Saturday, February 4, 2012


Insects by David Shrigley

During my years at university there were some exams I will never forget about. Between them the so called Fenomenology of styles was the most terrible due to the fearsome professor. He has been literally an institution for Bologna’s Dams (which stands for Disciplines of Art Music and Spectacle) and extremely well known for his picky and meticulous precision. I do remember I learnt a lot of dates and names by heart and I found very helpful trying to  keep in mind topics by associating concepts to images, names to figures.
Fight the nothingness by D. Shrigley
Spot painting by Damien Hirst
That’s what David Shrigley's Brain Activity exhibition is about as well.
Firstly when I entered the room and I saw the series of drawings I thought he was mainly using the function of tautology for which the speaker adopts two different words (or forms in this case) to express the same meaning, even repeating it unnecessarily.
The word door it does correspond with a painted door, the word mirror reflects the image of an oval mirror, as well as the word stairs indicates the one we know as a stairs on the paper.
However, for some of these paintings this tautology formula doesn’t work properly. There is

a gap between the artist’s written indication and the image, a sort of friction between what the viewer would expect ordinarily and what Shrigley presents us with his by now well know black humour. Through this approach, a gravestone becomes a breakfast list within whose elements also an aspirin surprisingly appears written down. (not unusual for those who know what a hangover feels like!)
I do appreciate this Glasgow based artist’s way of communicating. His vocabulary and form are simple and it’s exactly this simplicity that stimulates the viewer’s reflection.

To be honest, Shirgley basically essential expression made myself wonder around, leaving free my stream of consciousness, I explored my Brain Activity too. 
Hanging around the Southbank I started to make connections between the seen and the remembered. It was very satisfying and liberating, probably an action that helps your brain in finding a sense for all the things experienced over the years. It could be another random but not very casual description of what they meant, still mean or not anymore.
Here is more or less the sort of map that developed in my head.
Let’s start from Shrigley's exhibition and then we can move on to my afternoon at the Tate modern, where once again the majesty and the meaningful quantity of art pieces literally brought me into a “not like the outside world” dimension.
The Hayward gallery’s big square room exposes an invasion of insects that the artist assembled in different shapes and occupations. Obviously this black animal orgy reminds me Delacroix, I do see this composition as the contemporary version of The Death of Sardanapalus. It’s a chaos where humans can become animals and vice versa, an advice that jokes with our pretentious Sapiens Sapiens attitude.
Spatial concept waiting by Fontana

Going back to the first lines written here, there was a reason why I mentioned that exam I sat years ago. It’s because while studying the “cutting tendency” of the great Lucio Fontana, I was feeling a theoretical pleasure in recalling my self cutting with a knife the plastic box of water bottles.
So it happened that, once at the Tate, I’ve noticed the psychiatrist Colin Blakemore’s comment on Fontana's gesture, beautifully described as an “anarchic act of violence against nothingness”.
And my mind with a quite regular mental operation went back to the before seen Shrigley Fight against nothingness, the giant print outside the gallery and visible from a distance.
Sometime the pleasure you gain out of these kind of connections, no matter if they are very smart or not, is incredible.
Not as a coincidence, many books have been written and will still be in the future on the concept of analogy.
Madison Avenue 1975 by Epstein

I’m very fond of it but sometimes I recognize
 the affection doesn’t show things in the way they are, but only in the way you want to see them.
I remember a professor of mine used to say analogies actually are quite risky because only few are  good, while most of them are just casual and not logically investigated similarities.
Is this comment true or an exaggeration? This could be a good point but it’s not mine now. As I admitted before, I just followed my stream of consciousness without thinking too much for a while.
Continuing my wandering around, I went to few rooms dedicated to contemporary photography, I stopped to observe Mitch Epstein work and his language, inevitably American (born in Massachusetts and based in New York) but a bit European too (he actually won a 6 months residency in Berlin). 
I found fascinating when an artist could be called in Heideggerian terms essential, in other words and vernacularly when he remains basically the same over the years and approaches his medium with more or less the same aesthetical choice. This is what is very evident of Epstein since the first glimpse. His environmental interests directed him mostly to the landscape subject, where the human impact is visible and criticized (see his work on hurricane Katrina for example).
Biloxi Missisipi 2005 by Epstein

Epstein sort of casual “what was a house on a tree” made me think by contrast of Tim Walker's dreamy one. If the tree is the same, it’s impossible to say this for the furniture.
And again my stream of consciousness played very easily with an undeniable similarity between a colourful spots shirt photographed by Epstein and the last Damien Hirst work that presents his worldwide ubiquitous exhibitions. Let’s put it clearly, it’s far from me the intention of accusing Hirst of copying Epstein.
Inside outside 2002 by Tim Walker

On the one hand it would be 

ridiculous to make a pois motif  the
matter of a copyright’s debate, on the other hand it would mean having a bad taste in art not to highlight the unique beauty of ordinary people’s street life sparkling out on a fluorescent lifeless series of spots.

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