patternsthatconnect

abstract art, a systems view

Two solo shows at Nottingham Contemporary: Yelena Popova’s After Image and Michael Beutler’s Pump House

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Go to Saturation Point website for my review of two very different exhibitions currently on show at Nottingham Contemporary. Michael Beutler’s Pump House and Yelena Popova’s After Image. Whilst they are completely separate shows they do share some things in common, both artists work in their medium’s “expanded field”, Popova being nearest to painting and Beutler nearest to sculpture. Both create installations rather than single art objects and both work in idioms that have roots in twentieth century abstraction, branching out into their own foliage under highly contemporary skies.

Michael Beutler, Pump House, installation shot, detail, photo by Sam Kirby, image by courtesy of Nottingham Contemporary

Michael Beutler, Pump House, installation shot, detail, photo by Sam Kirby, image by courtesy of Nottingham Contemporary

Beutler’s amazing labyrinth of hand made walls, tools, furniture and models is a repeat-with-differences of the recent show at Spike Island Bristol. The differences reflect the different spaces, though they are similar in many ways, the link being the architects Caruso St John who transformed the Spike Island space only two years before their design of Nottingham Contemporary. Here are a couple of photos, but really you have to be there to experience it. Continuing in the tradition of the total art experience or Gesamtkunstwerk, it is a delight for all the senses.

Michael Beutler, Pump House, detail: wall Elefant Und Schwein 2010 / 2016

Michael Beutler, Pump House, detail: wall Elefant Und Schwein 2010 / 2016

Popova’s installation more or less divides into paintings in one gallery and a video piece, a digital animation, in the other. The paintings are at the same time wonderfully fragile, their images in delicate washes only just there, and robust, the heaviness of the linen and and clarity of its weave taking precedence over image, the arrangements of the paintings then becoming more important than any individual one.

 Yelena Popova, Public Gallery, detail: Untitled 2016, mixed media on linen + wooden pieces, dimensions variable, Photo by Sam Kirby, image by courtesy of Nottingham Contemporary

Yelena Popova, Public Gallery, detail: Untitled 2016, mixed media on linen + wooden pieces, dimensions variable, Photo by Sam Kirby, image by courtesy of Nottingham Contemporary

In the digital animation This Certifies That, a collaboration between Popova and computer programmer Noel Murphy, multiple images of the Euro banknote, are randomly generated in constantly changing sequences, to the accompaniment of a mesmerising soundtrack by Nottingham based sound artist Rebecca Lee. The words “an excess of images leads to a crash” and “a new sequence begins” can be heard intermittently, perhaps marking the ending and beginning of each sequence. The narrative here references a late 19th Century political conspiracy, led by Leon Warneker, who, working with a loose grouping of anarchists, attempted to crash Russia’s economy by flooding the market with forged banknotes. The work surely also brings to mind the financial crisis of 2007-08 precipitated by the credit crunch. The continuation of the guilloché lines from the video piece into the surrounding space as a wallpaper looks like a ‘pure’ abstract drawing. However, as what you see is always more than just what you see, it is also a reminder of the all-encompassing reality of capitalism as a system, whilst the work as a whole suggests the possibility of the system crashing and something new emerging in its place.

Yelena Popova, After Image, detail: Installation shot of gallery 1, my photo

Yelena Popova, After Image, detail: Installation shot of gallery 1, my photo

There’s a very attractive monograph/catalogue available for the Popova show, with texts by Brian Dillon and Claire-Louise Bennett. Highly recommended! I wish there had also been a document for Beutler’s Pump House. However, Nottingham Contemporary have uploaded this marvelous video of his talk prior to the show.

I have written a review of these two shows for Saturation Point, click here to read it and I hope to write discussion pieces for Abcrit at a later date.

Both exhibitions are on show until 25 September 2016

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