ART, DESIGN AND CULTURAL REPORTAGE: NEW YORK — LONDON
1 March 2011

Haunch of Venison is currently showing ‘Translation’, a collection of work by Korean artist Meekyoung Shin. The show features several of Shin’s impressive installations examining the dynamics of subversion between material and cultural form, managing to avoid what can come across as witty attempts at cultural reference that are seen often in post-modern art and design. The first gallery houses her ‘Translation Vases’ (2009), where a collection of Chinese porcelain vases having seemingly been left in the moment of unpacking, some displayed on top of their wooden shipping crates, some still remain well out of sight inside the partially opened boxes. Shin uses this moment of transition to conceptually ground this work; Featuring the dislocation of a ‘cultural known’- in this case cultural object icons- and highlighting the moment of its transition into another world- England via China; Gallery via factory. In working with forms of Chinese porcelain vases, which have been highly collectible in the past centuries, she directs attention to how cultural obsessions have lead to reproduction and subsequently the dislocation of the ‘original’ with its cultural heritage; The British ceramics industry had especially committed itself to imitating such Chinese techniques. Contrary to what the eye can observe of these vases- which are apparently imitation porcelain sans floral arrangement, the nose might pick up on the fragrant quality to the air- and thus one beholds a room that is in fact full of imitations in soap. This added level of material awareness becomes an immediate point of obsession for the viewer- taking our initial reaction and voiding it completely; The same room is now a double vision of the philosophical and tangible, housing both cultural dislocation and enslaved material translation.

Entrance to 'Translation Series' (2009) in the West Galleries, Haunch of Venison, London

'Translation Series' 2009

'Translation Series' 2009

'Translation Series' 2009

'Translation Series' 2009

'Translation Series' 2009

Detail from 'Translation Series' (2009) Soap, Pigment, Varnish

Detail from 'Translation Series' (2009) Soap, Pigment, Varnish

Detail from 'Translation Series' (2009) Soap, Pigment, Varnish

Continuing through a few galleries is a second installation titled ‘Ghost Series’, featuring collections of translucent vases in soap. These forms appear to be very modern and industrially made, but still make reference to original Chinese shapes. In this case they are stripped of their decoration and materiality, allowing us to consider how they exist without such features that were meticulously imitated and treasured.

'Ghost Series' (2010) Blue, Jade, Yellow, Black, Pink, Purple, Clear

'Ghost Series' Clear, 2010

'Ghost Series' Jade, 2010

'Ghost Series' Black, 2010

The show flips forms through the galleries. Adjoining the rooms showing Chinese vase translations are rooms with smaller mythological and religious figurative works which add breadth to Shin’s success in material translation of highly treasured, coveted forms. The Kuros series speaks to the disintegration that ancient statues undergo overtime, themselves having been naturally weathered. ‘Crouching Aphrodite’ and ‘Venus’ are rendered in soap, the slight translucency and gallery lighting creating believable replicas of such classic sculpture.

Seeing Shin’s ‘Toilet Buddha Series’ and ‘Golden Buddha’ reminded me of another Buddha by Chinese artist Zhang Huan, created from the ash of joss sticks pressed into a large aluminium mold. The work used a material relative to the form but subverts the representation. Similarly Shin is using the soap to connect an idea of cleansing with religion, of daily washing as a ceremonial act- both still disintegrating the soap form. Similarly, with Huan’s Buddha in Haunch of Venison’s Berlin establishment, the community of viewers entering the gallery mimicked visitors in a temple, the Buddha crumbling from slight vibrations in the floor; The material in both cases becomes a tool for accessing the metaphysical.

Translation - Greek, 1998 140 x 44 x 30 cm

Detail of Translation- Greek, 1998

Detail of Translation- Greek, 1998

'Crouching Aphrodite', 2002 + Toilet Buddha Series (2010)

Detail of 'Crouching Aphrodite' 2002

Detail of 'Golden Buddha' 2010, Soap, gold leaf, varnish

'Venus' 1998, Soap, pigment, varnish 125 x 73 x 45 cm

Detail of 'Venus' 1998

Kuros Series no. 1, 2, 3 & 4 (2010) Soap, pigment, varnish

Detail of Kuros Series no. 2 (2010)

14 February 2011

The Aram Gallery is currently showing ‘6 Hands’ an exhibition of hand-made work by three London-based designers, Peter Marigold, India Carpenter and Ella Robinson, all working in the fields of furniture and textiles. In the past the gallery has presented a series of exhibitions about prototypes which featured handmade tests of designers, pairing the methods of handmaking with the forms of pre-production prototypes. While that is a common encounter of the hand-making process in the field of design, we are refreshed  here with collections of handmade work presented as finished objects. Curator Ellie Parke walked me through the exhibition to talk about the ideas and process behind these pieces, revealing the wonderfully subtle qualities of handmade accomplishments.
The most notable element of this exhibition is that these designers have chosen to work by hand, which doubles the feature of the show in a way that one can imagine the processes, then consider the results. The three proposals are incredibly different in what they choose to make by hand and how these processes fit into their more typical work routine. We can see that the prompt of hand making something yields conceptual test-work from one to final products of another.

6 Hands Exhibition

India Carpenter: Digital silk screen prints

India Carpenter: Hand-Woven upholstery

India Carpenter: Office chair hand-altered with pony hair back and woven seat design

India Carpenter: Screen in process

India Carpenter: Detail of hand screen printed geometries

India Carpenter: Detail of hand screen printed geometries ( specifically showing how the removal of the clips in the process of printing leaves the waver in the shape profile)

Peter Marigold takes a step away from his furniture for this exhibition, showing a series of objects that are the result of a wood-formed casting concept. In the back corner of the gallery displayed down the length of a narrow plinth and shelves, live three sets of what appear to be objects in stages of growth. Looking more closely one can see that they are made of press-molded clay and are the result of a reductive process. Each shows a step of the depleted interior of the wooden log molds. Initially Marigold cut the log into four quadrants, then began carving out the interior. Once a portion was carved away, he would press mold terracotta clay into each quadrant of the log, then tie it back together, casting the negative interior shape of the cavity. After pulling out the cast, he would carve away more, repeating this process until he had reached the limitations of the interior wall of the log.
This resulted in a fascinating set of progressive forms that exhibit both grain marks from the natural material and seam-line/casting marks from the process. These objects conclude as works that are neither functional or intentionally decorative, but use the idea of hand-making as an exploratory process, more relative to creating process-driven structures in design.

Adversely India Carpenter uses the handmade process in her final designs. This work was by far the most graphic and eye-catching with large, boldly colored, geometric block prints. A floating wall displayed four silk squares with geometric patterns which were digitally printed, one of her methods of working. These contrasted a larger double screen, and broken up installation of a screen construction in process. The set of unfinished hanging panels immediately reminded me of Matisse’s cut-out shapes from his later years; Their profiles were an extremely delicate contrast to the entirety of the geometric form. These wavers in the line-work which are shown in some of the detail photos, are a stunning result of her hand-printing. In pinning the silk for printing, the bands of the fabric are being stretched before they are printed on. When the clips are removed to release the print the line is distorted, no longer straight as it would have appeared to be when being printed.  The attempt of precise geometries in combination with the hand-making process is what brings complexity and a slight animation to these pieces, which are made for larger architectural room divisions.

Ella Robinson’s work is a complete contrast, in a way the least subtle and the most decorative. Her work involves the process of hand-wrapping around pieces of driftwood from her native Brighton, resulting in multitudes of individual wrapped forms. These initially set a tribal tone, a series of small celebrations, drawing us very close to them. The simple use of material is made contemporary with colored fibers, rayon thread, stranded cotton and plastic tubing. Unlike the other work in the show these objects are conclusively decorative and are the least producible outside of the handmade realm.

India Carpenter: Double-printed standing panel. Hand-screen marks are left as evidence of the process

Peter Marigold: Dug and Stuff

Peter Marigold: Dug and Stuff

Peter Marigold: Dug and Stuff

Peter Marigold: Dug and Stuff, wooden log mold

Peter Marigold: Detail of terracotta cast surface

Ella Robinson: Experiments

Ella Robinson: Experiments detail

Ella Robinson: Experiments detail

Ella Robinson: Simple shapes

Ella Robinson: Simple shapes detail

Ella Robinson: Simple shapes detail

Ella Robinson: Experiments detail

Ella Robinson: Experiments detail


6 Hands continues through 19th February 2011 at the Aram Gallery, 110 Drury Lane (near Aldwych) Covent Garden, London,WC2B 5SG.
Many thanks to Ellie Parke for the tour of the exhibition.

Triple the love at Matthew Marks Gallery

by Melissa Gamwell

10 January 2010

Peter Fischli & David Weiss are basically my favorites from the realm of celebrity artists, and Matthew Marks currently has given them the attention of all three of his Chelsea galleries. This show is almost over! It ends on the 16th and I strongly recommend a visit.

The show is in three parts, the first (in the order that I visited them) is Clay and Rubber at 523 W24th. This show included 26 objects that span the past three decades of the duo’s rubber casting and hand-built clay works. I have seen some of these pieces at their Tate Modern retrospective, but the lot is an amazing spectrum of elemental beauty in objects. The clay pieces are primarily models of machined, recto-linear objects. Marks of the artists hands are proximally apparent, subtly highlighting the surface and distinguishing their over-sized forms from a real smooth-cast brick, sono-tube or chain-link. The rubber objects contrast as casts of natural or highly detailed forms, and the material is often hidden by the original detail of the pieces. Both of the materials engage the viewer and the object, negating the importance of purpose and true material, allowing the pure form of everyday objects to be considered. The gallery was also perfect, in that it didn’t overwhelm the objects with massive space, but was large enough to investigate the pieces with/out the context of the others.

Matthew Marks Gallery@ 523 West 24th

Wood Table, 2005, Black Rubber, 157 x 96 x 45cm

Raven, 1986, Black Rubber, 28 x 41 x 14cm

Chain, 2009, Reinforced clay, 14 x 107 x 14cm

Little Wall, 1987, Black Rubber, 77 x 34 x 41cm

Root, 2005, Black Rubber, 60 80 x 60cm

Stairs, 1987, Black Rubber, 36 x 87 x 53cm

Drawer, 1987, Black Rubber, 14 x 51 x 43cm

Down the street at 522 West 22nd is Sun, Moon and Stars, an exhibition of a book that F&W started as a project for an annual report. The book is pretty daunting to flip through, but here I spent quite a bit of time re-examining the flats which I thought were more successful than the original format in conveying the visual and topical similarities. Below is quoted from the MM press release:

Sun, Moon and Stars is an encyclopedic accumulation of 800 magazine advertisements culled form hundreds of international periodicals. Begun as a project commissioned by a Swiss corporation for its annual report, the finished project is displayed in thirty-eight wood and glass tables, totaling 330 feet in length. A dizzying reaction to late capitalism in various chromatic groupings, the ads are shown in a specific order that exploits the formal, thematic and color similarities between advertisements.”

Matthew Marks Gallery@ 522 West 22nd

Case Detail

Case Detail

Case Detail

Case Detail

Gallery Detail

Resting next door at 526 West 22nd, are the deflated avatars of Fischli & Weiss, titled Sleeping Puppets. Rat and Bear were first shown in the film The Least Resistance, 1981, and The Right Way, 1983 ( translated dialogue quoted below) Click on the links to watch the films.

“BEAR: Do you see the moon? Look at it carefully.

RAT: I need more stones. We have hardly begun.

BEAR: I’ve been watching it. It’s like me.

It comes and goes.

Always on the move…looks at everything.

It does what it pleases.

RAT: So you want to leave.

BEAR: What am I suppose to do? Are you staying here?

RAT: Now all it needs is a roof

BEAR: Good. I’ll come with you.

RAT: I’ll leave the stones here..

BEAR: …but I’m taking the dream with me

Into the unknown.”

Bye Bye! Matthew Marks Gallery @ 526 West 22nd

Peter Fischli & David Weiss

Matthew Marks Gallery

October 30, 2009- January 16, 2010