Month: February, 2012

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.