Gabriel Orozco at Tate Modern

I first saw the image of Orozco’s 1997 work ‘Black Kites’ in the book Vitamin D, and it caught my attention in particular as I was working on ideas of 3d drawings myself at the time. Seeing the work first hand was moving- you can’t help but consider the person this skull first belonged to. That orozco spent 6 months painstakingly drawing the design on it when he was recuperating from an illness himself seems to me to provide an insight into the link between the art and the material.

All the publicity around this show at Tate Modern made me mistakenly assume that I knew where he’s coming from, so thought I’d prioritise seeing another show on this trip to London. As it turned out I was aiming for Susan Hiller, only her show is at Tate Britain… So I went to Orozco instead. Which is lucky. Because I loved it.

Orozco’s work is straightforward, intelligent and direct. He presents us with his take on the world, his observations. In his own words art makes the viewer feel ‘individual and conscious’, and it is his ability to convey his individual interests in a way in which the objects and drawings seem familiar and absurd which I find really inspiring.

In his work Carambole with Pendulum (1996) he presents an oval form of a French game (he freely admits that he is obsessed with circular forms, as he has always considered them ‘the most perfect things’), with the red ball suspended over the centre of the baise. The aim of the game is to strike a white ball with the cue and hit the red ball as it moves. This is made harder in Orozco’s version as the red ball swings gently up and out of reach.

The large table sits in the centre of a room, surrounded by photographs which have captured moments of poetry and clarity which the artist has noticed. The peace in the room and the rack of cues spoke of snooker matches to me, and I was really happy when the attendant confirmedI was allowed to play. Setting the balls into motion and watching the red ball form it’s own version of the oval of the table was beautiful. I wished the attendant had agreed to play a game with me…

In another room housing 2010’s Chicotes, the atmosphere was heavy with the small of old tyres. The arrangement of the blown-out fragments on the floor made it seem like a collection, and the violence of the explosions in evidence again succeeded in reminding me of the drivers whose tires these had been. Are they ok? Did they ever reach their destination? The display was orderly, and we were able to walk along one side of it, passing observers. The less successful part of this exhibit was the written accompaniment on the wall. In this it was referred to that the moulted pools of metal amongst the tires are aluminium, supposedly (‘ calling to mind the fragments of the cars themselves’). This seemed ungainly to me as I have yet to see an aluminium car, and these tires were burst rather than burned. Far better to appreciate their solidified curves and colour in contrast to the frizzled blacks of the tires themselves.

Looking at exhibitions like this, I always swing wildly between excitement and despondency: excitement that there are other people in the world working in a way which i identify with and enjoy, and despair that all these things have already been done, leaving less space for my ideas in the world.

Orozco’s concepts of humanity, both poetic and at times brutal, always playful and considered, is a model for me to respond to, rather than feel reduced by.


Photojournalism being fabulous

The BBC photos accompanying Human Planet by Timothy Allen are absolutely gorgeous, lush of colour and rich in subject.

Photojournalism seems to inhabit the medium fully, as it captures a moment for us to appreciate long after it passes, and is particularly relevant to these subjects.

The cultures and Peoples, sensitive to environment and human interference, are archived here in rich detail. The dichotomy of the resources and processes required to take the pics, and the effect it has on the sum total also appeals to me.

Joanna Brown

Waiting to enter the space created a sense of anticipation- seats were limited- and the sense of occasion was palpable. On entering we are faced with a large construction occupying most of the space in the room, and around it are arranged chairs, one to each slot cut in the side of the construction. We take our seats, as if at a dinner party, but we are isolated from each other. Six of us sit, but each can only see their direct neighbors on either side. The outside of the construction is untreated, but smooth. The slots cut in the side are at about head height- it’s instinctive and natural to lean forward and look through to the interior. Inside every surface is painted white, and it is startling to see five pairs of eyes looking with you. Inevitably, as there is nothing else noteworthy inside, the others’ eyes draw your gaze, in particular those of the person sitting across from you. No other part of them is visible, nothing to distract or divert your gaze, only the eyes remain, looking back at you. Expressions are hard to read with no facial clues, but eyes widen and sparkle in reaction to this pure and intimate act of looking.

Kate Genever is Web-art, for want of a better word, the result of collaborating with Peak District farmers Ken Wilson and Brian Bellfield, in a year-long residency. This site brings together, match-makes and juxtaposes images, media and associations.

I first saw Kate Genever’s work at the RCA show in 2007, and it has influenced my own practice ever since, in particular the piece entitled ‘Neither work nor play’ which featured a ball of string with knots tied at small intervals along the length of it. It appeared to never have been unwound. This painstaking acknowledgement of the worthwhile futile actions we make really charmed me.

Invasion: Michael Zwingmann at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Michael Zwingmann, Invasion


I stole a trip to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park to catch the huge David Nash show, and this work by Michael Zwingmann had a major impact on my day.

Made from cast asphalt, these monumental structures occupy a space which would have been the football pitch of the old school housed in the buildings now used by the sculpture park. The title brings to mind the frantic pitch invasions we have seen on the TV, but your eyes are jolted back into the stillness here. There is no crowd, and no trees, which is a contrast to much of the rest of the grounds. The material is incongruous to the setting. Manufacturing and construction are juxtaposed with nature. The scale of the forms echoes that of straw bales, yet nothing will be fed or insulated with this.

And then the more general features of the space make themselves known, as you listen beyond the quiet and the wind and birdsong, and you hear the background noise of the M1 motorway. So constant in our lives we barely notice it, and so invasive of this quiet green space. This work is dropped before us, an assault on our eyes and noses (you can still smell the tar) in accompaniment to the road noise.

The stillness with which they sit there is cold comfort against the frantic rushing of the cars.


David Nash at the Yorkshire sculpture park


Feb 2011

Standing broad and tall and managing to look large even in a huge gallery space is david Nash’s Occulus. At approx. 2m square, the form is made of one piece of wood, the result of four eucalyptus trees growing and fusing together to become one. The sides are uneven in places, though none protrudes outside the cube form which it has been cut into. Excess wood was sheared off by the artist using a specially constructed double handled chainsaw, and the offcuts stand around the room, sentient, loyal, yet sloughed off the main.

The cut sections of the form still bear the marks of the cutting, and this surface contrasts with the smooth curves of the untouched trunk.

The form dwarfs you. Adults come up less than halfway, and children become smaller just as it becomes larger next to them.

The faint smell of cut wood and charcoal permeates the galleries. Visitors flow in and out of the spaces, and children play around the sculptures. It’s as if the presence of so much blatant nature condones the sense of celebration.

The artist himself wrote that although he believed that he was working in wood, what he actually works in are the four elements, water, air, water and fire. All elements associated with trees and wood.

So it is that all these hunks, hulks and husks of wood become optimistic, as the growth and life of these trees is acknowledged, their wood appreciated in it’s current forms, and the fuel some of them might otherwise have become, had the artist not quenched the flames with his hose.

The neighbouring galleries are host to sliced, split and scorched pieces, all large works in proportion in this setting, but the occulus sits in its own space, regal and quiet. I returned to it twice during the day, and the last time i went there was a large family group visiting with me. I smiled as i remembered the time before when I’d had the space alone with the work, feeling pleased about that. Then, as i was thinking about leaving, a small child ran into the centre, under one of the legs formed by the fork of the tree as it grew, now supporting one corner of the form which stands inverted. As she emerged she declared she could see through it, so i peeked in to look too. Sure enough, i could look through, and this was no accident, as it was a square cut hole, the humble gift of the artist who wanted the Occulus and us, to have light.

‘the skull’ by saâdane afif

I really like the delayed ‘aha’ moment this provokes. manipulating the objects and the location adds an overbearing sense of implicit involvement in the work. modernist 21st century style.
‘the mori art museum in tokyo japan presents ‘french window: looking at contemporary art through the marcel duchamp prize’
together with the association for the international diffusion of french art and japanese publication, the asahi shimbun.
on now until july 3, 2011, the exhibition represents a decade of contemporary french art through the perspective of the private
collectors who form ADIAF. 

featuring the work of duchamp himself along with 28 contemporary artists who have won or been finalists for the prize,
the exhibition marks 10 years for what has become one of france’s most prestigious art awards, the marcel duchamp prize.
held in honor of the 20th century french artist, the award supports and promotes artists who lead the french contemporary scene.’