Tuesday, 23 November 2010


Carol Rama's works were some of the most appropriate to the Biennial theme of Touched, I felt. Rama's visceral, naive style of painting reminded me in some ways of artists like Francis Bacon or Nitsch; biting in their humanity. They were intimate and very personal, with an angst and intensity that I try to emulate in my own works. The themes of sexuality and confusion are also relevant to my practise, as well as religious allusions. A work I particularly enjoyed was a simple watercolour on worn paper, with a web of plastic eyes forming an unusual cloud shape. This mix of ostensibly rudimentary execution but deep thematic content is what I found interesting, and Rama's paintings displayed a degree of candour that I found really brave and compelling.

A work in Bluecoat I found far too obtuse to enjoy was Daniel Bozhkov's "Music Not Good For Pigeons." I sat and tried to engage with the installation on more than one occasion, but took nothing away from either visit. None of the elements seemed to fit, and the space had no mood or message. This irreverence may have been the point of the work, but I found it impossible to engage with.

Nicholas Hlobo's "Ndize" was a much more successful work. The work started in the downstairs, with balls of wool and fabric seeming to travel in a sewn sort of tube up the stairs of the Bluecoat. The figure in this room was said to be the "hider" in a game of hide and seek, although I first believed it to be looking out of the window. Upstairs, the viewer experienced a maze of thick coloured ribbons hanging from the ceiling, and in the middle of the room was a conspiratorial pair of leather-clad figures, seemingly in conversation. The atmosphere of the upstairs space was very intense, with a sense of playfulness to it obviously because of the bright colours, but it was also in some ways quite ominous. I experienced the exhibition twice, once with and once without company, and the experiences were very different. The space which I'd enjoyed winding through with friends became more sinister and confusing, and the silence of the room was profound. The work seemed to allude to a secretive sort of sexuality, perhaps a vivid representation of  private  desires.

"Odile and Odette" by Yinka Shonibare was a piece I saw as part of Bluecoat's "Objects of Curiosity and Desire," part of Dadafest 2010. The piece was an excerpt performance of a famous scene from Swan Lake. I found the piece very affecting. The slick photography and well-realised sounds made for a very professional piece of film - the sound especially really conveying the feel of the dance from the dancer's perspective. A ballet, known as one of the most graceful and artistic artforms, with one element  amplified, took on a very primal rhythm and atmosphere. The work may have alluded to racial themes, and I interpreted the dancers' synergy as an representation of unity. Ultimately though, I felt the work was more about something raw and implicit than racial identity. I've included an excerpt from the piece above.

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