Archives for posts with tag: Joana Vasconcelas

A short blog on natural and unnatural things.

Helen Sear’s video Company of Trees leads you deep into the forest.

0912 Venice Wales Helen Sear (2)

In the forest the straight line becomes a circle. We are following a girl in a red dress who is glimpsed between the trees, part here part there, never a complete picture, always fading away, and counting. Numbers appear. The title Company of Trees of course makes you think of wolves as does the red dress. We are in a fairy tale, lost in a dreamlike state.

0912 Venice Wales Helen Sear (6)

In other rooms are other images from the countryside, the stacked chopped wood of the woodcutter, small birds and blinding golden fields interwoven with symbols.

0912 Venice Wales Helen Sear (4)

Human presence is here as in the fairy tale it is a human story but how much control do we have even in chopping and harvesting.

0912 Venice Wales Helen Sear (9)

This countryside is not a sentimental place to stray in.

0912 Venice Wales Helen Sear (8)

….the rest is smoke

We gaze down but see the sky. The image ripples but the water stays still.  Helen Sears uses video after effects imaging to create an illusion of movement in an elliptical pool The Beginning and End of Things.  

0912 Venice Wales Helen Sear (5)

Another illusory reflection; Bill Viola’s installation Moving Stillness (Mt. Rainier), 1979 at Blain Southern. Even after 35 years this piece is still captivating in its mystery.

1601 Bill Viola 1

We see a reflection of the mountain in a large pool of water, every so often the water is disturbed and the image dissolves into undulating patterns of light which very slowly restore themselves to equilibrium and the image reappears. The mountain and its reflection do not appear to correspond. 1601 Bill Viola 2

Nothing is hidden from us, through technology we experience the magic of physics which is the magic of nature. Viola’s works open space in this way for a spiritual engagement which is a vital part of his ideology.  To alter materially as we pass in and out of life is something we have no control over but to transform our minds is our challenge. He is an admirer of the philosopher Ananda Coomaraswarmy whose writings  embrace mythology and metaphysics – Art is nothing tangible. We cannot call a painting ‘art’ as the words ‘artifact’ and ‘artificial’ imply. The thing made is a work of art made by art, but not itself art. The art remains in the artist and is the knowledge by which things are made.

Viola produces meditative spaces. Another pioneering early work was presented by Blain Southern and The Vinyl Factory at Brewer Street Car Park.  The Talking Drum an early sound composition  that explores resonance in an empty swimming pool using drums and pipes.

It was an uncanny experience entering the vast shadowy space of the underground car park to what felt like the eerie soundtrack of a noir thriller.

In Venice I had another opportunity to walk through the pulsating glow of Joana Vasconcelas’ Garden of Eden. This fibre optic maze has all the false trappings of the biblical Eden in its hypnotic draw.

I’d never really thought about how concrete was applied to our landscape. At UAL’s Shadow Without Object Symposium Bernd Behr introduced us to the Victorian polymath inventor of sprayed concrete Karl Akeley. Sprayed concrete takes on the shape of what it covers, like a skin.1601 Carl AkeleyAkeley was also a pioneering taxidermist and creator of natural history dioramas, he also devised a motion picture camera to take on location. In his presentation  Akeley in the elephant Skull  Bern Behr makes connections between this liquid concrete film that holds an image of what it covers and photographic emulsion. The desire to reconstruct, to capture and present an accurate representation of reality are questioned. Akeley worked hard to perfect his models as being true to life. 1601 Carl Akeley gorillasHe made many expeditions to Africa to collect his own specimens, make drawings and take photographs so he could transpose the African plains to urban New York. He was of course presenting an idealised view to the awestruck New Yorkers adding to the distorted representation of faraway lands much like the holiday postcard photograph.



‘Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden’

1401 Dad's garden

So it’s been a while since I last made a post on this blog.

It’s hard to keep up a diary sometimes when so much is happening.

I am going to try and keep it more current so that when I write about something it is still fairly fresh in my mind. I often feel I don’t have time to reflect on things so this space is a good discipline for that purpose.

Back to school after the Christmas break. It’s been a surreal time as my Father, a passionate gardener while he was able, passed away just before Christmas and this has meant my thoughts have been scattered in all sorts of directions.

Normality mostly, then tears. So my work is about ideas of paradise, still it is an abstract thought for me.

I have been working with a photograph taken in Paradise Road in Stockwell. The children’s playground there has plastic palm trees. The palm trees look like oversized Playmobil with added bolts.

Somehow I want to convey that even with a scene so far removed from an idyllic idea of paradise there is a space for imagination, for a glimpse to something else. There must always be an escape route.

I made some images for sublimation prints using greyscale but leaving a thin strip of  highly saturated colour and put these onto polyester.

1401 Paradise Road Stockwell sublimation print

I also screen printed the image in dark grey onto paper and then used monoprint directly onto the screen to add a thin strip of bright colours.

1401 Paradise Road Stockwell screen print

Art Lacuna Gallery near Clapham Junction are running a series of FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY exhibitions.  The first of which was paintings by Ralph Anderson.

I found these really interesting in the use of colour and how he works with greyscale and then adds the colour afterwards in a swirling spectrum of refracted light.


Now a catch up from November – a quick run through of  some of the exhibits I visited in The Giardini at the Venice Biennale.

The Giardini

The Giardini

Still lush in November.

Switzerland Pavilion

Switzerland Pavilion

We were blessed with amazing sunshine to add an extra dimension to the Swiss Pavilion.

1311 Russian Pavillion 3

The pile of husks in the Russian Pavilion had accumulated over the summer

Russian Pavilion

Russian Pavilion

The need for umbrellas was not quite so crucial this visit  as there was no longer a torrential downpour of gold coins from above but a stuttering trickle.

1311 Russian Pavillion

The coins have been circulated across the globe as each participant kept their souvenir

Russian Pavilion

Russian Pavilion

Only a few coins remain in the system.

Korean Pavilion

Korean Pavilion

The Korean Pavilion looks enticing with its kaleidoscopic lights and ritual shoe removal. Maybe it would better to only suppose what was inside

Somehow missed the Canadian Pavilion last visit

Canadian Pavlion

Shary Boyle ‘Ophiodea’

Using projections onto a stage set in a very dark setting the mood shifted

1311 Canada (5)

Shary Boyle

between dreamscapes

1311 Canada (4)

Shary Boyle

and stark illumination

1311 Canada (6)

Shary Boyle

As intended the elements had been at work in the Australian Pavilion spattering mud, releasing paper and rusting metal.

1311 Australian Pavilion (7) 1311 Australian Pavilion (6)

I was invited to look in the books stacked in the corner- the ageing pages had been cut into, hurrying their disintegration while creating new readings.

Australian Pavilion

Simryn Gill – Australian Pavilion

Enjoyed another blast of Sarah Sze in the American Pavilion.

1311 Sarah Sze 3

Sarah Sze

Fresh green moss.

1311 Sarah Sze 2

Sarah Sze

American Pavilion

American Pavilion – Sarah Sze

I was interested to look at the Shaker Gift Drawings. These drawings were believed to be created by sixteen shakers possessed by heavenly beings who offered a portal to view heaven itself.

Shaker Gift Drawing

Shaker Gift Drawing

Superfluous decoration was forbidden in the sect but these depictions inspired from heaven were exceptions and used to reflect life on earth in the shaker community.

The idea of The Encyclopaedic Palace which was the thinking behind the Central Pavilion this year was as a repository for all knowledge. With this all encompassing idea in mind the curator has included lots of outsider art.

There were many collections shown here which were never intended for such a setting, some quite private images on public display, all these manifestations of endeavour showing what a curious bunch we are.

The collection of houses made by an insurance clerk from Vienna are exhibited under the names of the artist and architect who found them in a junk shop.

They create a kind of suburbia to the destruction of Manhattan.

Jack Whitten

Jack Whitten ‘9-11-01’
The Houses of Peter Fritz

Jack Whitten’s huge memorial to 9/11 has a heavily textured surface.

It looks like it could be made of the very debris from the site.


Jack Whitten ’09-11-01′

The Netherlands – ‘Room with Broken Sentence’ shows a series of work by Mark Manders.

Mark Manders

Mark Manders

The windows are covered with newspaper giving an under construction look to the pavilion and inside too the theme of under construction continues with a casual studio in progress setting, polythene wrappings pushed aside, work propped or submissively sited which somehow emphasizes the power and scale of the big work

Mark Manders

Mark Manders

Couldn’t resist another trip into the undulating wombworld of Joana Vasconcelas

Portugese Pavilion

Portuguese Pavilion

Joana Vasconcelas

Joana Vasconcelas

From a studio bound summer spent looking inwards I plunge straight into cultural overload.

Metamorphosis, Future Can Wait, New Sensations‘The Majesty’, Christian Marclay’s ‘Everyday‘, Joana Vasconcelas, Chris Hawtin, Lindsay Seers ‘nowhere less now’ plus 11 films in 10 days at the London Film Festival.

The predominant theme of many of the films we saw this year was the resilience of women. In the most dire of circumstances and oppression women across the globe fight their battles by whatever means they can to cope with what life has dealt them. Political or religious conflict and its fallout was also a strong theme. The great thing about the London Film Festival is seeing the same human emotions played out in every language. Most life affirming and poetic was ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’.

Last year All Visual Arts staged their big autumn show in the decadent shabby grandeur of Portland Place but this year due to some last minute shenanigans it had to be moved to the crypt at One Marylebone.

The lighting was challenging.

Polly Morgan at Metamorphosis

The works were spot-lit in the darkness causing severe shadows to block the work on approach and bleaching detail from afar. Viewing became a dance.

Dolly Thompsett ‘Guarding the Ruins’

A terrible photo of this painting but it illustrates the echoing of the black arches in Dolly Thompsett’s painting with the arched architecture of the Crypt.

I was drawn to this painting of beautiful vine entwined ruins, misty horizons with sweeps of iridescent glitter although I found it almost too sugary.

It is the same attraction that Raquib Shaw exerts on me I think, the telling of some mystical fable but in this case there is no balance of the grotesque to counteract the sublime, the primates are not tearing each others eyes out.

Another painter whose work struck a chord with me was Hyojun Hyun at Saatchi’s New Sensations show.

Hyojun Hyun at New Sensations

Scenes of neglect are transformed into transcendental experiences in paint through the use of light, creating magical scenarios ready for a midsummer’s night dream to play out.

A less subtle use of light and glitter to create spectacle was employed in ‘The Majesty’, a horticultural installation by artists Tony Heywood and Alison Condie for Cityscapes. Billed as a reconfiguration of the show garden ‘Glamourlands’ from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which evolved from a picturesque landscape portrait of the Dorset coast above ground, into a subterranean fungal landscape of the sublime below ground. ‘Glamourlands’  featured a landscape of excess created from gold carbon and jewel encrusted forms. Directly after the Chelsea Flower Show it travelled to The Old Vic Tunnels where it became ‘The Majesty’ –  a new landscape with additional sculptural elements within a spectacular underground setting.

The Majesty

We were offered face masks on entering the space as there was a possibility of  poisonous spores emanating from the fungal growths, this along with the cordon of flames and the lake like puddle preventing approach made us feel like explorers braving hostile lands to visit some glittering shrine.

Going underground again, partially anyway we made a quick visit to this years Serpentine Pavillion designed by Ai Weiwei and Herzog and de Meuron.

I was disappointed to find Haunch of Venison has moved from the airy splendour of Burlington Gardens to smaller premises on New Bond Street.

But Joana Vasconcelas did not disappoint. Her steam iron water lily ‘Full Steam Ahead’ was a wonder of engineering – hissing puffs of steam into the room it was the deadliest of flowers and the pendulous sculptures snaking throughout the gallery were magnificent explosions of embellishment.

I wish I had known about her exhibition at Versailles last year it would have been wonderful to have seen that but I had to make do with leafing through the catalogue. Her vision of scale is inspiring and I am very jealous of her large warehouse sized studio spaces and teams of technicians.

Christian Marclay took his signature splicing of film clips to create a visual stimuli for a group of musicians to overlay a soundtrack echoing the rhythms and emotions in the images. Like an improvised jazz session the musicians fed off each other as well as the film in a sustained assault on a climax which is never reached. The collage of images repeat an action stripped of its own narrative with the same action from many films until what might have been an insignificant moment becomes something portentous.

Lindsay Seers work is all narrative but is not a linear story. The past present and future entwine with the thoughts of multiple characters. Everything is connected but like in a dream those connections are just beyond grasp as they shift and change and merge. I wasn’t sure if I fell asleep or not, my eyes seemed to be open but I had those moments of falling from consciousness being tucked up in a warm blanket can induce. The haunting sea shanty played in the headphones ‘ the sea will take her slender body..’ over and over, a narrative from one side in Seers soft tone then someone speaks abruptly from behind, another voice is heard at a a distance, some music starts up and all the while the dual projections onto giant convex and concave spheres in the disorienting location of an upside down ships hull sweeps through history into a CGI future and back to the present. We were given a free book on exit, it is another layer to the whole experience and I have no idea what is true and what is fiction, this means the fantastical can appear to be reality and I like that. There are many things to wonder about in Lindsay Seers work.

Lindsay Seers at The Tin Tabernacle

In Seers work the explanation about the work is part of the work and so may be just a fiction as much as the work itself.

The artists conundrum – how much to explain? Chris Hawtin was concerned that his back stories to his amazing paintings and sculpture at Canvas and Cream in his ‘Predator’ show would shut down the work for viewers to embark on their own narrative journey. What came across in his talk however was his passion for painting, his dedication to research and the care he took to make sure the viewer was drawn into the fascinating clash of sci-fi and primitive landscape he created.

Chris Hawtin ‘Dredger’

Seeing all these other artists work has been really inspirational. What I want to bring to my own work from this is the idea to leave more space for the viewer to be drawn in.

I need to define the content of a piece before I start but then let the work develop more organically. I tend to plan things out very much beforehand and I would like to try to be freer in production.

So that is my plan.