Review of ‘Inside: Artists and Writers in Reading Prison’

Show Reviews, Studio, Uncategorized

The history of Reading Prison is revealed as you travel throughout the building, a strange situation in which time periods are simultaneous, contrasted between the ecclesiastical ‘cruciform’ architecture, and the brash, primary-coloured cell furniture – a memento from the prison’s last working moment in 2013. One is somewhat overwhelmed by the very human history of the prison, and the exploration of the human condition under the stresses of entrapment are realised in the potency of the artwork as the viewer traces the steps of prisoner’s throughout history.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ ‘Water’ (1995) aptly explores the seams between the past and the present, and the public and private spaces of prisoners. The blue beaded curtains adorn the doorways of the cells, where once a thick cell door would have stood, separating the domains of the public and the private, in an environment where the actions of the individual in the private were strictly controlled. Gonzalez-Torres debates these ideas of strict boundaries with his dazzling curtains which adorn the boundary – much like water, one can see a distorted view of the space behind the curtain, but only when pushing through to reach the cell space one feels the pressure of the beads against them, forcing one back as the tension of the piece wills them to do. An anxiety is apparent in the viewer when passing through to reach the other domain, and one assumes the experience of the prisoner being forced into the small cell space by the physical pressure of the beads against oneself, however, as the viewer, not the incarcerated, we experience the tension of entrapment through the comfortable luxury of a beaded curtain, meant as a piece of innovative interior design in the 1960s and 1970s to blur boundaries between rooms. One is consumed by the overwhelming experience of passing through the curtain, conscious of their own superficial luxury afforded by passing through a glamorously kitsch beaded curtain, instead of being forced through by the hand’s of a prison guard. Yet the deep feeling of apprehension is still felt, and the viewer becomes conscious of their luxury, situated in modern times with the amenity of rights afforded to them as a visitor to an exhibition rather than a prisoner forced to internment.

In addition, Wolfgang Tillmans also debates ideas of entrapment, and the affect on the human condition which often wavered in the face of loneliness. As the viewer initially walks into the ground floor of the prison complex, one is shown how the prisoners experienced life at Reading Gaol. They were unable to talk to one another, being forced to wear sacks over their heads in public areas to avoid any form of communication, instead the prisoners were to focus on repenting their sins and achieving forgiveness for their crimes from God. Wolfgang Tillmans debates these ideas of the fractured self caused by forced isolation in his ‘Separate System, Reading Prison’ (2016) works. As the only artist who created work specifically based around the subject of Reading Prison itself, Tillmans photographed himself in the left over mirrors of the prison, which left a fractured view of the self – completely separate from reality in his ghoulishly disfigured form. The photographs are dark and melancholic, a self is reflected upon, perhaps the purest self – the one without the knowledge or opinions of others, simply what one thinks of one’s self – particularly in the darkest of times and situations.

Artangel have focused on the story of Oscar Wilde in the presentation and publication of the show, naturally as he is the prison’s most famous inmate. Works by Marlene Dumas and Jean-Michel Pancin specifically concentrate on the experiences of Oscar Wilde, both in his life before prison, his experience inside and the repercussions of his activities after being incarcerated. And while his experience is essential to understanding the lack of justice and rights for homosexual persons in history, the very human history of the prison experience is told more explicitly in the intricacies of the building itself – each room features the real artwork of the prisoners in the form of graffiti, small drawings, gang insignia and dates documenting their time spent in the prison. The art enhances the viewers compassion for the terrifying experiences of the very troubled prisoners, forcing the viewer to take a different standpoint on ideas about prison reform, the treatment of inmates and the experiences of the marginalised in society; but the true tales of the marginalised and their time at the prison, no matter whether 100 years ago or 10 years ago is written explicitly all over the walls – the modern cave paintings of the underrepresented, frightened and marginalised.

Janette Parris Artist Talk

Artist Influence, Artist Influences, Studio, Uncategorized

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Janette Parris is a British contemporary artist whose practice spans many forms including, TV Soaps, musicals, cartoons, illustrations and comic books. She focuses on the idea of narrative through her work, using varying and different characters, often with a distinct sense of Britishness, as much of her work features around the characters and personalities that can be seen around Peckham and other rapidly changing areas of London. In fact, many of Parris’ works are based upon conversations with working class people’s takes on modern life. Her narratives often express humour and propel the narratives forward through her unique, dry sense of character-driven comedy.

In many of her short cartoon films, she uses characters which are connected in some way to the art world, using them as a conduit for a satire of the hypocrisies that exist in the exceedingly commercialised art market. For example, in one of Parris’ short cartoons, ‘Fred’s’, two characters seemingly disconnected with the art world in the sense that neither of them worked in that field, discussed the fantastic opportunities of the free gallery openings, and the difficulties of the art market in an increasingly commodity focused market. This humour is effective in a subtle way, as we laugh about the exploits of the gentleman trying to get into exclusive events with free drinks sometime on offer, as he sits in a dingy cafe, the opposite of the glamour that is supposed to follow the monied art world around. Paris, through humour, brilliantly reveals the societal inequalities experienced by those who are baffled and detracted by the art world’s confusing, and often elitist intricacies.

Perhaps one of Parris’ most successful projects, was her creation of the ‘Arch Comic’. The formation of this comic began after Parris interviewed members of a Resident’s Centre, and through these conversations she was inspired to create a satirical comic which had the tone of a shallow celebrity magazine. The simplified style of illustration is incredibly engaging, it has the textured form of drawing, yet through block colour and pared back lines has a seemingly digital element, which appears ever relevant as Parris lifts the language of the internet not only onto itself through the subsequent issues of Arch Comic published, but also into the physically present form of the printed page. These later editions of Arch magazine focused upon the humour found in the hypocrisies of the contemporary art world and its growing commercialisation.

I believe Parris’ work is engaging as it uses satire and humour to present serious issues surrounding the commodification and gentrification of London, as well as the commercialisation of the London art scene. I am interested in here use of narrative, and how her cartoons and short films, unfold slowly, dry in their humour, yet still capture the audience into following their narratives which may or may not be of importance to the wider societal points Parris is trying to make. I like the ability of her characters to talk about nothing, or seemingly nothing, then jump straight in to talking about something so biting and relevant that the viewer is lulled into dull conversation then brought out of it suddenly, in a odd yet interesting rhythm which captures my imagination.

 

 

Katrina Palmer Artist Talk

Artist Influence, Artist Influences, Studio, Uncategorized
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‘End Matter’, 2015

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‘End Matter’, 2015

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‘End Matter’, 2015

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‘End Matter’, 2015

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‘The Necropolitan Line’, 2016

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‘The Necropolitan Line’, 2016

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‘The Necropolitan Line’, 2016

 

Katrina Palmer is a British artist who focuses on the use of narrative within her work. She creates sculptures through her voice and words, as they form the impression of a physical reality on the viewer. Palmer develops her narratives around fictional characters and scenarios which she then builds upon, discovering more about their situations through the process.

Perhaps one of her most intriguing works is ‘End Matter’ (2015), in which Palmer recorded narratives to guide a walk around the island of Portland, where Portland stone is quarried. She stated the the quarried landscape was like an inverted monument, as the stones removed become beautiful or historically significant objects, the island dissipates. She sees the removal of the land as creative though, as more stones and forms become uncovered through the explosion of the original layers of material.

Another very interesting work was ‘The Necropolitian Line’ (2016), a show for the Henry Moore Gallery in Leeds. For this work, Palmer was inspired by the use of a train service in London which carried bodies across the capital. In the gallery space she installed a train platform with an array of short announcements. The platform acted almost ironically as everyone waited for a train which would never arrive, however slowed down the pace of the normal commuter situation, creating an intrestingly subtle experience of the station without the inevitable rush, providing a space for contemplation. Also in this show she included further stories focusing on the ideas of saying goodbye and reflections on the traumatic act this can be.

I am very interested in the way that Palmer uses narrative around fictional and real situations as part of her practice, and when she performed some of her writings during the talk I found the writing beautiful in its almost abstract quality, as she makes links between words and situations that become apparent as the story unravels.

Dawn Mellor Artist Talk

Artist Influence, Artist Influences, Studio, Uncategorized
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‘The Austerians’, 2014

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‘HANNAH SCHYGULLA’, 2010

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‘Special Project Assistant Manager (Rita Tushingham)’ , 2013

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‘Dustin Hoffman’, 2010

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‘Mia Farrow’, 2010

Dawn Mellor is a British painter, who creates works surrounding the cult of celebrity. Her works depict public figures from the worlds of entertainment, film and politics. She states she has no particular vested interest in the subjects she paints per se, which include Karl Lagerfeld, Dustin Hoffman and Hillary Clinton. There is a sense of both distrust from the artist with the subjects, an opinion of both admiration and distaste, as she distorts their forms with occasional bouts of vicious brush work and scribbled writings, which break the reverence of the subject.

Throughout her series of works, which often feature symbols of contemporary culture, she states the underlying narrative in her practice is the fetishisation of the individual in the modern age. As individuality seems to fade through the culture of commodification and constant want of the same ideals, the individuals that originated those ideals are revered, in a sense of fetishism and obsession.

Mellor talked of her preference for a salon hang with the curation of her works, as she preferred the paintings subjects to have a sense of dialogue, stating they need each other to make sense and collectively act as the work through the connotations and relationships that arise when sat next to each other.

Personally, I am not excited by Mellor’s work in a conceptual or aesthetic sense. I appreciate the way she looks at art practice as a continuing form which spans decades, with separate pieces of paintings being just a cut fragment, disassociated with conceptual intentions when removed from the rest of the works. However, I find these images of celebrities particularly passive in their attack; they are depicted as sallow, older or upset in their guise as a public figure of importance, and whether Mellor views this as a concern or not, I believe that this opinion of celebrity culture is overdone and overused. However, I have never see these works in reality, so am basing my opinions on the images seen throughout the duration of the artist talk. Even so, I believe her semi-expressive aesthetic does not compliment the overused idea of celebrity, as the subjects are painted as grotesque depictions of themselves, yet lack a mature consideration of the subjects condition in that film or moment in history.

Negative depictions of contemporary culture are frequently created within visual art in the 21st century, yet a position of negativity can also be limiting for an artist, as they seem to disconnect with the tenderness of the modern age, which can often produce the most thought-provoking work, such as with Marlene Dumas’ misted, haunting paintings. The violence of Mellor’s work appears somewhat contrived and too overt to create paintings which lead me to want to look and revisit them again.

Summer Project Development

Autumn Assessment 2016, Studio, Uncategorized

After looking into the work of Jon Rafman and the way he used the internet, I became interested in the act of uncovering secondary sources, and the investigation that could occur when aiming to find something on the internet that you are not entirely sure exists or not.

Thinking on themes of investigation, I was also inspired by the work of Susan Hiller, particularly her piece ‘Dedicated to the Unknown Artists’ (1972-1976).

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In this work, Hiller collected postcards of stormy seas and waves from different British seaside towns, some of which were painted, others were photographed, and she collated all the visual and historical information she could gather on each postcard, forming a brilliantly tender exploration of works by outsider artists, who will never be accepted for their commercial art, no matter how beautiful the scene appears to be. I was interested in this idea of anonymity in art, and revelation through exploration, and wanted to plan my own investigation, similar to Hiller’s to uncover the artists and tastes of the internet.

As such I began to look into the website Tumblr, and the distinct subcultures and fandoms that arise from a microblogging platform of that nature. As a long time user of the site, and having had my blog since I was 13, I have become an experienced user and appreciate the honest online atmosphere that Tumblr has as opposed to some more violent or aggressive sites such as Twitter. Personally, my feed is filled with aesthetic and fashion related images, and I wanted to catalogue these, ordering them yet discovering more about their sources and history through travelling back seeing which blogs they originated from. As such I collated images into 5 groups of the most popular colours on my feed: white, red, pink, blue and gold. I then catalogued 100s of images of each colour into an excel format, in an updated version of Hiller’s ‘Dedicated to the Unknown Artists’, appropriating her form as with the work of Jon Rafman.

 

 

Summer Project Experimentation

Studio, Uncategorized

I first started my summer project by exploring appropriated forms fro the internet through some quick sketches.

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In this sketch, I took quotes from Instagram and Tumblr, and used the words to form a composition which explored the crowded nature of the everyone’s voice on the internet, and how so much can be said, whilst simultaneously nothing is really said at all.

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In this work, I wanted to take an image from the internet, that was ambiguous in its meaning, and transform it into a physical reality, through the use of drawing on paper. I am interested in exploring the language of the internet, as often unique voices or unexpected phrases can be found which are really telling of the expectations and intentions of humanity in the 21st century.