Thursday, 10 December 2009

Into The Void

Sam Smith, Into the Void. Image TROVE

Into the Void
TROVE: Sunday 4th October 2009 6-9pm

In his first UK show, Sydney based artist Sam Smith is exhibiting his latest work Into The Void for its northern hemisphere premier. Having exhibited extensively throughout Australia as well as Japan, China, Thailand, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Spain and New Zealand, Smith’s work utilises the mechanics of cinematic production and special effects technologies to create parallel universes in which the ‘rational behaviour of matter is displaced by a realm of digital possibility.’

Installation view. Image TROVE

This exhibition is a culmination of great second cities. Smith, from Australia’s second city, has chosen Birmingham, England’s, to exhibit his new work, Into The Void (2009), a work that combines montage, multiple exposure and digital compositing to build a tangent narrative. Smith searches New York, America’s second city, for works of international Klein blue and a location that mirrors the site for Yves Klein’s Le Saut dans le Vide (The Leap into the Void, 1960). The artist’s journey culminates in a time- based recreation of Klein’s famous jump.

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Frieze 2009... who are they kidding..

Frieze Art Fair
Regents Park, London: October 15th- 18th, 2009

It would seem that I do not learn from my mistakes. Having been disappointed by the quality of last year’s Frieze Art Fair in London’s Regent’s Park, you would think that I would have the common sense not to return for a second helping the very next year. However, forever the artistic optimist, I hoped fervently that 2009 would be different, dare I say, better.

The day commenced positively enough with work by Axel Hutte, whose evocative photographs of natural landscapes sold exceptionally well at Basel and appeared to be just as successful here, Walead Beshty’s comical and clever Fedex installation pieces and Simon Evans ingenious Doubt Manifesto.

Axel Hutte

Then I stumbled across a pair of dirty and (had I leaned closer) no doubt smelly old socks on the floor and I realised I’d spoke too soon. Once again the art world appears to be taking the piss. I mean- seriously- what are we to glean from this? That laundry day has the prospective of becoming an installation artwork? Die- hard champions of the arts will protest that it’s ‘conceptual’ and you have to ‘look beyond what is simply there’- sorry but what’s there is a pair of dirty old socks- the concept being a lazy artist.

Walead Beshty

There appeared to be two distinct trends this year at Frieze- an abundance of photography and the use of old fashioned video projectors. Indeed, you could not turn a corner without hearing the buzz of a projector and it had the odd effect of creating a sense of nostalgia. While I enjoyed this display of original technology, after several hours circling the fair, the saturation became slightly tiresome.

Simon Evans

It never ceases to amaze me what artists, and indeed galleries, believe they can promote and attempt to sell as ‘art’. Yes, yes, we all know that art has no boundaries and is entirely subjective and open to individual interpretation- blah, blah, blah- I’ve done the degree, I’ve read the text books- I know all that. But five bricks piled in the centre of a stall- that’s it- nothing else around it- no other work in the space- what are we expected to think? Indeed, is this the point? By disrupting expectations of what art is are they effectively disrupting what it is we think we are expected to think? And let’s face it, as I left Frieze that day it was predominantly those works which I found to be ridiculous that occupied my thoughts and, as you can see, the majority of this piece.

While we may better appreciate and respect those works that we like, these are evidently not the works that challenge us. More often than not it is the work that you dislike the most, that you simply cannot get your head around, that is the most challenging and one could argue, the most successful as a piece of art. So while I left somewhat disappointed and, as a curator friend of mine professed, underwhelmed by the whole experience, I will no doubt be there again next year, primed to criticize and scorn. Clearly I do not learn from my mistakes- but perhaps that’s just as well.

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Margaret Street Grad Show 2009

Margaret Street Graduation Exhibition
Margaret Street: September 4th, 2009

Boasting a ‘diversity of practice’ and a ‘richness of work’ the Birmingham School of Art 2009 MA show had a lot to live up to. With 32 exhibiting students across 6 disciplines there was a general anticipation and probability of great things. Through the work of David Hurley, Michael Perrins, Valerie Howson and Tim Robottom this expectation was realised as their work embodied the skill and standard one comes to expect from an MA show.

David Hurley’s installation, found on the ground floor, explores the repetitiveness and numbing qualities of technology. Slightly haunting and eerie in nature, bodies inhabit the space with their heads replaced by televisions, projectors and record players. Creepiest of all is perhaps the baby in the crib, a miniature television screen as its head. As you step over the body strewn on the floor and gaze down into the static that is its face, the warning given to small children by their parent’s springs to mind- ‘If you sit any closer you’ll be in it’. Hurley’s work truly gives substance to these words.

David Hurley. Image Charlie Levine

Curatorily, the work of Michael Perrin is brilliant. A single light bulb hangs from the ceiling and is surrounded by photographs which are suspended. The subtle lighting reflects the subtle disintegration of the images as you walk around the work, highlighting themes of loss, memory and the slow dissolution of the past. There is an overwhelming sense of melancholy in Perrin’s work which encourages introverted reflection, however it could be argued that this is more as a result of the way in which the images are displayed than the actual images themselves.

Michael Perrin. Image Charlie Levine

Similarly, Valerie Howson’s work reflects on the photographic process as she produces images from a self made cardboard pin hole camera. Inspired by black and white film, Howson’s images challenge our perception and it is the defects and instability of the images that make them exceptional. Displayed in a makeshift archival research office, this is yet another example of how insightful curatorial practices have the capacity to enhance a work of art.

Tim Robottom’s practice, all at once comical and clever, never ceases to deliver. His large chess board with animals as chess pieces dominates the corner of one of the studio rooms. On one wall, almost invisible, is a hole in the wall. The viewer is invited to look and watch the artist playing chess with a naked woman. Despite first impressions, this is not a video; it is in fact a performance installation which the unobservant among us would walk past. Reflecting on the voyeuristic tendencies of human nature, Robottom is alluding to the work of Duchamp who, in the last 20 years of his life, moved away from art in favour of spending his days playing chess with naked women.

Tim Robottom. Image Charlie Levine

While it is evident that there was some exceptional works, on the whole I felt it just didn’t deliver. However, this is often true of most graduation exhibitions where there is such an intense pressure to perform. Therefore while my expectations may not have been met on this occasion, I left with a sense of hope for better things to come.
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