Magazine: Issue 22
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Preview: Alter Shift Control
ALTER/ SHIFT/ CONTROL @ BERMONDSEY PROJECT 46 WILLOW WALK, LONDON SE1 5SF 14.11.13 – 30.11.13 LATE OPENING SLAM FRIDAYS: 29.11.13 UNTIL 9PM SLAM’s Naomi Fitzsimmons gets a behind the scenes peek at Bermondsey Project’s new exhibition: ‘Alter/Shift/Control’ and steals some time with exhibition curator & artist Samual Capps: NF: Can you briefly describe the concept and themes of the current show Alter/ Shift/ Control SC: The show is a response to the influence that technology will have on the landscapes of the future, and how this will affect our personal experiences and our culture as a whole. Samuel Capps - Static Pathway - C-Type, 50x40cm, 2013 NF: How did this group show come about? Were you approached by the artists with this theme in mind or was there a selection process? SC: It started with just having a lot of ideas and thoughts on the issue, I ended up writing a loose three page essay on the subject, then whittled this down to a one page text, making it a bit more punchier for the exhibition. After I had the text written, and a lot of ideas formulated, I started researching relevant artists. NF: How do you end up making the final selection of artists for this and other exhibitions? SC: Well I keep a large folder at my studio of press releases and cards from artists and exhibitions that I have interested me or that caught my eye. I started with that, picking out relevant ones, then spent an ungodly amount of hours researching on the internet. Then compiling a big spreadsheet and giving people grades of their relevance and quality….(sounds horrible!) James Moore - Lost Coast, Oil on Canvas, 119x86cm, 2010 NF: As group show how did you find working with so many artists? SC: I wrote the text so it had some flexibility for different perspectives. I think the issues raised are so complicated and diverse that you have to be quite open to them, whilst at the same time remaining specific. Also, the gallery is such a large space that I really had no option but to include a large number of artists if I wanted to keep the selection varied. Obviously with 15 showing, it is going to entail a lot of administration but I started the main organisation of the show in July, so have always been trying to give myself some breathing space in terms of scheduling. NF: What is the process you go through as a curator when organising and setting up an exhibition? SC: In terms of the curatorial process, I think it’s really important to have a strong concept, argument or idea. I see too many shows today that are really flimsy on their curatorial backing, and ones that look like they've got a group of artists together, then tried to figure out a vague middle ground that might connect all the work. I think it is much better to start with a position, then search out the works that may be able to inform this. NF: What are the ways in which the work explores these themes? Doug Burton - 'Rockpool', 2013, Digital Print onto PVC Foamex, W 420cm x H240cm SC: The show has so many threads so I'll just to pick a small selection; you have Doug Burton's multimedia sculpture 'Shroud' merging familiar natural forms that becomes reinvigorated with an unknown energy, placing itself somewhere between a living and digital artefact, a relic of a previous physicality. James Irwin's '343,000 cubic centimetres of isolated space' creates a void from wireless signals using radar absorbent material. This is something which has become a rarity in any modern urban space and comments on the fact that we may not ever be able to escape the inundation of these signals. Robin Tarbet - DIAMOND - Concrete Relief Cast on MDF 132 x 132 x 4 cm, 2013 With Robin Tarbet's concrete reliefs of circuit boards, you get a sense of where urban design may, and in some cases is already going. At the same time as being beautifully detailed, the clinical nature of the monotone grey of the concrete projects a sense of possible oppression. NF: Would you say that they offer an optimistic view of our current relationship to technology or more of a critique? SC: The show has several strands running through it, works that relate to the future landscapes involved with space exploration such as Luci Eldridge's photo etchings and 3D print, along with James Moore's painting 'You Have Already Gone To The Other World' based on Mars rover images allow us to have some optimism for the prospects of space colonisation and starting life with a blank page. As for the majority of works that respond to the issues we may face here on Earth, I think overall you get a more cautious report and a message that maybe things are going to get a lot more complicated. NF: I think the show tackles a very topical issue of the merging of technology with everyday life or as you describe, the ‘techno-natural.’ Growing up in a world where for most technology is the norm, we often hear about children who know how to use i-pads and the internet before they can speak and the threat this poses to the development of creativity and imagination. How do you think this concern can be tackled in the arts? SC: I think that the issue of children and technology is slightly somewhat over-hyped as I think that positives far outweigh the negatives. I started using computers at a young age, and in my mid-teens taught myself a swathe of technical and creative programs which has only had a positive outcome for me. I can only imagine what it would be like if you have basic computer skills from birth and start to pick up this more advanced computer skills at the ages of around 10. The computer games market is now bigger than the film market in some sectors, and the industry is a highly creative one. I think a lot of the older generation may worry about it because they see it at face value and don't really understand it because they didn't grow up with it. When in fact many computer games will help a child's cognitive abilities, creativity, reactions, problem solving and also have social aspects. I think it’s a slight paradox when people are worried about this influence, because in my eyes the television is a lot worse. When I refer to the 'techno-natural' state, I wasn't talking about so much about technology coming naturally to us, but more a state of organic matters and technology combined, bionic landscaping if you will. A great (theoretical) example of this would be Constant's 'New Babylon' where the actual fabric of the environment responds to its inhabitants needs. Richard Gaplin - Brace VI (Bastion) - Peeled Photograph, 118x80cm, 2011 NF: What role does technology play in art? SC: I think now you are seeing a lot more processes being influenced by new technology, but I don't really think that a lot of the end results have changed drastically in the last 30 years. A lot of avenues were explored between technology and art in the 80s and 90s, albeit with smaller resolutions and less processing power. Artists such as Charles Csuri, Hervé Huitric, Nicole Stenger, Manfred Mohr and Myron W. Krueger have explored it quite thoroughly. In terms where it might lead, I think you're going to to see a lot more appropriation of detailed computer graphics from the movie industry as it becomes within the grasp of more artists. I saw Ed Atkins' video piece 'Warm, Warm, Warm Spring Mouths' at the Jerwood and that was a superb piece. NF: Within art at the moment I think there is almost a rebellion to this digital age and a want to return to physicality, whether that be in sculptural and more hands on creative processes or in performance and bodily work. Are there any examples of this in the show? SC: I think it’s hard to say there is a rebellion to this digital age because the art world is so vast people may be rebelling against this whilst others embrace it. I think that this question brings up more relevance to the fact that this could be seen a microcosm for the whole world of human culture which is becoming so diverse and complicated with various offshoots and sub-sub-categories. Systems House - Wall Mounted Perforated Reflector Unit, Steel, aluminium & paint, H162 x W69 x D55cm 2012 I think this comes across in the show, because it reaches to both sides, and in between. For example, on one side we have Matthew Plummer-Fernandez's piece 'Achieving Facial Recognition' in which he has written a program to make inverse facial recognition software where the user has to draw a face to match the given example, with the results being rendered in 3D. Then on the other side we have both Systems House and Lene Shepherd's sculptural works which both maintain an aesthetic connection to computerised wireframe modeling but are both constructed in very traditional hand crafted processes. Sadly, I find the vast majority of performance a very tiresome medium so including any performance was not really an option for me. NF: How does the show consider the future of the technology and its relationship to the environment and to people? SC: I don't think the show is aiming to give answers, but rather raise more questions and create a discourse. Because it is all still so speculative, I really like the idea that although we seem to be closer to this 'future world', we might be selling ourselves short and actually still have the same old delusions of grandeur which were around in the 60s and 70s, and in fact we will not get anywhere near these advanced scenarios for the next hundred years or two. With Thanks to Samual Capps and Bermondsey Project. View exhibition & press release here
Review: Gurley
Gurley: New York and the World of a Million Mickeys Anise Gallery, 13A Shad Thames, London SE1 2PU 8.11.13 – 8.12.13 Thursday – Sunday: 11am – 5pm Monday – Wednesday: By appointment Late opening for SLAM Fridays 29.11.13 Review by Lucy Bernadette Cox Anise Gallery is hosting the work of Gurley for the second time, whose latest body of work focuses on American culture and New York in particular. Installation View: Gurley ‘New York and the World of a Million Mickeys’, Anise Gallery 2013. Photo: Lucy Cox The space has been curated to resemble a boutique in a downtown Macy’s: As you walk in, a clothes rail with individual prints on hangers is located in the centre, surrounded by series of canvases, prints and photographs. Installation View: Gurley ‘New York and the World of a Million Mickeys’, Anise Gallery 2013. Photo: Lucy Cox Perhaps the most striking works are Gurley’s large canvases. At first glance, the viewer is bombarded with busy landscapes, layers of colours and forms clashing together as if you are walking through the streets of Manhattan, with all their chaotic movements and sounds. On closer inspection the works begin to quieten down and you discover the individual parts. Black and white newspaper prints of diners, skyscrapers and Elvis are washed over with colour. Bright pinks and blues, contemporary fashion models and bold Mickeys march around the composition. These pieces are similar to parts of doors or buildings in city streets that have been layered with graffiti and advertisements over time. Gurley ‘Kid in a Candy Store’ The change and progression in New York is shown in the contrast between a black and white past and modern-day vivid imagery. Some icons are still the same, such as the yellow cab or Mickey Mouse, who seems ageless and constantly repeated on everyday items such as pyjamas, watches and t-shirts. Gurley ‘Taxi Ride’ The viewer cannot not help but see Gurley’s work and think of Warhol and Raushenberg, who are more relevant and alive today than ever; we are still fascinated by the American Dream. The artist captures and holds on to this dream, making it her own, this is in more personal pieces such as “A Kid in a Candy Store” and “Taxi Ride”. Photographic transfers of chocolate brands, Mickey Mouse wallpaper, stenciled hearts and ponies fly past the viewer as if they were on a journey through a child’s memory. Gurley ‘A Different Place’ Gurley’s skill in printing and careful manipulation of text and imagery is clever. One cannot decide if they are playful stabs at Americana, or a celebration of New York culture. Perhaps the exhibition utilizes both to create a paradigm of nostalgia and admiration.
Spotlight: Drawing Room
SLAM SPOTLIGHT: DRAWING ROOM TANNERY ARTS, 12 RICH ESTATE, CRIMSCOTT STREET, BERMONDSEY, SE1 5TE SLAM’s Naomi Fitzsimmons gets behind the scenes at Drawing Room with an interview gallery co-director Mary Doyle……. NF: Hi Drawing Room, for those who are not familiar with your gallery could you tell us a little bit about what you do? MD: We present solo exhibitions and those based around ideas and themes in contemporary drawing practices – these include international artists, and some historical works. We also put on events – mainly artists talking about their work, often in conversation with other artists or art professionals – which provide insights into their practices, direct from the horse’s mouth. We also produce books and provide a space to study contemporary drawing. NF: As a Gallery focused primarily on contemporary drawing, how do you help to support new artists working in this medium? MD: By commissioning them to make new work for solo exhibitions – we encourage them to try out new ideas – to take risks. In group exhibitions, in addition to creating an incentive to create new work we introduce them to the ideas and work of other artists of their own and earlier generations. NF: What is Tannery Arts and how does it aid in this support? MD: Tannery Arts is an association of artists, which provides studios for professional artists. It was set up in 1993 by David Austen, Alison Wilding and Rachel Whiteread, amongst others, some of whom remain part of the organization. NF: Of course drawing is a vast medium ranging from the more traditional forms to contemporary drawing incorporating sculpture and performance. Does Drawing Room represent all these areas? MD: Yes, we try to incorporate all modes of drawing and this means that we have presented work that takes the form of animation, film, photography, sculpture, installation, and so on. NF: You have recently launched the Outset Study research hub at Drawing Room, could you tell us a little about this new attribute to the gallery? MD: From the start it has been our ambition to increase the profile and visibility of drawing and to support the development of the medium through providing opportunities for artists, writers, curators and others to research the recent history of the medium and through this process to contribute to scholarship and the production of new work. Outset Study at Drawing Room. Photo Dan Weill NF: How do you plan to use this in the future? MD: Study is an integral part of Drawing Room’s activities around which the entire organisation revolves in the sense that each activity that we initiate is informed by the outcomes and ideas explored in earlier projects. NF: The Outset Study really helps to provide gallery visitors in Bermondsey access to priceless resources and archived material and all for free! Do you hope other galleries in Bermondsey will consider launching their own Study areas? MD: Of course – there can never be too much reading material and other resources to increase knowledge and trigger new ideas. NF: This kind of specialist contemporary drawing library and study area is the first of its kind in the UK and Europe. Its contents including the compilation of artists reading lists is undoubtedly helpful for any young artist or just anyone who has a specific interest in this area. Do you feel like this kind of information should be made more available to the public? MD: It should but then again it’s not so easy to achieve – we have been able to set up Outset Study thanks to generous support from Outset Contemporary Art. But these projects are expensive – especially in terms of human resources – to run and to develop into the future. NF: How important is it for Drawing Room to be socially engaged with Bermondsey and local people? MD: From the start we wanted to provide a cultural resource for people living and working in the locality. We provide well-researched exhibitions with internationally renowned artists and they are free for anyone to enjoy. We have also run some fantastic artist-led projects to involve students at local colleges and Mary and I get very involved with the crits that take place at the end of these intensive projects. NF: Your current exhibition Marking Language looks really interesting, could you tell us a little bit about it? MD: Marking Language explores the ways in which language is shifted from page to wall using a range of drawing modes – ink on paper; marker pen on the wall – or on garbage bags; typewritten words using a hand-drawn template; Arabic script on correction tape; chalk on blackboard; pencil on linen, and so on. When we read a text in a book it involves a process of decoding – comprehension is dependent on internalizing a set of rules. Through spoken language and gesture language is made visual, less rules-based, and open to individual expression and interpretation. The artists in Marking Language use a range of devices to give visual form to utterance and phonetics. Installation shot of Marking Language at Drawing Room, 2013. Photo Dan Weil NF: The exhibition explores language and the written word, how important was it for you to select an international panel of artists (all speaking various languages) to the concept of the show? MD: This was very important and the countries of origin of the artists in this exhibition include Colombia, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, now the Czech republic, and Norway, with Manchester, Berlin and New York added to the mix as the current residence of 4 of the artists. There is an obvious link between drawing and writing but for us it was particularly interesting to consider how this might differ, depending on which language/s one spoke, in which script one might write, or which part of the world one was from. NF: The exhibition is a collaboration between The Drawing room London and Drawing Centre New York. How did this come about? MD: With a conversation with Claire Gilman, the curator at Drawing Center, when we visited New York a couple of years ago. We discovered that we were both exploring an exhibition around a similar theme and we thought that we could enrich our projects by joining forces, with each exhibition, though never coming together physically, informing one another across the Atlantic, and coming together in a book which illustrates all works from both shows. NF: What do you think the relationship between London and New York art scene is as a whole? MD: Both scenes are extremely rich and indeed there is much cross-pollination between the two cities. Many artists spend time in New York and in London and might even have studios in both cities. NF: What events can we look forward to in the future at the Drawing Room? MD: In January there will be a project run by artist Jack Southern (co-editor of the Black Dog book ‘Drawing Projects’) with the gallery set up as a studio for workshops and for conversations between artists including Charles Avery, Cornelia Parker, Dryden Goodwin, and others. After that our exhibition curated by British sculptor Richard Deacon opens. Artist-curated exhibitions are a very important part of our programme and this one will coincide with Richard’s retrospective exhibition at Tate Britain. Richard’s exhibition for Drawing Room explores abstract drawing and will include work by over 30 artists, including very early examples of abstraction made in 1909 by Swedish artist Hilma af Klint, works by John Golding who wrote ‘Paths to the Absolute’, a key text on abstract art, a rare Jackson Pollock from 1951, a work by Iranian artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian who was born in 1924, as well as young London based artists such as Emma McNally and Sam Messenger. In the autumn there will be cross-venue exhibition with the Photographer’s Gallery which explores – you never guessed – the intersection of drawing and photography in contemporary and recent practice. Drawing Room co-directors Mary Doyle and Kate MacFarlane, with patrons Sigrid (far left) and Stephen Kirk ( far right). Photo Dan Weill With thanks to Mary Doyle. Information on Drawing Room’s current exhibition ‘Marking Language’ here
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