FOS’ The Watchmaker at Max Wigram

The word ‘Storage’ printed on the door of the gallery establishes the concept of a warehouse for the new series of work by FOS, otherwise known as the Danish artist, Thomas Paulsen. Predicated on the notion that the arena for exhibiting, promoting and selling art has moved from the commercial gallery to the art fair, FOS has turned the Max Wigram gallery into a transitional holding facility.  We are entering a physical space whose raison d’etre has apparently been made redundant by market forces.
Through the entrance, on the right, a vitrine of antique pocket watches implies the site of a pawnbroker or museum store.  The cultural and functional status of these objects is wholly disrupted in such an ambivalent physical site.
Visitors then pass up a ramp into a room panelled with cheap, painted wood. Objects here resemble artworks embodying various historic and stylistic concerns. A geometric relief appears to be made of cut and polished marble mounted in a brass frame but is actually shaped out of moulded salt. While employing the formal language of modernism, this piece eludes value, beyond the visual joke. Along the same wall hangs another vitrine contains a ‘primitive’mask, a biomorphic relief and a series of stacked cubes. Again, reference to art history is explicit.
The signature work ‘stored’ here is the ‘Watchmaker’ an awkward assemblage of cast botanical branches and geometric abstract heads mashing together styles, material, process and form. This strategic disorientation is again quite entertaining but ultimately rather dissatisfying. Such critique of commodification is well established but feels contrived and clumsy here.
Most problematic is a meandering film shown on a screen whose rear support becomes a sculptural presence in it’s own right. Made in Svarlbard within the arctic circle, the film follows a solitary hunter with a gun slung over his shoulder heading out into a snowy, wilderness. Sometimes, shots appear of supermarkets and other urban sites. A soundtrack of a narrator’s voice further disrupts integration.
Within this installation masquerading as a group of disconnected art works randomly trapped together in transit to another destination, there is little sense here of a genuine critical position being taken. FOS adopts a witty premise for his exhibition and it is adroitly mounted. However, there is little of theoretical or formal interest to take away from this stage set.


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