Christian Marclay: Onomatopoea at White Cube Bermondsey

Christian Marclay

I found myself at the White Cube gallery a few weekends ago. I'm guilty of not seeing enough contemporary art as it's not my favourite kind of art even though I make art myself. Why? Maybe because I imagine I'll have to trawl through a lot of pretty bad stuff before getting to the good stuff. I have a notion that there's probably much contemporary art in circulation that will not stand the test of time. For me, historical pieces are a better bet if you want quality. I tend to have similar attitudes to reading.

We went primarily to see a performance by Mica Levi, who wrote the soundtrack for Jonathan Glazer's film 'Under the Skin' and has won awards for her music. It's a quirky film we watched at the end of last year and now I'm reading the book too, not my sort of thing normally, as I've already said, but it is strangely compelling.

We arrived at the gallery in full knowledge it would be busy but sadly for me it was far too crowded. I never expect to see much at standing musical events, as I'm quite petite (sounds good). Usually though, I can get a peep through the crowd, but in this instance nothing whatsoever was to be seen. Yes, I know it's all about the sound but it would have been good to see the instruments if nothing else. Maybe I'm just not getting it but I think the performers could easily have been raised above ground level on a really quite basic stage. Or am I being just too sensible?

Luckily the music was very good though and didn't go on too long, which can be a problem when you're not comfortable. We've been at seated events before where the chairs were so punishing that we've left in the half time break; ridiculous I know but true. Here's an example of her work...

There are weekend performances taking place which are new pieces and will be recorded and pressed on to vinyl by a huge manufacturing press machine in situ, which is part of the exhibition.

My partner really likes Marclay's work and saw his acclaimed show, Crossfire, at the old White Cube in 2007.

After the music we looked at a selection of Marclay's canvases. Connected by their general theme of sound, different colour themed canvases reveal gestural and expressionistic backgrounds, overlaid with onomatopoeic words which you may associate with comic books but in this case describing what's happening with the paint, words like splat, blob or whoomph...


These are big, fun and a little irreverent but quite refreshing. I got the feeling that these weren't really his forte and I think I was proved right when we went into the next room. Getting there via a walkway of video projections describing the detritus left behind in the streets after a good night out. The sound and sight of empty bottles rolling along the ground is how I remember it. As you walk through you're treated to your own shadow too.

To finish we found ourselves in a large dark space in a room called Surround Sounds. Now this is a bit of a trip and probably not a good idea for people suffering from epilepsy. It's very noisy and completely silent in there at the same time. What do I mean? Well, it's a four wall video installation of dancing onomatopoeic, animated words and descriptive sound effects taken from characters in Superhero stories. However, the room is completely silent. Words are choreographed to seemingly dance to their own description. It's a very colourful and rhythmic experience too and once you settle in it is very hard to get up and go out because it is, surprisingly, very pleasant in there, once you give yourself over to it.

This exhibition is free and on until April 12th with different musical performances each weekend...Enjoy!

Enrico Prampolini: Interview with Matter 1930

It's hard to define what it is about certain works of art that makes them so very desirable. On this page I want to make a list of some of my all time favourite pieces and the reasons why they work for me.

What do I love about this work of art?

1.  Texture
2.  Juxtaposition of reflective and matt surfaces
3.  Subtle colouration
4.  Metallic surfaces
5.  Amorphous shapes and patterns
6.  Balance and placement
7.  Totally abstract qualities
8.  Unexpected materials
9.  Superb title
10. The jewel like sumptuousness

Oil, enamel, cork, galactite and sponge on wood.
98 x 78.5 cm

to be continued...

Grayson Perry: Playing to the Gallery (Particular Books)

I received this book as a gift from Robin on Valentines Day. I don't know if it was supposed to be a Valentine gift, if so it's not a very romantic one, but hey, I don't care because I'm really enjoying reading it. 

I posted about Grayson some time ago in relation to the Radio 4 Reith Lectures he gave in 2013 and you can watch the first one on here if you wish under my lectures tab. Grayson is a very good communicator, which comes across with the lectures and also with this book. He manages to convey complex ideas and observations about the state of contemporary art but in chatty and easy to comprehend style and that's not an easy task. Lots of great illustrations add humour but also help to drive home his points, such as this one below... 

Dealing with similar topics that were raised in the lecture, this book raises questions about what constitutes 'art' in our day and age. I'll miss it when I finish it, which will be very soon.

Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915 - 2015 Whitechapel Gallery

Why is it that art galleries make my feet ache so much? Is it because I'm not content to go around once? Probably. I usually go 'round for seconds and choose some pieces that stand out for me so I can put them on here. I'm sure this doesn't help my poor feet though.

Throbbing Plates Of Meat

So now that I and they have recovered, here's a bit of blurb about the exhibition that's currently on at the Whitechapel Gallery in London.

This exhibition aims to show how geometric abstraction has blossomed around the world and not just out of the hubs of Russia, Europe and North America.

It starts with Kazimir Malevich's Black Quadrilateral, a very small piece of work considering how large an impact it continues to have; something to ponder considering how ridiculously large some works of art have become.

Black Quadrilateral  1915

This is a work that really must be viewed directly as it looses all it's power when seen like this. When standing in front of this piece it draws you into its soft blackness, a bit like when you close your eyes. It could be interpreted as a negative void but I would consider it a contemplative space, devoid of all artistic clutter. It doesn't seem challenging in any way, reflective maybe. As you look you may learn something about yourself, or maybe you will learn something about what art doesn't have to be? This is a painting that can mean many things or nothing.

So that's a good start, now what?  A piece by Sophie Taeuber-Arp, that's what!

Untitled (Composition with Squares, Circle, Rectangles, Triangles) 1918

I was immediately drawn to this wool needlepoint piece because of the depth of colour and texture, like a bee is drawn to a flower. Again, this piece benefits by seeing it direct as all the beautiful texture is lost here and to a degree the colour, which is incredibly rich and intense when seen 'in the flesh'. Sophie's choice of needlepoint shows how abstraction could be incorporated into everyday design items, domestic interiors or civic spaces. This design could make a beautiful rug, cushion or wall hanging and as such is very versatile.

Aside from the painting, sculpture and installation pieces there's quite a lot to see in the form of periodicals and magazine covers, some of which we found most desirable. Magazines became a powerful communication vehicle for artists, a vehicle for conversing in the exciting language of abstraction.

In the room upstairs we were taken with a particular piece by Clay Ketter, a contemporary Swedish-based American artist who spent time on building projects where he developed an eye for this kind of thing...

Clay Ketter (Building on Other Planets 2009)

This is not the piece that's in the show, that piece I think is a better work of art but the above demonstrates the patterns and textures that could be revealed when one rips down a wall. When first discovering these patterns, he was obviously taken with the accidental symmetry, texture and colour. In his work he uses tiles, house paint, concrete and drywall to make assemblages that mimic surfaces we may occasionally see in daily life. Often fissured and crumbling, his work is very textural, which is one of the things that links these three pieces for me. I hope it demonstrates that abstract work that is geometric does not have to be interpreted as cold and distant. All these pieces have a kind of textural warmth to me and are either contemplative, inclusive and basically quite rustic.

This exhibition is on until the 6th April if you wish to go and give your feet a bit of a pounding.

Lissitzky, Stepanova...and me

Most days when I cycle to my part-time job I find myself wondering what I would like to discuss on here and often I what was I thinking about? Oh yes, I posted a piece of my work called 'Does It Swing?' on here and Facebook recently and one of my friends enthusiastically (which is very nice) commented on it and whilst doing so mentioned two artists; El Lissitzky and  Varvara Stepanova.

I was very happy to have my work mentioned in relation to these two giants of Russian Art History and with renewed interest in them I thought I would use this as an excuse to share some of their work.

Here is El Lissitzky (a Suprematist, who was a strong influence on the Bauhaus and Constructivist movements). I chose this photograph of him because I like the strong diagonal emphasis, overhead view and sharp contrast.

Below is an example of his work. (If you like this you can see similar examples of his work at the Whitechapel Art Galley with their new exhibition called Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915-2015).

Neuer (New Man) 1923

It was this piece of work that my friend mentioned, a highly refined piece which I absolutely love.

Here's the other artist, Varvara Stepanova (Constructivist), with a fag on and drawing circles with her compass, which I find mildly amusing, but it would be difficult for me to explain why. What a great photogaraph!

And here's an example of her work. I chose this piece because of the way the figure is leaning to the left, which my figure is also doing. In my selection process I thought this was the closest to my image although this is probably painted whilst mine is painted and collaged. This has a less refined finish than Lissitzky's work but is no less brilliant for it.

Figure no. 29

And below is my piece that my friend was referring to. I should say here that I didn't look at either artist's work before making this, or try to work in their style. However, I am a big fan of both the Suprematism and Constructivism movements with which the artists' above were affiliated, and so I was extremely pleased. It's great to have people take their time to look and engage with your work, but I also understand that some people feel uncomfortable commenting on art unless they're well versed in it.

I would also like to add that this is the only way my work would ever be seen next to theirs...on my own blog, ha ha!

Does It Swing?
Vintage text and Gouache on A3 Paper
Jane Pearrett 2015