So yeah, I am an art student. Here’s some art shizzle

S1 Art space. Members only show. 14/11 – 10/12, Sheffield

I quite liked this space as a space. Because it was quite small, Sheffield based and there were quite a lot of artists work on exhibit it seemed to give an impression of an artistic community/family between the artists that use the studio, which reminded me of what our studio at university has.
The works were rather small between each artist. Some pieces stood out more than others, however I believe that this was due to my own sentimentality of pieces of art in general. I believe that I don’t understand sculpture that well. I have concluded this because the majority of pieces, especially Ricky Swallows sculpture in LON (see more about that later)I dislike. At first I thought that it was a valid reason as to why I seem to dislike sculpture, but I realised that the majority of sculpture has me feeling cold and negative towards it. Unless of course it brings something different to the table, as I will discuss also later. I’m more of a meaning behind a piece of artwork or an audience’s response to a selected work person, not a person who is attracted to a piece of art because it looks anaesthetically appealing to the eye or that if it is excessively well constructed/skilful. Naturally if the work has both then it is indeed flawless for me.
But in the essence of the exhibition I found that I didn’t particularly dislike any of the work within it. Quite the contrary. I enjoyed it thoroughly. Naturally, some pieces stood out more for example; I excessively enjoyed former Sheffield Hallam student Tony Hines work. His meaning behind the portraits of people, which is about social identity in the relation to capitalism and people’s constant need for brand labels which then influence our very own brand identity is close to the meaning that I am keen on exploring within my work so unsurprisingly I connected with the work instantly. It was not only just the meaning which I loved but the execution of the work and how well it communicates its meaning to the audience. I love the illustrative style within fine art. It shows progression and freedom in a sense.
His illustrative style shows how Hines is taking portraiture works to a new level. In the words of Pollock when he was asked to explain his approach to painting, he said that when society itself changes, traditional artistic methods aren’t sufficient any longer, and a new language is needed to communicate and resonate with people in this new age. To borrow Pollock’s sentiment, Hines work tends to be raw in its emotion, and resonates with the same energy that exists in the heart of street art, which is a heavy influence on my art and life in general.
Another piece of work that stood out for me was the animation although I can’t remember the artist. Animation is something that has always fascinated me from a young age. It was animation that then led on to a fascination with street art culture as it is linked in my opinion. This animation was funny, revolutionary and at the same time held a magical naivety. Not only that, animation is possibly one of the only art forms that can reach every age demographic of an audience.

Matt’s Gallery, London – Jimmie Durham, Building a Nation 1st Nov – 17th Dec 06

I didn’t particularly enjoy this exhibition totally. However I still enjoyed some small elements of it.
The actual exhibition itself was a large-scale sculpture, which included small intimate performances within it. Durham used manufacturing materials such as wood, glass and metal in a combination together along with selected quotations from famous Americans about Native American Indians.
The composition of the exhibition means when the viewer walks around and through the sculpture they are presented with reflections of themselves walking through doorways and such whilst they read ridiculous quotations that cause racial tensions against the Native American Indians. The idea itself I think is amazing, to explore something that is still rather ignored in today’s society.
Ironic and shrewd, his work responds to the scepticism of Western culture for different beliefs and lifestyles with the recovery of materials and found forms: a plastic tube or a stick are not a serpent, but they can act as one, as they give new life to the situation they are placed in. Man is surely a part of nature that includes everything.
However this was the downfall of the exhibition in my opinion. In post modernity couldn’t the artificiality of certain materials that are integrated in his objects, the flirtation with kitsch of the common idea that one has of Natives and their culture, the history of the grouping form, and the cross-reference with the “primitivism” of 20th century art, be keys to the irony with which Durham looks at himself as well? And doesn’t this turn the prospective upside-down in a sign for the future instead of an impossible search for roots that are too buried by time?

White Cube – Mona Hatoum – Hot Spot – 24th November – 22nd December

I should have been amazed by this exhibition, especially since it was the first well internationally known artist opening party I had attended. However this was not the case. When we first entered the White Cube we turned left to find a piece of sculpture that was lit up like a neon virgin mega store in times square mixed with a universal studio’s logo.
It was a bright red lit up globe that spun round slowly whilst its light penetrated the gallery. The energy off the piece of art was intense making it feel hot and radiant. It even felt hazardous. I absolutely loved the idea itself with its politically charged meaning within it. The electricity made it give off a radiant heat, which maintains the audiences attraction to it and emphasis the title, “hot spot”. Admitted though, the best part of this piece was the reflection the globe made on some glass on the ceiling-, which I don’t think was supposed to be part of the work, as it never mentioned it in her press release. I absolutely loved the idea of boundaries in the world and its conflict and unrest, which it represented clearly and communicated it towards its audience.
On the wall, which was across from the globe, was a picture of the world, slightly like an atlas. The method of it made it look like land mass in true proportion. This piece of work functions like a piece of media because the viewers must virtually adapt the work to suit themselves, inevitably supplementing them with their own emotions and ideas when approaching it, which I enjoyed.
However downstairs in the exhibition Hatoum created a sculpture that looked similarly like a spiders web with drops of dew made of glass. I couldn’t decide whether the web itself was about the sculpture or the shadows it created on the walls and space surrounding it. The shadows were the best part of this sculpture because of the shapes they created seemed more interesting and overwhelming to the viewer, ultimately making it us more involved.
The worst part of the exhibition was a cage, which was ruined because of its place within the exhibition. It was placed in a corner out of the way loosing its significance and even the depth of its meaning. It was put completely out of context.
The irony of this exhibition was certain elements of pieces that weren’t part or weren’t as emphasised in the exhibition worked the best.

Institution of contemporary arts – Alien Nation Dec 2006.

This was one of my favourite exhibitions of the whole London Trip. I love the ICA as a gallery as it always has artwork that I seem to like. I also like to check out the films on there when I go.
The title itself was amusing and connected instantly on my level. This unique exhibition presented work by a series of artists who have used the language and iconography of science fiction to explore questions of race, immigration and that of the outsider. Media stereotyping of asylum seekers as a threat to security and identity is a particular target, which was genius in my opinion. The idea of the amplification of deviance is not explored enough in contemporary art.
The piece that deserved the most attention, in my opinion, was Mario Ybarra Jr’s mural Brown and Proud. It’s a pot-purri of images and themes related to the idea of what it means to be Mexican in today’s society. Flying Mayan pyramids with multi-eyed zapatista revolutionaries sit alongside a Chicano rapper with a sombrero and a furry animal copied from that other verse to infantilism: Star Wars. What Ybarra manages to show us is the multifaceted idea of identity, its juxtapositions and possible permutations. Again, this is an idea, which I am following closely within my own work. This specially commissioned mural had certain flamboyance to it, irreverence and a grown up sense of humour that makes sure we know that this piece of artwork has real depth not an infantile fan based piece of fantasy art aimed at a mass audience.
In the Upper Galleries the British artist Hew Locke takes us back to the Star Wars theme with his Golden Horde, an over-elaborate fleet of space ships assembled with a modern day debris of toys, particularly guns. It’s difficult to discern what it is about, apart from some juvenile but equally ancient idea of what an invading and threatening fleet from outer space might look like. I also believed that he was commenting on post modern society and the debris like of the toys and its tackiness showed the viewer a lack of culture and fragmentations which is a characteristic of post-modernity.
However although I enjoyed the exhibition thoroughly it strikes me as not being essentially clear to the viewer. Although very timely and occupied with a topical theme, what Alien Nation seemed to be saying is, ironically, that contemporary art has very little to say, or indeed show, when it comes to the explore notion of otherness, alienation, difference and integration. On the contrary it was quite comical.
Perhaps this is the result of a positive – maybe the reason that this exhibition fails to move or resonate is down to the fact that we have learned so much about assimilating the ‘other’ and appreciating difference which I think gave the exhibition an edge.

Berlinde De Bruyckere: schmerzensmann – Hauser + Wirth London 10th November – 16th December 2006

Now as an individual who dislikes the majority of sculpture with a scary ignorance this was one of the exhibitions which sculpture was my favourite part.
The exhibiting space was amazing in itself, an old bank. Having to go into an old bank’s safe to look at some clumsy lack of atmospheric paintings made it all worthwhile. It is worth taking note that the exhibition space may have taken the emphasis off the paintings or that the paintings themselves looked weak incomparision to the ambigious, vunerable yet powerful sculptures on the level floor as we walked in.
Developed, concise, iconic (in ideas, as well as image), these are the works of someone who should have decades and decades of art-making behind them, not a forty-something who has only sparingly exhibited outside of her native Belgium. Her style is so fixed, and her output so focussed, that these works exude a real sense of importance, a sense of personality and decisiveness that you seem to only find with much-exhibited contemporary giants.
The title of this exhibition is ‘Schmerzensmann’ (‘Man of Suffering’) and cunningly (and not at all incorrectly) posits Berlinde de Bruyckere at the end of an artistic trajectory that she so obviously belongs to. Her suffering creatures–limp corpses (?) that cling to rusting poles in a deliberate and beautiful play-off between strength versus weakness–borrowed from a wealth of imagery that stretches back to Michelangelo’s stuff.
The clarity of the subject slips and slide in her sculptures: from one angle, it looks like a human being, walk a metre to the left, and it becomes a fish, then an ox. Viewed from above, and it’s just a mound of wax. One minute they can seem immensely real, then dreadfully inanimate. Sometimes hideous, then beautiful. It isn’t difficult to get excited by these works, compelled, as you are to propel around them, absorbing them from each angle. The way she plays with the human form is both unsettling and intoxicating.
To continue a tour round the exhibition, one is guided down to the vault room, where there are some watercolours of the sculptures. I don’t know whose idea this was, but they were a totally unnecessary, perfunctory addition to the line-up. No one ever seems to know what to do with this room at Hauser & Wirth, and this is undoubtedly one of their worst uses of the space.

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