patternsthatconnect

abstract art, a systems view

Posts Tagged ‘postmodernism

The end of the future

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The End of the Future exhibition opening at Transition Gallery tomorrow (preview this evening) and showing until 12 August features Clive A Brandon, Matthew Houlding, Sam Knowles and Alex Pearl. I hope to get along before it closes ( If I can make my Olympics-avoiding visits to London coincide with the gallery opening times). Here’s the blurb about it:

Under the bricks and rubble of the grand Olympic project lie the broken dreams of past utopias. From Ballard to Boris, the grand advance of modernism has been abandoned beneath the dystopian shards.

Our collective current state of affairs is highlighted by past optimistic proposals such as The Festival of Britain (1951) and post-war building programmes with essentially socialist drives to improve society which are in stark contrast to the regeneration schemes and public finance initiatives, which now embody the failures of both late capitalist Conservatism and New Labour.

The End of the Future coincides with the London Olympics, for some a positive affirmation of the highest ideals, for others a cynical corporate scheme with the veneer of regeneration. The four participating artists look back at lost ideals and eras of optimism and present these though a haze of nostalgia for a future that never materialised and a knowing acceptance of failure.

Sam Knowles

Funny how once a theme comes to awareness, you keep coming across it in slightly different incarnations. Maybe it is synchronicity or seriality, or just the filtering process: I am looking for it unconsciously. I think I found the same or similar theme in Luke Turner’s article on the New Aesthetic:

…we harbour nostalgia for a past-future, one that failed to materialise, for the promise of flying cars, jetpacks and hoverboards that never came to pass (but that we secretly hope still might). We are thus cynics, and yet eternal optimists, our technologies driving our melancholia and invention in equal measure. The emergent metamodern condition allows us to face all directions in time at once, oscillating between the promises and pitfalls of the past, present and future.

And again here, at Henri Art Magazine on Retro Painting

We are at a zero point – Postmodern thought has had it’s day and we’ve been left with an unwieldy Mannerist culture that no longer makes sense. We can begin, right now, by thinking about and questioning the paths of our past in a different way, and in so doing, make a new way into the future, understand a new way of seeing. I keep thinking that the contemporary philosopher Graham Harman’s idea about the primacy of things is very important – object-oriented philosophy. It gives us an opportunity to see, not through words or contextual arrangements, but in direct confrontation with something that isn’t contingent on our “perspective,” as something primary and other, as a rising subject. “The sensual object is a unity over against the swirling accidents that accompany it”. We are not concentrated on the vastness of the shifting ground per se, but on the thing itself, the reality of the thing. This switch of one’s perspective is very interesting to me as a painter at this very moment. And I think it offers us many exciting theoretical visual possibilities!

I think I also found similar themes over at Jewish Philosophy Place.  It is too early for me to say much more about them now, only that I am finding them interesting…

Alex Hubbard Exhibition: Eat Your Friends, at Simon Lee

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The Alex Hubbard exhibition at Simon Lee Gallery, London, entitled Eat Your Friends, just six works, two of them being videos and the other four being paintings, is absolutely wonderful.

The “title track” is a video that I just cannot help but read as a moving painting with sound.

Montage-like, there are at least three camera views, two look down onto a table top or the floor and one looks forward, and as they overlap actions in one descreet space seem to be taking place also in another. Here it is quite possible to be in two places at once. The actions include spray painting the words “EAT YOUR FRIENDS”, constructing a tower with large cups of take-away coffee until it collapses spilling the contents, and moving a cuboid frame around, “building” some temporary structure the purpose of which seems to defy the logic of building.

The paintings more or less coloured monochromes, made with fibreglass, and found objects: plastic bottles, syringes, broken bits of things, rubbish, the resin sticking the objects to the canvas and forming a high gloss surface over a stained acrylic base. I try to decide whether the objects are carefully placed or randomly scattered and I suspect it’s a bit of both. I study them and then wonder why I am studying them so carefully, what am I expecting to find? Yet I do keep looking, hesitiating to admit that they are beautiful.

 

Finding beauty and being fascinated is my response to the paintings and also to the two videos. I watch them both a few times (they are only about 5 minutes in length). They have narrative of sorts, something happens, and yet also nothing happens. BOTTOM OF THE TOP, like the first video, also uses text, this time not spray painted but possibly arrived at through cutting out the lettering and dropping it in place along the right hand edge of the frame (I so nearly wrote “painting”) over the duration of the video. That’s how it looked to me. And following what is being written, making sense of it yet it not making sense, is matched by the rest of the action,even whilst acknowledging some of the references, the most obvious one being Magritte’s painting Ceci N’est Pas Une Pipe, a pipe in the bottom left corner billows smoke across the picture plane throughout. In the top right an electric fan whirs and carnations are ‘fed’ through the mesh until, hitting the blades, they are scattered across the picture plane in the opposite direction to the smoke. This is what happens when the carnations hit the fan! Meanwhile the artist’s head wrapped in bandages(?) which he paints blue appears at the bottom. We see only head and an arm placing a fish and an eel and flowers above his head, moving them around and eventually cutting the fish and placing the flowers inside it.

There’s beauty here, amid lots of humour. I am reminded of some of those old black & white surrealist films but can’t quite recall a specific one, and action painting, abstract expressionism, neo Dada, are all in here too, as are art-historical/art critical ideas of constructivism, all overness, and Leo Steinberg’s “flatbed picture plane”, in other words modernism, post modernism, and I want to say post-post modernism (Metamodernism even). For all its humour, this work never seems to me to be parody or irony, or of it is ironic I get the sense that it is post-modern irony itself that is being parodied.

The art works in this show seem to blur the distinction between sculpture, painting, performance, and video as well as the ‘genres’ of figuration, abstraction and surrealism, and delightfully question our ways of making sense of art, non-art and everything else.

Eat Your Friends is showing at Simon Lee Gallery, London until 4 April 2012.