Category Archives: Art

Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain at Tate Modern – how to display a revered object

The current exhibition of work by Marcel Duchamp and Salvador Dali in the Royal Academy features Duchamp’s most famous work, Fountain, displayed in an arrangement in which it rests on a large table-like display stand on which in jostles with many other pieces of three dimensional art by the two artists (including Dali’s lobster telephone and Duchamp’s bicycle wheel).
This is in huge contrast to the way in which the work has (until recently) been displayed in Tate Modern, where it has stood in glorious isolation like a revered religious relic. The photo below hopefully gives some impression of the reverence that the work inspires.

Marcel Duchamp's Fountain displayed at Tate Modern

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Olafur Eliasson at the Frieze Art Fair, London.

I’ve been a regular visitor to the Frieze Art Fair in London’s Regents Park for many years now.
In some years one particular work of art will stand out as my favourite.
This year it was a work by Olafur Eliasson.
Last year it was a work by Olafur Eliasson, and the year before that it was a work by Olafur Eliasson too.
In none of those years did I know that the work that I was admiring was by him when I first saw it – it was only when I looked at the labels afterwards that I realised that they were all by the same person.

Here’s this years example, titled The hinged view, exhibited by the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

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Mirror-based art with infinite reflections – Oxo Cube

Mirror based contemporary art - OXO cube

This is a piece of contemporary art that I’m working on composed of a cube in which the vertical sides are all mirrors with their reflective surfaces facing inwards.
The multiple reflections that are created by the mirrors make the patterns on the floor of the cube seem to form the word ‘OXO’ in each corner of the cube, with the word itself then multiplied many times by the process of infinite reflection that is set up when mirrors are facing each other and are parallel.

The design on the base of the cube is shown below. The word ‘OXO’ doesn’t occur at all. It is the fact that the word OXO is symmetrical about both its horizontal and vertical centre-lines that allows the shapes in the cube’s base to be reflected and then reflected again to generate the word.

Base of mirror based contemporary artwork - OXO cube

The infinite reflections set up within the cube can be seen in the image below.

Mirror based contemporary artwork - infinite reflections

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Yayoi Kusama: The Passing Winter at Tate Modern

One of my favourite pieces of work in the new Switch House extension to Tate Modern is The Passing Winter by Yayoi Kusama.
This had a lot to do with my fascination with art that is based on mirrors.
The work is a hollow cube about a metre square, with the walls being composed of mirrors both inside and out. The mirrors are pierced with circular holes that allow the observer to peer into the cube and to see the internal mirrors. The internal mirrors reflect each other, and thus each reflection in each mirror reflects the reflection in the mirror, which is reflecting the reflection and so on, creating a sequence of reflections that would continue infinitely were it not for the physical constraints on the mirrors (such as the fact that with each reflection a small amount of brightness is lost, making each reflection slightly dimmer than the previous one).

A recent visit to the gallery confirmed that it’s not just me who’s fascinated by mirrors.
The room that houses The Passing Winter contains a fair few other worthy pieces of contemporary art, but none of them drew the gallery-goers’ attention in quite the way that Yayoi Kusama’s work did. It was the one piece of art around which people hovered in small animated crowds. People studied the other art in the room in quiet contemplation, but when the same people approached the The Passing Winter their moods changed to ones of outward engagement. And out came the cameras.

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One of the lures of The Passing Winter is obviously that the spectator is reflected in the artwork, thus effectively becoming part of the artwork itself. Everyone’s interested in themselves, so everyone’s interested in this artwork. Especially when they themselves are part of it.
I’m sure that some critics may dismiss the work because of its crowd pleasing tendencies – accusing it of being dangerously close to a fairground attraction, with its appeal being partly to the audience’s baser narcissistic tendencies – a criticism that’s sometimes levelled at Anish Kapoor’s distorting mirror pieces.
But then quite a lot of art panders to the narcissistic tendencies of its audience, if only to massage their feelings of self worth, so I don’t see that as a problem.

The photo of The Passing Winter on Tate Modern’s own web site shows the work in isolation, with no one looking at it. This makes the piece look a bit inert and doesn’t convey anything of the dialogue between the work and the audience. I hope that my photos show the enlivening effect of the work.

When I first encountered this work I wasn’t aware of who the artist was, so I was pleased when I discovered that it was Yayoi Kusama, an artist whom I already greatly admired. She’s probably best known for her ‘polka dot’ artworks – her obsessive application of coloured dots to everything that she encounters (In 2012 Tate Modern staged an excellent exhibition of Kusama’s work, their only mistake being to stage it at the same time as an exhibition of Damien Hirst, forcing an inevitable comparison between Hirst’s dot paintings and Kusama’s polka dots. Rightly or wrongly, Kusama’s obsessive polka dots made Hirst’s ranks of uniform dots look rather lazy).
It was probably at that exhibition that I first came across Kusama’s mirror rooms which, as with The Passing Winter, used the device of parallel facing mirrors to create the effect of infinite regression. It’s a common enough phenomenon (you can see it in mirror lined department store lifts any day of the week), which I remember being fascinated in during by student days many years ago, however Kusama was the first person whose work I’ve seen who’s been able to harness the effect at the level of the sublime.
I suspectt that it’s because of her mirror based artworks that I’ve embarked on my own explorations of the genre, complete with infinite regression, as you can see here – mirror based art.

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Contemporary art: mirror based art

Mirror based contemporary art

A study of mirrors and reflections using everyday objects, in this case screws from a hardware shop, to create interesting formations.
The screws are arranged in a quarter circle in the right angle between two mirrors to form a dynamic circular configuration.
Screws lend themselves to this study partly because of their physical qualities – being large at one end and tapering away at the other, with their interesting screw thread along their lengths – and partly because of their intended purpose, which is to hold things firmly in place (which is the exact opposite of the dynamism that they hopefully exhibit in this work.

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Contemporary art: mirrors, reflections, illusions.

One of my contemporary art projects exploring mirrors, reflections and illusions. This experiment incorporates a piece of brightly coloured nylon cord that is reflected several times to give the impression of a closed complete circle.

contemporary art mirrors illusion

This work consists composed of three mirrors facing inwards creating a triangular box. The box is placed over a length of brightly coloured nylon cord. The cord is placed more or less randomly except for the part that lies inside the triangular box which is reflected on the box’s sides to give the illusion of forming a circle. The second photo shows the piece from a different angle to give an idea of the structure.

For more of my contemporary artworks click here: contemporary art

contemporary art mirrors and reflections

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Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall – and plant-based art installations

It’s interesting to see that the forthcoming installation in the Tate Modern Turbine Hall is a plant based work.
The installation, by Abraham Cruzillegas, titled Empty Lot, is composed of ranks of raised beds in which plants of various types are growing (At least I think that plants are growing in them – I saw the beds today and lots of them seemed to be noticeably devoid of life. However, the installation doesn’t officially open until next week, so there’s time yet).
I’ll say a bit more about Abraham Cruzillegas’s installation in a few weeks’ time, when it’s fully functioning.
The reason I’m mentioning it now, a little prematurely, is because the plant based nature of the installation reminds me of a Tate Turbine Hall installation that I devised myself, shown in the photos below. This installation has never actually existed in real life, being a figment of my imagination.

My installation concept is called Crocus Carpet and it consists (as you can hopefully see in the photo below), of the whole floor of the Tate Modern turbine hall being turfed over and planted with crocuses, with pleasant pathways meandering between the flowers.
Art is often concerned with questioning one’s perceptions, and that’s exactly what this work does. The sensation of strolling through what feels like an area of parkland that’s actually inside a huge cathedral-like industrial building is hopefully a little unsettling and disorientating.

Tate Modern Turbine Hall installation - Crocus Carpet

Tate Modern Turbine Hall installation: Crocus Carpet (Artist’s impression)

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However, Crocus Carpet doesn’t only make you question your perceptions solely by virtue of the fact that it’s an outdoor space that’s been transported indoors – it also does so because the crocuses aren’t what they seem. The following photo shows a small scale version of the same idea.
The crocuses are darts.
(This photo is of a real artwork of mine, created in 1995, in which inexpensive darts are positioned in a square of artificial turf with artificial flowers. The cheap and cheerful properties of the piece are part of its appeal.)

A square of artificial turf containing crocuses/darts

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Here’s how the parts of the darts correspond to the different parts of a crocus.

A anatomy of a crocus/dart

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Part of the appeal of Crocus Carpet is (hopefully) the way that it approaches concepts of reality, illusion, perception and deception – by utilising the dissonance arising from the similarity in appearance and the contrast in nature between soft, reassuring and comforting crocus flowers and hard, aggressive and potentially dangerous darts.

Here’s another version of the Crocus Carpet work, this time installed on the lawn outside Tate Britain. Again, this is a visualisation of the piece rather than being an actual artwork itself.

Crocus Carpet installation outside Tate Britain

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Finally, here’s another site specific version of the installation – this time installed in a (real) garden in Cornwall.

Crocus Carpet art installation, St Ives, Cornwall

Darts as crocuses – a site specific installation near St Ives, Cornwall

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See more of my art on my site dedicated to my artwork.
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