Gordon Matta-Clark

As i have mentioned previously this blog started purely as a blog for new contemporay art, but the more posts i write i find myself wanting to share and talk about older artists who have shaped my own practice. American artist Gordon Matta-Clark, is most famous for his site specific work and ‘building cuts’ which he produced in the sevenites. These were temporary works created by sawing and carving sections out of buildings, most of which were scheduled to be destroyed, he documented these pieces though photography and film a process which i have become increasingly intrested in within my own practice. The piece Wallspaper (1972) was an installation at the Greene Street gallery in New York, the series of work demonstarted Matta-Clarks method of working through an idea using repetition and representations. Walls consisted of photographs documenting the exposed walls of buildings in New York that were about to be torn down, because Matta-Clark used the same material a number of times the question, ‘what is the work?’ was often asked. Does the work become erased as it is re-used or is this piece only representing an action or place through documentation? Visitors were also invited to take away sheets of the printed matter from the stacks dotted around the exhibition, in a similar was to the artist Felix-Gonzalez-Torres whom i wrote about yesterday.


Felix Gonzalez-Torres

I am currently organising an exhibition with a group of other young artists and I have been toying with the idea of inviting the audience to take a piece of my work away with them. As i work with newspapers, manipulating and changing them into more unique pieces and more recently making text pieces though using the traditional process of letter-press I thought it would be fairly easy to mass produce a piece of work which would be available for the audience to take away for free, this is when I became interested in Cuba born artist, Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Gonzalez-Torres is known for his minimal sculptural installations which are often removable. In many of his exhibitions Gonzalez-Torres has huge stacks of  prints which have been provided for the audience to take away with them, although he emphasises that these prints only exist as an illustration of the original work, rather than a work itself, something which I would like to mirror within my own exhibition. although at first glance the stack of removable printouts may just look like a pile of handouts, they also act as a sculpture which as the exhibition goes by alters and depletes with time, some thing which in itself is interesting.

Gonzalez-Torres made a lot of his most recognizable works after the death of his long-time partner Ross Laycok. Untitled (1991), is a billboard which was installed in twenty-four locations throughout New York City,on the billboard there was a monochrome photograph of an unoccupied bed. In the photograph it is visible that two people have slept in the bed as both pillows have dents where the head had rested. You’d initially associate a bed with comfort and rest, but the billboard has a somber tone which hangs over it. Another piece Untitled (Perfect Lovers) was also made to honor his partner shortly after he was diagnosed with AIDS. The piece shows two identical, adjacent, battery-operated clocks which were initially set to the same time, but, with time, they would inevitably fall out of sync. “By assigning these redundant objects the title “Untitled” (Perfect Lovers), the artist transformed these public, neutral devices used for the measurement of time into personal and poetic meditations on human relationships, mortality, and time’s inevitable flow. Of the light-blue background, Gonzalez-Torres said, “For me if a beautiful memory could have a color that color would be light blue.” ( Although there is a rather serious undertone to alot of Gonzalez-Torres’s work this doesnt take over, a sence of celebration of his partners life comes through his work especially in Untitled (Perfect Lovers).

Marine Hugonnier

Marine Hugonnier is a French artist whose practice doesn’t stick to one medium. In the series Art for Modern Architecture (2004-on going) Hugonnier deals with the relationship between text and image, something which I have also been interested in within my own practice. Whilst looking at newspapers (something which I have spent all of my second year fine art degree doing) I have become increasing fascinated in what happens if you take the only function of a newspaper away, the function of reporting news. For Hugonnier, “the image always comes the promise of an excess of meaning a resistance to its subjection to a purpose of commerce, propaganda and ideology – in short, the spectacle.” ( The relationship between the descriptive and the deceptive is common within newspaper photographs, by removing and replacing the photographs with blocks of colour, I believed that we as the spectator are no longer easily influenced by the text. Like myself, Hugonnier works in certain time scales, a lot of the pieces in Art for Modern Architecture are edited over a week, one a day. Through obstructing the photograph Hugonnier removes the role of the press image, she does this through screen printing a geometric shape over where the photo originally had been placed. This series is in fact called Art for Modern Architecture (Homage to Ellsworth Kelly) and this is obviously evident though the choices she has made regarding covering up the image. Within my own practice I am interested in using a similar process as Hugonnier, covering the press image or text through paint or editing on Photoshop, prehaps using colours and what we associate colours with to replicate the tone of article.

Bas Jan Ader

I recently finished In Search of the Miraculous by Bas Jan Ader and it really is a must read for anyone, not just for those who are interested in conceptual art. In Search for the Miraculous is the realisation of an idea, an idea of the romantic tragic hero on a quest for the sublime. Ader deconstructs every possible element of the idea of finding the sublime, boiling it down to one individual who is silent and alone, an individual who has reached the limits of society and culture, an individual who wants to reach the sublime by travelling across the ocean on a boast by himself. Ader puts this idea into practice though a series of performances documented through photographs, ultimately leading to the solo boat journey. The presentation of In Search of the Miraculous is extremely minimal all excess information is stripped away from the idea, from a conceptual point of view Ader simply plays a role in order to realise an idea which I guess is why he is barely visible in all of the photographs which document his the time running up to the ocean crossing.  The idea of the romantic tragic hero in search of the sublime by setting off on a journey to find himself is exactly that romantic but what is different about this story is that it ended in such a tragic way, the crossing ended three weeks at sea when radio contact with Ader’s boast was lost. In 1976 its wreck was discovered off of the Irish coast, Ader himself was missing and his body was never found. “Thirty years after artist Bas Jan Ader failed to return from a solo crossing of the Atlantic, the interest in his work continues to grow. In less than ten years he created some thirty-five works of art in which falling, physical and emotional vulnerability and mortality are the central themes.” The way in which Ader documented his work through photography and facts is just as current and succesful now as it was thirty years ago. Ultimately Ader’s life ended in such a tragic way but his art is still being discussed today, making him a hero is every way possible.


James Hugonin

The paintings carry with them that pace, that slowness, that sense of time. They ask us to slow down, and to look, and to settle as we would to listen to a piece of music, allowing time to take effect – to acknowledge that, for all their quietness and stillness, our relationship to them is one of continual change”. Michael Harrison (Director of Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge)

On Tuesday the 21st of February I attended the weekly artist talk at the Whitworth Gallery Manchester and the artist speaking was James Hugonin. I was not aware of Hugonin’s work before the talk but I was pleasantly surprised by the work he makes, as many of the artists that talk at the Whitworth usually aren’t to my taste. He began the talk by showing a 15 minute video about a painting which is part of a series he started in 1988. These paintings are made up of thousands of marks which are mathematically and systematically placed, not one mark is made without thought. It is not only the positioning of the mark but also the colour of the mark which gets taken into consideration, as some marks are used because they created a sense of depth and others because they push to the forefront of the painting. Ingleby Gallery describes Hugonin’s paintings as, “These are deeply subtle paintings with an understated clarity: quietly musical and filled with a kind of contained light that relates keenly to the place in which they are made. There is a slow and deliberate colour notation that forms an integral part of the making of each work.” Although Hugonin’s paintings are incredibly successful he has also explored other mediums within his practice, such as silk screen printing (third picture down) site specific work and the stain glass window in St John’s Chapel in Northumberland, which he was awarded the ACE Award for Art in a Religious Context. The talks at the Whitworth can sometimes seem the a chore, as attending is a part of our B.A. Fine Art degree but I throughly enjoyed this weeks, Hugonin spoke about his work with such passion and I guess this is reflected in the length it takes to create one of his ‘Untitled’ paintings, which is around two years.

Mike Nelson

Contemporary artist Mike Nelson transforms the white cube space which we are all familiar, into a place which can seem uncanny and eerie. When entering a contemporary gallery you expect, crisp white walls and modest architecture but Nelson transforms the white cube space into a scene which wouldn’t look out of place in an apocalyptic film.  Nelson’s exhibitions preserve a minimal quality considering the intensity of the pieces. Talking about the piece, To the Memory of H.P Lovecraft (1999,2008) Nelson says, “I’ve always had a slight fear of piles of junk that function purely as decorative ephemera but only act as a signifier of a certain type of installation…I think it’s a constant worry that you’ll make this amount of effort to have something that just becomes spectacle, as opposed to something which moves somebody or encourages somebody to empathize with what you’re trying to lure them into, or coax them towards.” (FlashArtonline) Nelson genuinely seems concerned about how the spectator will receive his work. It’s apparent that he is interested in how the space operates the work and how the work operates the space and how both these issues have an effect on the spectator. The space in which art is exhibited in has been a concern for artists for years, but it’s not until recently that artists have begun abandoning objects within the space and just considered the context of the space.

Jonathan Callan

I first became aware of Callan’s work when I started to play around with  the idea of interfering with an object which already had a purpose, this idea of creating an intervention. Callan also has a running theme of interference within his own work, the idea of breaking things down, making something new out of something which had become prehaps tired. Talking about his work on the contemporary art society he says, “Most objects to me are not real until I can find what is inside. Which presents a paradox. Since we can only ever see the surface of things, the interior of any object is seen as a series of surfaces beyond and behind which are only more interior surfaces. This is a morbid inclination. Perhaps implying that things can only be understood after having been broken down or destroyed, suggesting that the attainment of knowledge is an invasive procedure, no gaze or observation leaving it’s subject unmarked.” Many of Callan’s sculptures are made from books, using the structure of the book rather than what is inside it, is both interesting and to some people it may seem bazaar. This idea of denying the book its right of being an informer or story-teller and using it purposely for its sculpture/aesthetic qualities such as it colour or its flexibility and its ability to mold and curve into flower like free-standing sculpture is beautiful and poetic. Callan admits that, “In order to get the work made an artist will use any and every form of conceptual scaffolding. For me, that kind of support is only temporary, it must be taken down once the work is finished. Structurally it may have no correspondence at all to the conceptual integrity of the finished piece.” Prehaps suggesting that beyond the idea that art is a form of communication and perhaps also a form of inquiry, he is still no wiser as to why he creates the pieces of art he does, which is refreshing to hear, because sometimes maybe we just make art because we want to.

Pierre Bismuth

As the title of the blog suggests the majority of the posts will be about current/contemporary art, but sometimes (this post included) I shall blog about artists who have shaped and influenced my own practice as a BA Fine Art student, starting with Brussels-based, French artist Pierre Bismuth. I recently became aware of Bismuth’s work when my own practice shifted from being paint-based to more conceptual and ideas-based. The idea of the double is something else which I have played around with within my own work and Bismuth also plays on this concept in such a successful way, through the newspaper format. Talking about his work he explains, “The ‘Newspaper’ series is all about the duplication of the image. Duplication is an important method because I think it completely warps the moment of understanding. The images do not refer anymore to reality but they refer to each other, as if one image was copying the other. As a viewer you tend to forget they are addressing some real matter, you just wonder, why are there two of these? So it is a short-circuit in your head.” ( But it’s not only the idea of the double which drew me to Bismuth’s work, it’s also this idea of making something which is so mass-produced and ordinary into something unique and extra-ordinary, a theme which i also picked up on in my previous Louise Hopkins post. The idea of using materials which are often discarded after their primary use and giving them a new lease of life is an issue which im currently dealing with within my own practice. But Bismuth doesn’t restrict himself to working with just newspapers, I am also interested in the series of work titled Following the Right Hand…

Three years ago Bismuth exhibited this series of altered photographs in Team Gallery New York. Bismuth projects a film onto a sheet of plexi-glass painstakingly follows the movements of the lead actress’ right hand with a black marker by the end of the film the photograph almost looks  signed, an accidental outcome of this’ performance’. Bismuth continues to alter (in most ways for the better) everyday objects and I constantly look forward to seeing new pieces of his work emerge.

Bani Abidi

Yesterday I visited the Baltic – Center for the Contemporary Arts in Newcastle for the first time and was amazed at how beautiful the space was. I had read up on the two main artists who were currently showing there prior to my visit, Andrea Zittel and Elizabeth Price but it was neither of these artist whose work I enjoyed the most, it was the work of Pakistani artist Bani Abidi. This was Abidi’s first UK solo public exhibition in which she presented several pieces such as Section Yellow, The Distance from Here along with several photographs, not only did I enjoy her work whilst viewing it first hand, it also left a lasting impression as I contemplated over it on the 2 hour train journey back to Manchester. Not satisfied with what I saw in the gallery I began searching the internet for other pieces of work which she had made.

The picture above is a film still from a film which Abidi made in 1999 titled ‘Mangoes’. “Two expatriate Pakistani and Indian women sit and eat mangoes together and reminisce about their childhood. An otherwise touching encounter turns sour when they start comparing the range of mangoes grown in either country, a comment on the heightened sense of nostalgia and nationalism that exists in the Indian and Pakistani Diaspora. Both the women are played by the artist, stressing the idea of a shared history.” ( Generally, I don’t tend to like political art but I found myself smiling at the description behind this piece, for such a huge subject the simple metaphor surprisingly works just perfect.

Louise Hopkins

Altering everyday objects such as newspapers, comics and maps by ripping, painting over and drawing onto is what British artist Louise Hopkins is most known for, dealing with the idea of making the ordinary extra-ordinary comes to mind when looking at her work.I recently read an interview in which Hopkins denied the interviewer access to her ‘stash’ of ‘interesting materials’ simply stating, “‘For me, it would make the process impossible, to show people things before I work on them.” This made me question why, as surely we have all seen a map or a sheet of graph paper before. Prehaps it is in these everyday objects that Hopkins sees something which most of us don’t, something which most of us miss because they are just that, everyday objects. Each of the sources Hopkins chooses to deconstruct/re-construct/alter have their own set of codes, to which they abide by, and its these codes which Hopkins takes so much care into manipulating. Through theses choices that Hopkins makes we are left with unique and almost delicate pieces of work.