Anselm Kiefer, Ages of the World, 2014; Private collection; Photo courtesy Royal Academy of Arts. Photography: Howard Sooley / © Anselm Kiefer
by Suzanne Harb
Joshua Reynolds, the first president of the Royal Academy, once said; ‘a room hung with pictures is a room hung with thoughts’. This year over 1,200 thoughts from artists like Martin Creed and Michael Landy to unknown artists grace the walls of the main galleries of the Royal Academy. Having had to whittle down the 12,000 digital submissions would have been a Goliath task. However what remains is a look into the various disciplines that represent contemporary art today.
Now, the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition often get’s some stick from esteemed critics from the larger publications and across the board reviews are varied. What is interesting is how much discourse this annual exhibition (now in it’s 245th year) can encourage. With all those who attended making their own personal assessments as to which deserve to be labeled the good, the bad and the ugly. It is for this reason along that I love it! Due to the nature of the exhibition, it attracts such a varied audience thus opening up channels of communication between people and uniting them through their discussion of art.
Providing a dissection of what is happening in contemporary art right now the Royal Academy is by the artists and for the artists. This is an incredibly powerful approach as it means no boundaries are put up in relation to prestige, style and approach. A plethora of current topics are tackled, it is almost like thumbing through the pages of a world new paper. Interestingly a piece titled FGM by Angela Braven is an example of how art continuously shines its light on contemporary issues. Depicting the horrors of Female Gentile Mutilation, and highlighting the ever widening divide in opinion regarding the matter, the inclusion of works such as this is vital as it highlights art fearlessness to tackle such issues head on.
was in 1769, an exhibition open to the public was a pioneering and exciting, a
notion that we take for granted in 2014. However the rooms curated in that
traditional salon style are a means of acknowledging the exhibitions 18th
century roots (and a technique very much needed to showcase the sheer volume of
works). Gus Cummins RA was responsible for the curation of the Small Weston
Room as well as room VII. Hung densely from floor to ceiling in a complex grid,
works are clustered together as to produce some unexpected dialog among
themselves, interesting juxtapositions and placements revealing more of a
Cornelia Parker RA has curated the Lecture Room. She has invited many high profile artists and Royal Academicians to contribute works in keeping with her black and white theme. With many artists creating new works especially for this space, she has created an exciting and dynamic cohesion of works. This room is playful yet sleek and provides a break from the busy rooms that preceded it.
While there is a great deal to take in, one drawback of the exhibition is that it is lacking in its representation of the more unusual artistic mediums. With a large percentage of the 1,262 pieces being taken up by paintings, and while sculpture does indeed stand out against the painted sea of works, we have yet to see the inclusion of performance art. In addition to this there is very little video and not near enough sculpture to be representative of the vast and varied approached to art today. While this is an important observation, I do not want it do detract form the wonderful experience it is walking through a room engulfed by art. Wondering and meandering through peoples thoughts is something very special. While you may not love everything on display the chances are you will find something that moves or amuses you.
Further Readings -
Review: "The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition: The anarchy and ecstasy returns" by Zoe Pilger for the Independent, 02.06.2014
Review: "Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, review: 'not so much old or new as exhausting" by Mark Hudson for the Telegraph, 06.06.2014
Review: "RA's Summer Exhibition: A sprawling exhibition of varying quality" by Will Gompertz for BBC Arts, 04.06.2014
Review: "First Look: the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition" by Ben Luke for the Evening Standard, 02.06.2014
The annual degree show season has started, it's time to go spot the next super star graduates before they get affiliated with the noble house galleries.
We walked through CSM's show last weekend and found the works this year are as controversial as usual, although one would wonder how the visitors could understand the student's intention without their presence or any explanatory note most of the times. Or do they believe only the VIPs in private view evenings are worth their dedication and the general public should only appreciate their works by second guesses? It is puzzling that some artists still behave like this, and complain about nobody paying attention to their works when people give up their valuable weekend time to go see their works. We can perhaps only wish this 'tradition' would gradually change.
Here we are going to showcase a few highlights we found in the show, in no particular order and of no particular reason, since we are simply applying the same tactics as the students that do not present their works with their concepts -
2five8's installation '48 sheets' is a billboard controlled by motion sensors. The message is revealed when you walk across in front of the board.
'four letter words' by Claudia Klaus Rowland. Claudia left a comment on the vimeo page to explain her concept - please spend a minute to go read her words.
Isabella Cammareri's oriental-cross-romanticism 3D collages
Christina-Shelagh Mongelli's Gulf Prokupkin. There is a blue soldier that is en-gulfed by the black and white sea, suggesting a movement thats prone to fail as he is stuck on a rock. A rock that used to be close to the sea, a closeness suggested by its wavy shape. Yet their closeness is a reactionary one, as there is a 'gulf' between them. An unbridgeable disparity, due to the lack of understanding.
Gwennaelle Cook's red-white-blue simple geometric exercise
Octave Marsal - Theo de Gueltzl's amazing etching on perspex
Kristian Kragelund's 220 pieces of steel forming some 70 leaning figures under the sun - he told us that the heat in a certain time of the day from the direct sunlight would make the sheets expand and adjust their balanced positions. Very interesting fact and hope there would be a time-lapsed video to reveal this happening
Ellen Rose turns kitchen towel roll into this wonderful chiffon or silk-liked fashion masterpiece with all the colourful strokes
Jack O'Brien's sound installation
Another visually stunning piece made by simple daily objects. by Majella Dowdican
Emma Vidal's intriguing sculptures are both sold
Dynamic sculpture by Matthieu Romet-Lemarchand
Poetic ceiling intervention by Valentin Dommanget
Last, we also like Sarah Jacqueline Hamilton's Mount Me which you would see a person climbing up a pile of foam when you put your eyes into the viewfinder - it's a pity that cannot be captured and reproduced here.
Full photo album here
Further Readings -
Page - Central Saint Martins degree show 2014 – in pictures on the Guardian, 21.05.2014
Page - official page for the Part 1 show
Earlier this month, we have the opportunity to visit Gillman Barracks, an ex-british army barracks tranformed into a home for many galleries, local and international.
The barracks is located in the fringe of the city centre, with an interesting mix around - business parks, starchitect residential development, academy of teachers as well as golf course. It is an initiative the Singaporean government create in the hope of competing with Hong Kong, Dubai and the likes to be the art hub of Asia.
Map showing the surroundings of Gillman Barracks - link
Directory at the Entrance of the Barracks showing the locations of various galleries and amenities in the venue
At the time of visit, a few galleries were showing works by Indonesian artists, which could be seen as a dominant emerging force in the whole South East Asian art scene given the rise of the country with 250-million population.
Michael Janssen was showing Indonesian artist Eddy Susanto's "Albrecht Dürer and the Old Testament of Java" in the gallery. Originally a graphic manifestation of Old Testament texts that were written in Hebrew, Dürer's images are recreated in Susanto's paintings with their outlines in Javanese script. This script, which the artist painstakingly wrote by hand with black ink pen, consists of the entire Old Testament, translated into the Javanese language.
A unconventional show was up in Mizuma gallery with Indonesian artist Angki Purbandono showcasing 25 artworks made out of 78 scanographies featuring his 10-month stay in the Yogyakarta Narcotics Penitentiary, with the help of 20 other inmates who took part in the set up of the Prison Art Programs (PAPs) in May 2013. Although the works on the wall are shot by Angki, the contents are actually artistic creations of the prisoners.
Next door at Arndt gallery, there is a solo show "Triology" of Entang Wiharso, one of the most significant and internationally acknowledged Indonesian artists working in SE Asia today for his large scale paintings, wall sculptures and installations. His works have been exhibited extensively in various contexts: gallery shows, public and private collections displays as well as biennales and group shows in Indonesia and abroad.
Other galleries were showing works by local artists and across the world but mainly in the region.
Fost Gallery was hosting Singaporean artist Heman Chong's solo show 'Of Indefinite Time or Occurence'. In his works, Heman investigates the relationships between image and text, examining how one is intrinsically linked to the other in his idiosyncratic manner of generating fictional narratives.
Pearl Lam, one of the most influential buyers in contemporary abstract art, has a debut group show in her singapore gallery curated by Philip Dodd. In his own words about the exhibition, "First, this exhibition seems to me to follow on from the groundbreaking exhibition that inaugurated Pearl Lam’s Hong Kong gallery, Chinese Contemporary Abstract, 1980s until Present: MINDMAP. If that exhibition revealed just how various and strong abstract art in China has been since the 1970s, this much more modest exhibition explores what abstract artists from around the world have in common and what is it about their cultural location that makes them distinctive. In itself, this exhibition reflects a decentred art world."
In Space Cottonseed, we found Singapore-based Korean artist Lee Young Rim's site-specific "sculpture-paintings" challenging the audience's perception of "pictorial vs physical realms". Her show "Cutting into space" literally insert works into the gallery space, and together with the gallery's house-within-a-house interiors (which reminds us of Dover Street Market), create the most fulfilling spatial experience in our visit of the Barracks on that day.
Future Perfect was showing Turner Prize nominee Nathan Coley. The Scottish artist's first solo show in SE Asia brings together photographic and sculptural work from the past five years, the exhibition complements Coley’s representation in the current Biennale of Sydney.
We found London-grown artist Christopher Kulendran Thomas' works were shown in Yeo Workshop. The show was his first show in Asia, collaborating with Annika Kuhlmann, manipulated the processes through which art is distributed in order to set in motion the mechanisms of social change.
In many of these shows, we see a common theme - to seek artistic inspirations from one's cultural roots. While the more prominent market places are trading big labels with global appeal, Gillman Barracks has a feel of a little enclave with interesting treasures awaiting your discovery. We hope there would be more joint efforts from the galleries to promote the place and attract more art lovers from the city and afar to visit.
Page - Gillman Barracks: Singapore's new contemporary art centre by Ellen Himelfarb for *wallpaper, 16.10.2012
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