His bubble machine consisted of large plastic tubes slowly producing bubbles which burst when they came out of the top. It wasn’t visually attractive, looking a bit of a mess as the scum from the bubbles coated the area. From the text on the wall, bubbles obviously had significance for him, but I was not convinced that this message came across in this work. Overall I thought this was a piece that might be more appropriate in a science museum than an art gallery.
‘A stitch in time, 2013-1968’ was firstly a strange title as it was being added to in 2017. Leaving that aside, this was an interesting idea, with the public being asked to participate and stitch on “anything that you like in life, your name, an image, a message, a memory, the name of a lover, the name of a friend, the name of a beloved teacher, a place, a wish, a dream”
However, what the visitors to The Hepworth have stitched on is the detritus from their pockets – receipts, train tickets, flyers – essentially rubbish. What does this say? Not a lot as far as I could tell, it was essentially a monument to rubbish. To get more interesting work, it might have been better to provide thicker thread (so the lines were not lost) and started some off with written words? His ideas were about the messages having spontaneity, but with other rubbish on display, that seemed to be the first thing people thought to add to the mess.
‘Sand Machine, Bahagari, 1963-2016’ – again an odd title as it was still going in 2017 – this was a machine turning wire on a sand base to draw a series of circles. There didn’t seem to be anything which could vary the path of the coiled wire much, so it’s path was pretty fixed. As such it didn’t have as much interest to me as if it had the possibility of varying in it’s path. I believe drawing machines come into the Drawing 2 course, so if I do that course next this could be quite relevant.
‘untitled: screestage, 2013’ – my initial impression of this work was it’s scale, it filled the room with grey dark forms, interesting texture, with bright colours at the edge – it has presence. Texture is an important part of her work, provided here by scrim and cement, some accented with paint, leaving the process evident in the work – an unfinished look. It explores what is above/below the surface (in a similar way to my residency work). There is an impressive sense of scale.
The tops of the grey forms look like giant needles piercing the work, or stand like rock formations, and the contrast between the heavily textured vertical grey pieces and the brightly coloured flat straight horizontal boards works well.
It must have been interesting to construct as it fills a large room and presumably had to be built from one side to another (or the centre outwards), and it would have had no stability until several pieces had been joined together. It was made up of a huge number of pieces, but formed a cohesive whole which represented the slippage you would see on a scree slope which is presumably where her influence came from.
I liked this work, it is like a strange landscape at the top, with plenty to look at and provide interest, nice textures and an ambitious piece. I could possibly use the idea of concrete on scrim in my own work going forwards, but it would have been interesting to know what lies beneath the surface to make it structurally sound. The underside of the work is very different to the top side and more reminiscent of a cave with stalactites. You are encouraged to explore this work and interact with it by walking around and through it.
Her other two pieces had much less impact for me, one was titled ‘untitled: toletsigns, 2016′, making a statement that to let boards have become part of our landscape now. They used a similar construction method to the boards on the ‘screestage’ but had much less impact. The second piece ‘untitled: blackcoils, 2016‘ used coiled plastic (?) to give a writhing heap of black forms like a Medusa’s head on the wall. I am not sure what this piece was trying to say though.
Helen’s work seems to be much more 2D than 3D and I don’t get it at all! Her works obviously have great meaning for her, but it fails to come across to the viewer, seeming like a random assortment of items joined together.
They are large, ambitious pieces, but they fail to excite or interest me and I just can’t connect with them. She won the Hepworth and the Turner prize, so is the rising star in the art world at the moment, so others can obviously see something I cannot. I strongly suspect she will not be the public’s choice though (unannounced at the time of writing).
Her work is very inward looking and autobiographical and so needs unpicking to understand it – however this wasn’t something I felt inclined to do. I feel that a sculpture should be accessible to people on some level to start with – there should be more to uncover as you look deeper, but there needs to be some initial connection to make you want to look closer.
Stephen’s work was instantly engaging, it was very well made and uses all kinds of media from steel, bronze(?), wood, to gold painted camera lenses and tablet packages.
His exhibition was all about value and was very well thought out as an exhibtion for the space it was in. The six blue lights on one wall ‘Like Shooting Sparrows in the Dark 3 (deterrent lure), 2016′ created a night sky effect on the opposite wall covered in pennies like stars – an instant visually attractive impression that inspired closer inspection and then further thought when you learnt that they were magnetically attached as the copper content of the pennies was so small their metal content was practically worthless.
One of his pieces was unfortunately not working when I visited, his ‘Re-de-extinction Table and Transmission Assembly, 2016’. This is a very surreal piece which I don’t fully get, but it is well made and constructed – something I find important in any piece of work. It should have been lit up like a light box and humming, with the idea of turning value on it’s head – have these historical busts got anything to say in this era? The light box was filled with shredded £10 notes, valuable when they were whole, but now of no value. All interesting concepts and a good subject to build a cohesive exhibition around.
As for what I might get out of his work, as well as following a theme like his on value and looking at how different works compliment each other, the area that stood out for me was his use of thick steel brackets/bases. These were consistent across his work, with mechanical fixings rather than welded together and were very well made (probably water jet or laser cut).
There were a few things of interest to note after this exhibition visit. The first was that I have previously reviewed Phillida Barlow’s work on an occasion where I saw little in her work to appeal to me. The work I was looking at were different pieces, but I think it highlights the difference between seeing a sculpture in person and trying to assess it from a small 2D image on a page/screen. In this exhibition I think her work was very strong and was my favourite alongside Stephen Claydon’s work.
Similarly, the second was that on this visit I managed to spend 3 hours looking at just the work of these 4 artists and that extra time made a lot of difference in being able to immerse myself in the work and really try to understand it.