Jannis Kounellis at Ambika P3

Ambika P3 is a huge hidden industrial space in the bowls of the University of Westminster. The space warrants the monumental work of Jannis Kounellis’s ‘K’.  As one enters the space you have the pleasure of looking down onto the work and can see its shape and form in all clarity. Then as you descend the steps the monumental stature of the work begins to tower over and dominate you.

The darkness of the steel blocks, with the black coats hooked and stretched over the rows of bottles attached, seems to absorbs the energy and weigh down the space. The work carries a heaviness in its materiality weighted further by the coal piles on the top of each steel block. The work is monumental in scale and effect, as if carrying a weight of history and a reminder that death is ever present.

The other work in the show also refers to death and a bodily presence that has passed. The rows of black coats hanging off coat hooks, a few rows of bottles on the wall bound together and wrapped in cloth and a black bundle of cloth resting in a corner. I prefered the simplicity of the smaller works. For me they seemed lighter, more accessible and interesting.

On the whole a great show. Kounellis is a master at not giving us all the answers and that I think is the secret to his lasting appeal. This body of work I am sure will stay with me for sometime.

Review

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Nairy Baghramian & Phyllida Barlow at the Serpentine

It was a beautiful day to be wondering through Kensington Gardens in the late afternoon. May is a wonderful month with everything blooming. I am loving the horse chestnut trees this spring, full of flowers. And to add to all this vibrancy Phyllida Barlow is showing at the Serpentine Gallery alongside Nairy Baghramian.

What a great show, the way the two styles of sculptors were separated encouraged viewers to compare and contrast the different styles. For me Barlow steals the show. Always been a fan but the work in this show managed to tickle those nerve endings even more.

I’d describe Barlow’s work as gutsy, organic, sexy, abject and weighty full of colour and passion. Like all encompassing paintings that dominate the space and work on an emotional and physical level. I instantly fell in love with the cardboard cement boxes on the wall. The ‘Untitled: Double Act’ of two large balls of  matter, that seemed like two enormous pubescent heads rolling about with their baseball caps on, brought such joy to my being. The physical body ever present amid the architectural structures that seem akin to debris of building sites.

By placing Barlow’s work adjacent to Baghramian’s the contrast of styles was heightened. Baghramian’s sculptures seem lighter, colder less emotional and more intellectual. Responding to the space in a  careful reflective thoughtfulness. The work is calmer, but for me less exciting. I felt it was too contained and distanced from the viewer. This feeling of distance was heightened by the staff not allowing us to cross the black line to view the work up close. I found it hard to engage with Baghramian’s work on this occassion. for me the passion of Barlow’s work dominated. I think Barlow could have happily and effectively had a solo show. Maybe it is a shame that such a significant contemporary female British artist was not given that opportunity.

For a few of the highlights do check out this link for images:

And a good review at the Independent

Koln, Dusseldorf, Bonn, Monchengladbach & Essen

It was great seeing such a fantastic selection of modernist and post-war artwork in a just a few days. It was a whirl of the greats with Polke, Richter, Blinky, Dieter Roth and of course Beuys standing out for me. I think Sophie summarised the highlights of  the recent trip very well in her blog and so will not repeat.

I did want to add for my own record how inspiring I also found the work of Max Neumann at the Galerie Stefan Ropke, Koln. Such simplicity of imagery but with a depth of surface, layering what seemed to be prints, drawing and painting. Powerfully understated and effective.

At the ‘Wrong’ exhibition in the Kunst in Tunnel (KIT) Dusseldorf Dieter Krieg was a hit, with his text and layered washed out surfaces. I also enjoyed the simplicity of Matthias Lahme’s cut out paintings on paper. A layered surface so often grabs my attention and seduces me.

Erwin Wurm’s ‘Liquid Reality’ show at the Kunst Museum Bonn was of course a hit. With his ‘one minute sculptures’, ‘fat houses’ and ‘pullover sculptures’. I loved the fun of his work and what seems both ridiculous and tragic. Pure pleasure.

I also enjoyed the layout of the Museum Abteiberg in Monchengaldbach. What a fine selection of works, with Dieter Roths, Richter’s grey paintings and of course Kippenberger’s Richter table. Rodney Macmillan’s carpet continues to haunt me: “It  is easier to get  something new right than something old.”

Finally Alexandra Bircken at the Kolnischer Kunstverein was a great show to finish with. It was a breath of air to see a contemporary female artist after all the male posturing in galleries. I loved her work. Strongly feminine, fun with an unease that comes through her careful placement of materials crafted together. The image that I have included in the highlights summed up so much for me.

Highlights

Blogging!

Started! Thanks to Sophie http://sophiebbarr.wordpress.com/ and many others who inspired me to get on with it!

The plan is that this blog will help me reflect on what I am seeing, what I am inspired by,  what I am creating and give my art notebooks a voice to a wider world.

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