Barnett Newman, Tate Publishing, Book
Newman's paintings are impossible to grasp from reproductions. Like all paintings they are best seen in 'the flesh'. It is only then, when one is close enough, one can experience all their nuances of colour and structure. Newman was so adamant about the way his art should be viewed that he once typed a statement and stuck it to the gallery wall instructing people to stand at only a 'short distance' from his canvases. The point Newman was making was about how the edges of the painting and the proximity to which they are viewed demonstrated implicitly how they enveloped the pictorial space.
One of the most enduringly influential Abstract Expressionists, Barnett Newman took this genre to a startling new sphere. His emotive paintings were misunderstood initially but later commanded wide respect.
The apparent simplicity of his linear work had such incredible impact. There was such underlying complexity and Newman's paintings were richly diverse. His works were infused with deep meaning and produced a powerful physical presence though his mastery of expansive spatial effects and evocative colour. created a real poetry and questioning.
Seen in proximity, Newman believed that his work could engender feelings of heightened self-awareness. "I hope that my painting has the impact of giving someone, as it did me, the feeling of his own totality, of his own separateness, of his own individuality,'" he said.
Though Newman always insisted on the rich emotional content of his work, for most of his life it met with incomprehension and charges of 'emptiness'. He kept nothing he made before he was nearly forty years old, and over the rest of his career produced only around 120 paintings. It was not until he was nearly sixty that he began to be recognised as one of America's foremost artists.
Images Courtesy Tate Publishing and Tate Gallery
Amie Siegel, Quarry, South London Gallery, Exhibition
Amie Siegel’s first solo show in London, the South London Gallery presented recent works which explored the mechanisms through which objects become imbued with meaning. Known for her layered, meticulously constructed works that consider the undercurrents of value systems, cultural ownership and image-making, Siegel's practice encompasses film, video, photography, performance and installation.
Projected at cinematic scale, 'Quarry' 2015, traces the excavation of marble from the deepest underground quarry in the world to its almost inevitable use in the modern luxury apartments of Manhattan skyscrapers. Beautiful, formally rigorous, and pointedly underscored by dramatic orchestral sound, this video piece draws us into a mesmerising exposé of the multi-layered relationships between art, labour and value.
The connection between material, construction (both metaphorical and actual), viewing the place and places, from natural to manmade. The transitional actions and consequences, as an objective, becomes both a visual narrative and analysis.
A conceptual link is proposed between 'Fetish' and 'Quarry', where a fragment of pink marble from the lobby of New York City’s Trump Tower is offered for sale on eBay immediately following the 2016 US election The fragment of marble was purchased by the Siegel. Transformations are accentuated by its inclusion into Siegel’s work, from having had a clear use within a building into an apparently functionless piece of rock, and then into a historic relic. Parallel narratives are set in motion, both with the material concerns of 'Quarry', and the potentially infinite conversations around the themes of objecthood and desire explored within 'Fetish'.
Installation shots Courtesy South London Gallery
Rana Begum, The Space Between, Parasol Unit, Exhibition
This body of work reveals the Rana Begum's sophisticated comprehension of interstice with her spacial and visual awareness drawing influences from constructivist and minimalist art. In one work, 'No. 531', thirty parallel sections of industrially powder-coated aluminium bars hung vertically on the wall. Each front-facing surface is white, while the inner and outer sides are sprayed in bright hues of red and blue. Passing in front of the work, one discovers dynamic shifts in its colour and form. Light is a vitally activating element in Begum's works, its shifts and changes producing an experience that is both temporal and sensorial.
Begum draws inspiration both from the city environment and her own childhood memories of the geometric patterns of traditional Islamic art and architecture. Properties of light, colour, material, movement and form have become a feature of her abstract sculptures and reliefs. Often bringing a potentially infinite order to her works, Begum skilfully gives physical form to fleeting moments of aesthetic wonder.
Vital to Begum's practice are the carefully selected colours and reflected light that accentuate the geometry within its forms. In her folded raw-metal wall pieces, such as No. 489, L Fold, 2014, and No. 394, L Fold, 2013, the vibrantly fluorescent colours of their painted undersides are reflected onto the supporting wall, thereby creating a new and subtle element that has a powerful effect. In other works, the play of light combined with Begum's articulation of colour and repetition steer the viewer's attention not only towards the object itself but also to the space between its parts, the interstice. Her use of robust, industrial materials is often at odds with the ethereal lightness and fragility embodied in her works, a dichotomy that is ever present in her practice. Begum's works bring together moments of calm and exhilaration, their open-endedness allowing the viewer a sense of the infinite. In a new large-scale installation No. 670, 2016, created especially for this exhibition, sections of industrial steel-mesh fencing are arranged in a massive maze-like structure that invites visitors to walk through it and physically experience the sense of infinity bound within the geometric repetition of its architectural configurations.
Robert Therrien's show at Parasol Unit also revealed similar languages.
Installation shots Courtesy Parasol Unit Gallery
Ian McKeever, Against Architecture, Matt's Gallery, Exhibition
The works contain interior images returning McKeever's previous use of the diptych form as a vernacular device, a photographic print and a canvas cling to separate but abutting plywood panels. Inside the gallery space the format of Against Architecture breaks up the works into conundrums of smaller blocks, destroying the immediate understanding of the images. This installation of work interrogates the way in which the half built interior allows McKeever's work to create a dialogue with both the space and audience. The visual language within the gallery becomes both space and place; non-place and interstice.
Jarred against brilliantly coloured monochrome inserts there are gradations of oil stain and photographic grain. The series of raw plasterboard panels constructed throughout the gallery, with manufacturer's markings left on the rear, leave questions of the unfinished, under construction, a transitional place. With works hung on both sides of the temporary walls, as well as on the undecorated walls of the gallery, the viewer is drawn through a maze that activates the gallery space. It teases the viewer to find different pathways, meandering through the interior construction, so treating the gallery as a passage way, or a labyrinth. The provisional surfaces and planes, on which the works are hung, echo the works. The title of the exhibition – Against Architecture – suggests both proximity to its noun and variance with it. A claim to pictoriality is challenged, as much by the formal structures McKeever adopts in the works themselves, as by the makeshift structures he hangs them on. The installation is an exploration of how the fragility of pictorial illusion subsists amid a world of contingencies. In a contemporary visual culture in which images come cheap, the effect is to reestablish our sense of them as fugitive, mysterious and hard-won.
“Thus we cover the universe in stories we have lived.” - Gaston Bachelard.
Installation shots Courtesy Matt's Gallery
Doh Ho Suh, Passages, Victoria Miro, Exhibition
“I see life as a passageway, with no fixed beginning or destination. We tend to focus on the destination all the time and forget about the in-between spaces.” – Do Ho Suh
The idea of transient experience as both a sustained emotional state and an act of self-discovery is a theme shared by this three-screen video in which the artist, accompanied by his daughter, explores the streets around his London home. Suh moved to London approximately five years ago which coincided with the arrival of his first daughter. Three GoPro video cameras are attached to a stroller, where Suh captures a newly discovered locale from three different viewpoints allowing ambient sound from the street and conversations between himself and his daughters, spoken in both English and Korean. This signals the crossing of cultural and geographical boundaries.
In 1991, after arriving in the United States from Seoul, the artist Do Ho Suh felt a deep sense of dislocation. He started to reflect on the mnemonic bond between him and his environment, past and present. “When you think about the home, it’s permanent, always there”, he said. “But as I left Korea, I began to think of it as transportable.” In a similar way Mark Wallinger's "Threshold to the Kingdom' evokes a sense of non place.
The artist’s move to London provided a thematic and emotional touchstone for the exhibition. Hub, based on Suh's London Apartment. The partial representation of Suh’s London home is joined by other Hubs – corridor-like points of intersection between rooms – including an evocation of his London studio which creates a walk-through configuration of structures occupying the Gallery. Hub was created from stitched planes of translucent, coloured polyester fabric – the structure is delicate, precise, and gives the impression of weightlessness – Hub seems to exist between imagination and reality, past and present. Moving through them one experiences a distinct emotional register, a sense of being in flux, crossing boundaries and moving between psychological states.
Installation shots Courtesy Victoria Miro Gallery