Saturday, 23 July 2011

Some Material Art in Very Material World

Contemporary art is often blamed for being too easy on the eye and easy on the mind, in a sense that what if often does to the audience is that it SHOCKS. Shock being an instrument to reach the viewer  and transfer the artist's message to his astonished public.
Quite often contemporary art  entertains the public,  better than the Paris Disneyland does. In Disney it is the eery "Hollywood Tower Hotel"  that brings adrenaline all the way down to your toes;  nowadays an art gallery  can encourage the synthesis  of the  stress hormone  with an equal success. 
Jake or Dinos Chapman, White Cube, July 2011
Surprise, amusement and even disgust  - these are  the kind of feelings quite often evoked by l'art contemporain.  Shock is a fast and effective way to penetrate the brain of a viewer - not always kind, and almost never elegant.

Jake or Dinos Chapman,
 White Cube, July2011
YBA, in general, and a new Chapman Brothers' show in the White Cube, in particular,  is clearly a vivid illustration  of a thought  above.In the latter Jay Jopling  reveals  unhesitantly why contemporary art exhibition is called a show: "Jake or Dinos Chapman"  is a SHOW  where the first thing I encountered on entering the gallery  was an indignant looking 35-year old woman who was dragging out her daughter and telling her with  outrage, nearly bursting into tears: "Honey, don't look, it is horrible!!!"
(see  Jake Chapman in  Hoxton if you are not that sensitive).


Amazed at first I was when we arrived on a sunny (!) day in Sudeley castle, garden art  presented by Sotheby's at Sudeley selling exhibition ("Material Worlds", 28 July-30 September) is rather polite than provocative.  Polite does not necessarily  mean boring, even though it lacks this shocking/entertaining quality so often inherent to art today.  Neither does it mean old-fashioned  or conservative.  It is just well-mannered. 
The exhibition, curated by Janice Blackburn is polite,  in that it is perfectly balanced on where to perplex the public, and where to leave it peacefully chilled, where to please the eye and where to  provide a conundrum, where to make  a visitor reflect on the future  of the planet or plan that of his own, where to blow in his face a fresh breath  of nature in a naturalistically disguised object and where to surprise him with a high-high tech piece, designed on the latest version of artist's MacBook.

I would therefore call this exhibition diplomatic.

Giza by David Adjaye, Sotheby's at Sudeley, 2011
English garden  and Garden sculpture   aren't they old as the world? Certainly so, However, the Sudeley exhibition is gently trying to  subvert the traditional idea of what an ideal English garden should look like and give a 21-century vision of the green gallery. 
The design objects displayed in a well-cut green setting are very up-to-date, even if they don't fall into eyes-widening category.
Thus the show is prudently diplomatic: by blending an aristocratic English garden with the latest artistic production, it merges old  with new, reconciling rather than opposing them.

Bees by Bookja Textile&Design,
Sotheby's at Sudeley, 2011
How does the Sudeley exhibition  manage to present  a subversive idea while placed in this "award-winning" garden setting ("billowing with hundreds of varieties of old fashioned roses")?

19'S by Omer Arbel,
Sotheby's at Sudeley, 2011
By putting an extraordinary LED table by "the Godfather of light" Ingo Maurer in a magnificent setting - the ancient  chapel. By revisiting antique techniques in the water-filled copper  mirrors  by Omer Arbel. By playing with nature in the enormous bird nest cascading on the Medieval wall (which is actually  woven ash twigs by Laura Ellen Bacon's ). By putting on a green grass an enlivened computer design in a form of a Zaha Hadid-inspired concrete  bench  by Amanda Levete. 

What Janice Blackburn is trying to show is that garden is not just a place  for peaceful relaxation, reading Jane Austeen's novels in the comfortable deckchair, and inviting friends for a barbecue party.  Garden, in her presentation, becomes a site of contemplation that encourages its visitors to get out of  conventional thought. 
Janice's ambition is to create not a harmonious  garden, but inspiring garden, garden provoking thinking. 
"Be bold, have fun!" she proclaims. 
Mazzolini di Fiori by Andrea Salvetti, Sotheby's at Sudeley, 2011`

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