DAY TRIP TO DE LA WARR PART i – TOMOKO TAKAHASHI & ANTONY GORMLEY
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
A bit late off the hoof you might say, but sod it – thought I would do a little post about a summer trip (last summer I am talking here) to Bexhill on Sea and the De La Warr Pavilion. I started writing this post not long after and have only just re-discovered it, nestled amongst some draft posts waiting to be given the chance to breathe the fresh air of Internet publication.
In fact, once I started sorting through the pictures, I figured I would do two posts. That’s right people, a TWO POST DE LA WARR EXTRAVIGANZA – that is what’s coming your way.
So this, Part i is about the exhibitions. Part ii will be about everyone’s Fav Pav.
TOMOKO TAKAHASHI RETROSPECTIVE
First up was a retrospective (her first in the UK) of a Japanese born artist called Tomoko Takahashi. Takahashi is generally regarded as an installation artist, who has been working in the UK for over 20 years. I must confess to not being aware of her work before seeing this show, but to those with a more keen eye on the art world will probably be aware of her creations. In 2000 she was nominated for the Turner prize, which makes it even more surprising this was her first retrospective in this country.
Her work is perhaps best described as playful, with a huge emphasis on found and recycled objects and a definite interest in Japanese culture – especially cartoons and Manga. For me, a lot of her work spoke about how we read the world in terms of consumerism, marketing and possession . What was unique was the element of fun in her work. So often in the art world, fun is a dirty word. Critics hate fun, so called “serious” art lovers often hate fun. For art to be good – it cannot be fun. It must be stark, serious, depressing and full of meaning that will bring you crashing back down to earth. It is this attitude, I think, that puts many people off modern art and makes them view it with scepticism and a sense of hatred.
Takahashi’s work sticks a finger up at this concept. She finds colourful and interesting objects and arranges them in a seemingly hodge-podge pattern accross a floor or table. She will make installations that must be impossible to recreate exactly for a second time. But for me, looking at her works – I do not care. It is the process of the collecting and then the choice of what to show side by side that is important and that interested me. Whether a sculpture created out of brightly coloured kids plastic toys, or an entire corridor created out of parts of clocks and other found objects – looking at these works you create your own comparisons and meanings. For me, this was generally about consumerism, brands & marketing, our obsession with collecting and all that lies inbetween.
Her work is varied however and not confined soley to these collections of objects and she touches on a myriad of different mediums and methods of expression. I always find it exciting when someone has such a thirst of interest in the world and such a range of skills that they can apply their creative ideas in multiple forms (I also hate them for being multi-talented!!) Takahashi certainly falls within this group. She has worked with film, photography, performance & mixed media – it seems that the approach is to find the best solution to the question she wants to answer.
One of the stand out pieces was Word Perhect, the concept that involved her creating a fully working version of a word processing programme that questionions the users ideas about language, syntax and how computers are used and have influenced our language. The user is asked a series of questions about the document they want to create and then taken into a hand drawn interface to type their document. The programme has all the expected buttons…but they have all the unexpected functions. I have tracked it down online and urge you to have a play as it is strangely addictive and rather genius:
Takahashi also created several new works for this show – some were large scale wall hung pieces, created from objects she had found in and around Bexhill. It is hard not to be drawn into works like this as they have a fascinating charm – and we are well versed at looking at everyday object within a gallery space and accepting the new meanings they take on. However, I didn’t feel they quite had the draw of some of her earlier pieces. Similarly a large scale piece made from hundreds of photographs was a little bit old hat for my taste, didn’t really do anything new for me although it was still very nicely executed.
THE ART OF SHEDS
But there where two new works that I thought where amongst the best in the show – both involving sheds, whether there was a link for her between Bexhill and sheds I am not sure! First was a shed that stood lonely in the gallery emitting a warm white glow from inside. Upon entering, the entire space was covered perhaps even littered with photocopies from Manga magazines. they covered walls, floor and ceilings. Taking this in – you turned in the space to see the light source was a lone photocopier sitting in one corner, presumably the alleged mastermind behind this photocopy heaven.
The other shed related creation harked back to some earlier work (mostly whilst at University I think) – in this work she created a sort of bedroom scene within a shed, in which everything was painted white. This removal of colour gave a different feel and emphasis to the form of the objects within it and somehow the loss of the colour removed a sort of distraction that allowed you to really observe what was contained within the walls of the shed. Much like a black & white photograph can be more about tone and texture – so the scene within the shed asked the viewer to look upon it in a new light.
There were numerous other pieces which deserve mention – such as the re-creation of a ticker tape parade from a fire station tower in London. Entitled ‘Parade without a parade’ this film simply shows Takahashi throwing hundreds of bags of shreded paper from the tower and the reaction of onlookers and subsequent crowd that gather below. Most touching perhaps, is the fact that the same crowd then muck in to help clear it all up at the end.
Hher work was playfull and witty but also had something to say on modern society and the way we catalogue, brand and collect pieces of it. Her works invite questioning of the familiar but for me where witty and open enough to be accessable and thought provicing. If you get a chance, check out her stuff as it is unique and thought provoking.
ANTHONY GORMLEY – CRITICAL MASS
As a sort of double whammy, the roof of De La Warr was taken over by Anthony Gormley’s Critical Mass. I won’t bang on about this one too long as no doubt many will be familiar with this, one of Gormley’s best know works. It features 60 life size cast iron scultpures of his own body in a variety of poses, scattered accross the space. The forms look serene and like they have been dropped and fallen into the positions they are found in and are waiting for some moment that has not yet come. Crouching, arching, lying or sitting – you cannot help but give personalities to the creations and wonder what their purpose might be. Their weight gives them a sense of rigidity and stability as though they are people cast into stone and frozen in their final positions for eternity. Imperfections of the mould clearly shown on the outside of each cast, their forms are as interesting individually as they are collectively. A really poetic piece and like much of his work a joy to see in an outdoor setting where is sculpture firmly belongs. Sitting on top of the pavilian seemed very apt and with so many of his sculptures they blended beautifully into the outside world.
So all in all a good day out at the Pav – it was my first visit there and I was pleasantly suprised at the quality of work on show. As an added bonus Bexhill has an amazing collection of charity shops and the De La Warr itself is a truly beautiful building…but that is for my next post (coming in a day or two and basically just photos of the De La Warr!)