including her partner James Cheng Tan, associate editor Raina Lampkins-Fielder, fashion editor Carlo Zollo and stylist Ellen Af Geijerstam. Interestingly, the colour palettes change each issue. “Every issue has a sub-title that encapsulates the emotional, conceptual and aesthetic universe we want to explore. The two issues we've published are both anchored in quite austere and minimal aesthetics graphically and colour-wise – black and white imagery is predominant. However, the issue we are working on now, 'Farewell my concubine', is going to be very different in intense colours of flesh red, blood black, deep indigo and visceral greens,” says Bielskyte.  

Some/Things is not sold on the newsstand but at select boutiques and galleries in 18 countries.