Monday, 28 July 2014

Interview with Gustav Metzger

Gustav Metzger: interview

Gustav Metzger: Lift Off!
Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge
24 May – 31 August 2014

“When I was young I wanted art that would lift off, that would levitate, gyrate, bring together different – perhaps contradictory  – aspects of my being. The search for – the need to encapsulate varying kinds of contradictory elements, the urgency of stopping sharp – extinct – twist and: razor-sharp endpoint. After the experience, we expand, reconnect with a normality which is not the same as it was. But normality once changed is not the same.” [Untitled, handwritten note by Gustav Metzger, p.2 exh. cat.]

Although Metzger (born in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1926) is better known for his Auto-Destructive Art, he was simultaneously developing its counterpart, Auto-Creative Art, in the same lecture demonstrations and manifestos that took place from 1959. The current exhibition of his works at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, focuses on the lesser-known Auto-Creative works, contextualising these against film and archive footage. It is a significant homecoming for the artist who studied at the Cambridge School of Art in 1945.

Studio International was lucky enough to meet Metzger in his London Fields studio. After a brief chat about the magazine, with Metzger recalling his two contributions from March and October 1969, we turn to talk about his work, his motivations, and his scientifically driven techniques.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Review of Xavier White’s Full Circle, a glass art exhibition, at ORTUS Learning and Events Centre, The Maudsley Hospital

Xavier White’s Full Circle, a glass art exhibition
ORTUS Learning and Events Centre, The Maudsley Hospital, 82-96 Grove Lane, Camberwell, SE5 8SN
16 July – 26 September 2014

With its spacious atrium and glass ceiling reaching up to the clouds, Duggan Morris Architects’ award-winning ORTUS learning and events centre at South London’s Maudsley Hospital couldn’t be a more appropriate location for Xavier White’s Full Circle, suggesting that, with an appropriate amount of effort, anything is attainable.

White is certainly someone who strives hard in the face of adversity. Growing up in the shadow of the Maudsley, little did he know that he’d end up there himself in 1985, following a near fatal cycling collision, as a result of which he lay in a 10-day coma. Now, 29 years later, White returns to his place of recovery, coming, as the exhibition’s title puts it, “Full Circle”.

As an artist who, since his accident, has been rehabilitating creatively through working largely with glass, this exhibition is both a retrospective, a culmination of his achievements – both in his career and his life – to date, and a promise of things to come. It speaks of his personal struggles, but also of those of his fellow survivors, and, seen through a wider lens, calls out to all of us who battle our demons and are challenged every day. After all, we all have brains.

Included are works such as What’s on at the Globe tonight? (2004), a piece White made during his City Lit foundation course. Following instructions on how to make the model in wood, White made his in glass, going on to win the V&A’s Inspired by competition for people in adult education and then being selected for a Bonham’s glass auction. On the stage, he has lovingly engraved a scene from his painting class where he was working on a large canvas as part of his ongoing Cohedia project, creating an imaginary, mind-expanding cityscape.

“The entire stage of the theatre corresponds to ‘working memory’, the immediate memory system in which we talk to ourselves, visualise places and people, and plan actions,” says White, referring to the work of eminent psychologist Dr Bernard Baars. “Mental architecture can be described as a working theatre. Working theatres are not just ‘Cartesian’ daydreams – they do real things, just like real theatres.”  

White is a thinker, who has researched deeply into the fields of neurology, neural architecture, learning styles and brain function. And yet, since his accident, after which he had to learn, from scratch, how to even put one foot in front of the other, he unsurprisingly struggles with formal education. Windows of Opportunity (2008) is an ode to these struggles: hexagonal glass panes, painstakingly painted with literary and scientific figures and references, designs for the university building in Cohedia. “Rectangular windows pushed out, phat with knowledge,” says White.

Why is Life Set Chess Game? Moves, Interactions, I can’t keep up! (2009), which has a companion work living in White’s own salon gallery at his home in Blackheath, is an exquisitely hewn chess set, composed of precariously but meticulously balanced glasses and decanters, pieces from his ongoing Verrelic Spires collection. The analogy is clear; the perpetual need to think, plan, and take action, with the risk of losing hanging heavy.

Think about it… (2014) comprises further such arrangements, displayed in a pristine, and somehow scientific vitrine, etched with images of hands, eyes, ears and mouths, nostrils flaring, visualisations of our senses, the closest most of us get to the functioning brain. Colourful glass nuggets, coded as charged ions, neurotransmitter inhibitors and exciters, are scattered about, resplendent in the refracted light. Either side are a thinker and a gung-ho teenage White, cycling along blithely, unaware of the life-changing event to come. Both symbolic of freedom. A beautiful sight, art to be enjoyed for its aesthetic value, but also a lesson in science, with White’s written reminder: “As you are observing this, your brain’s neurons are passing information to each other through an organic electrical exchange, releasing neurotransmitter molecules at synaptic clefts. This metabolically driven exchange is how we feel and think at the micro-biotic level.” And this exhibition is certainly one to incite both feelings and thoughts.

Upstairs on the roof terrace, with views over London’s greatest glass structure, the Shard, White has decorated the tinted glass wall with frosted vinyl circles, celebrating the metaphor of his journey. Opposite this large meditative arrangement are three smaller circles with the words Health, In and Mind, comprising Maudsley Learning’s mantra. The exhibition and its location point to White’s achieving the pinnacle of success (not to say he won’t continue to climb from here on in), and encourages others to likewise reach for their dreams atop the spires. As White concludes: “Xavier White’s full circle is on a roll.”

Installation shots all courtesy of the artist

Portfolio: Faggettes

Portfolio: Faggettes

Faggettes (a play on the terms “suffragettes” and “faggot”) has been making art for as long as she can remember, but it was arriving at university and meeting her first girlfriend, who was studying gender studies at the time, that made her interested in creating feminist LGBT art. Soon after, she abandoned oil paint, finding instead that digital imagery suited her needs and offered, what she calls, a “certain trashy, contemporary and commercial quality” relevant to her themes. “I want to capture images we see day to day within our lives and put them into a queer feminist context,” she says. “I take images from the LGBT community but also images from perceived notions of what the LGBT community is. I have used ‘lesbian’ porn images straight from the internet to demonstrate my point. I like to think I challenge what the public perceive lesbians to be – a re-appropriation of images.”

“Dykes on Bikes” was recently used to front the relaunch of Club Lesley, Twat Boutique’s sister night at Dalston Superstore. “Collage work is very popular at the moment,” she says. “The trashier and camper the better, so it seems.” Her work is also included in “Anthology”, published by the Cambridge feminist ‘zine, “Gender Agenda”. The book is for sale in Cambridge only, but there’s a copy in the Feminist Library in London, and one can be sent to you directly by mailing:

Follow Faggettes on twitter at: @faggettes

To see this full portfolio, please buy the August issue of DIVA magazine

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Review of Suzie Pindar: Entwined at Bar Titania

Suzie Pindar: Entwined
Bar Titania, 75 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 7PY
11 – 17 July 2014

“I used to paint how I feel deep inside myself. I now paint how I see things. I am an Artist – nothing more.” (Suzie Pindar, 2013)

Suzie Pindar calls herself “the Naked Artist”. Indeed, in her works, she strips herself – or, at least, her soul – bare. Fears, loves, losses, lessons in life – all are represented, or revealed, in her prints, photographs, and mixed media works.

By combining various different materials and media, she reflects the different aspects of herself and her identity. As she writes of “Lust”, it is “an artwork/photograph layered up of feelings”. Through layering she creates a palimpsest, a collection of memories, moments and sentiments, which cannot be erased. “This artwork is a representation of a feeling, a reflection of myself as an Artist.”

Friday, 4 July 2014

Review of Sara Davidmann: Ken. To be destroyed at Museum of Liverpool

Sara Davidmann: Ken. To be destroyed
Museum of Liverpool
10 June – 7 July 2014

“Once again for pity’s sake don’t tell anybody.”

A family secret, hidden for a lifetime, and revealed only now, as part of a scrapbook-like exhibition, opened at the Museum of Liverpool during the Un-Straight Museum conference at the start of June.

After her mother was taken into a nursing home, photographer Sara Davidmann was clearing the garage when she came upon two large manila envelopes and a brown paper bag. One of the envelopes was clearly labelled in her mother’s handwriting: “Ken. To be destroyed”.

Ken, or K as Davidmann refers to him now, was her uncle. He had married her mother’s younger sister, Hazel, in 1954, when K was 34 and Hazel 29. They had lived out their married life in Edinburgh, and, after Hazel’s death in 2003, were buried side by side.

But, under the surface, K and Hazel’s marriage hid the family’s great untold secret.