Category Archives: Hayward Gallery

Andreas Gursky on The Art Channel

An artist working in photography, Gursky produces large prints using a digital editing process incorporating multiple images of the same subject. Disrupting conventions of perspective and proportion, his photographs immerse the viewer in the contemporary world of globalisation, architecture, commerce and travel. These pictures resemble the scale of paintings while pulling us into a dizzying experience where apparent ‘photographic’ facts are often invented and manipulated. The power of these artworks lies in the meeting of familiarity and oddity.

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‘History is Now: 7 Artists Take On Britain at the Hayward Gallery’

Our latest review on The Art Channel looks at a big, new exhibition at the Hayward Gallery. Working as guest curators, 7 contemporary artists explore 20th Century British History. Ranging from the London Blitz to recent riots, these artists consider British identity and society as we approach the General Election in May, 2015.

Light Show at the Hayward Gallery

The cavernous size of the Hayward in ‘brutalist’ concrete lends itself well to that aqueous quality of light that fills a room and becomes tangible when it hits the wall. This is an exhibition that aligns the material of art to its temporary site. The exhibition includes phemenological encounters of the body and eye with more conceptual processes that open up consideration of light’s status and functionality.
This primary conversation is established in the first room where we meet Leo Villareal’s ‘Cylinder II’, suspended, multiple strips displaying tiny lights that turn on and off to produce kinetic patterns without any coherence. Villareal’s cylinder resembles high street design by employing computer-generated erratic sequencing. Here technology meets desire. It suggests an ironic comment on an ever-growing demand for ‘conversation pieces’ within the home, but his real interest lies in using software to operate a machine within the gallery. Adjacent is David Batchelor’s ‘Magic Hour’, a series of recycled lighting boxes taken from shops and takeouts. Now the original illuminated message or logo is obscured through reversal. We only see the boxes from the rear with all their electrical anatomy exposed while the deep colours are only visible as projections on the wall only hinting at their origins as commercial messages. These colours are vulgar and clash together on the wall, redolent of city streets and the familiar assault on the eye as shops compete for our pound. Villareal’s  achromatic  moving points of light is too strategic by comparison, lost in a world of immense technical potential but without much purpose. Perhaps this dystopian quality is the focus but the artist seems too dazzled by his own technical effects.
The exhibition is staged as a series of progressions so a work may sit architecturally within a space and is sometimes placed within their own environments. Anthony McCall’s cinematic beam of light is projected within its own darkness and Doug Wheeler’s Plexigas square is described as an object by neon lights which articulate the edges. One stands rather reverentially in the blue haze waiting for enlightenment much like standing before Rothko’s solemn canvases. Wheeler’s work has a pleasing, ambient glow but can’t match Cerith Wyn Evan’s ‘S=u=p=e=r=s=t=r=u=c=t=u=r=e’, a series of three floor to ceiling columns that throb with heat and light. They have an organic quality, illuminating slowly and tentatively so that you can almost hear them breathe. When the light arrives it’s reminiscent of the warm sun touching your face on a winter’s day.
A show exploring light wouldn’t be complete without the inclusion of James Turrell or Dan Flavin and the curators suitably oblige. Turrell’s ‘Wedgework V’ delivers all of his stagecraft in setting up illusions modelled out of projected light. Having navigated a pitch-black corridor you enter a ‘viewing’ space with seating from which you observe a ‘sensing’ space consisting of a triangular void given a sense of solidity. We are conscious of witnessing an illusion that toys with certainties of perception. As such is an actionless event and still-life, both ambient and objectified. This is a sensory experience that washes us in sanguinary and sticky colours of the spectrum associated with procreation and regeneration, orange, scarlett and magenta. Returned to the womb, you are encouraged to linger for fifteen minutes. There’s an invigorating rush like having a multivitamin shot. However, this headiness passes and what one remembers is something very aestheticized and fleeting.  Turrell’s work feels rather controlling as if we are being compelled to connect with the sublime. Having emerged from the strict parameters of the installation, the visitor leaves with a queasy feeling that the piece is not entirely honest.
By contrast, Flavin’s work is directly engaging. Such formal simplicity sits in sharp contrast with Turrell’s box of tricks. Using fluorescent tubes, Flavin made sculpture that openly addresses the ambivalence of light. Without investing them with a predetermined mystery, the naturally enigmatic quality of light is explicit. The austere integrity of minimalism is fully embodied in these works made from bare light strips. ‘The Nominal Three’ makes reference to ‘Ockhams Razor’, a philosophical principle of succinctness. Flavin creates a work that expresses the room’s dimensions and becomes an articulation of physical and numerical facts. The curators have included ‘Untitled (To the Innovator of Wheeling Peachblow)’ which blends colours emanating from a square sitting in the corner in order to match the peachy hue of an historic American glassware.
In the rest of the exhibition, there is a range of variable work that examines the properties of light including a lyrical quest in by Katie Paterson’s ‘Lightbulb to Simulate Moonlight’ to capture lifetime’s supply of moonlight. Jenny Holzer quotes a series of disturbing national security documents at dizzying speed across several stacked monitors and Fischli and Weiss satirise our fascination with light by using a small torch to project patterns from a mass produced plastic cup against the wall. Olafur Eliasson transforms water fountains into ice crystals with strobe lights, which has a ‘Willy Wonka’ charm, but quickly becomes impossible to watch and echoes the weakness of many pieces in the show that dabble in the theatricality of light.
While it might have been advisable to offer more structure to the exhibition by putting the work in historic context, some of the artworks manage to express those elusive but beguiling qualities of light human beings have always looked for in the natural world and managed to reproduce for practical, spiritual and cultural ends.

Ernesto Neto: The Edges of the World


As you enter Ernesto Neto’s new exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, a sign asks you to ‘be gentle with Edges of the World’. This alerts us to the inclusive nature and fragility of Neto’s work, which seems to say that delight may be found in the material world and its inherent vulnerability. Neto transforms the Brutalist shell of the Hayward gallery using soft, yielding fabric to create organic, internal spaces. The hard concrete, functionality of the gallery is deliberately subverted. What epitomizes the Modernist, South Bank vision of reason and order becomes overgrown with a fecund fantasy of colours, textures and scents.
Entering Neto’s constructed environment is a return to the pleasures rather than the fears of childhood. Arching above our heads, ‘Horizonmembranenave employs a skeletal frame over which the artist pulls diaphanous fabric across wooden ribs that resemble dinosaur bones. A long twisting tunnel gently changes colour and beckons the visitor with the scent of Camomile flowers, which have been slipped into pockets sewn into the translucent skin.
Across the entire top floor with view over London, Neto has fashioned this environment by lowering a ceiling of his trademark fine mesh. Surfaces curve and slope in biomorphic uncertainty. Even the floor at one point is strangely altered so that you must tread gingerly across highly sprung fabric that resists your weighty footprint thereby gently lowering you to the firm concrete flooring below.
Scattered across the gallery are several staircases leading to viewing platforms that elevate you up through holes cut into the fabric ceiling like tree houses giving views across a rainforest canopy. Elsewhere, soft tubes like elongated stockings or gloves are inserted into this delicate wall providing proximity to other visitors who are constantly seen or heard around you.
This is a show that demands transitions through the gallery space mediated by abrupt physical changes. Installations become architectural experiences offering shelter and perceptual discovery.
Outside, Neto has made full use of Hayward’s large terraces even to extent of setting up a bathing pool with exotic, pointy-headed pavilions in saffron yellow obscurely titled ‘H2O-SFLV’ The evening I visited, two stately middle aged ladies bobbed around in their floral one piece swim suits as if on an expedition to Margate, but this time they commanded a view across London’s South Bank and an entire pool to themselves having duly arranged a reservation, as requested. Perhaps the necessary display of skin explains the polite request to refrain from taking pictures.
 On the other side of the building it’s possible to enjoy a low-rise concrete wall that leads you up and down a narrow gauge in an infinite loop. ‘Walking to the Future’ returns the visitor to the balancing games of youth. It also hints at a Medieval floor maze designed to elucidate meaning through physical movement and contemplation.
Ernesto Neto has become a Brazilian ‘Willy Wonker’ conjuring up remarkable transformations. By cutting and shaping cloth he simulates the wiliness and unpredictability of Nature. But this is not the natural world ‘red in tooth and claw’ but a softened experience of the material world. Even the looping wall that invites us to wobble around, as we search for our centre of gravity, gently catches our fall with a bed of bark chippings. Neto’s world is exuberant but any edge or menace is removed.
At the Hayward you will find temporary relief from the churning city beyond, where you will encounter unfolding stimuli without any disturbance. Unlike Wonker’s chocolate factory, the dark side of existence is adroitly trumped by sensuality.