Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Walead Beshty at the Barbican

Too many lectures not enough art was the verdict yesterday. With the coming of the darkness, rather than listening to words, it was time to exercise the eyes and imagination. And what better way to escape the inky night than head towards the mysterious and overwhelming blue at the Barbican?
Blue, as the National Gallery showed us earlier in the year, used to be one of the most expensive and show off colours in the colour spectrum. It is also, I find, one of the easiest ways of lifting the spirits; to lie in the green, whilst looking at the blue is a happy experience. So to see an entire curve of white and blue, was at once earthly and unearthly.
And yet the words in the title of the piece are determinedly commonplace. Pulleys, cogwheels, workbench: these and other random household/garage/shed objects have been employed in the works' creation. Each image is a cyanotype, as the notes say, and is produced using an object from the artist’s studio, which is placed on a porous surface (such as discarded paper or cardboard) that has been coated with UV-sensitive material. After being exposed to sunlight, the object’s silhouette appears against a cyan-blue background.
All elements of the art are incredibly cheap, ordinary or could be classed as rubbish. The discarded boxes, cardboard, newspaper, leaflets are the canvas; the nails, step ladder, light bulbs, old tubing, milk cartons are the models; and the light sensitive blue has the semi permanence of some of the early artistic attempts to capture the sea, sky. 
These repeated everyday objects take on a life of their own like microbes, zooplankton, larvae - all of which glow in the blue depths of our oceans. It provides an example of one of those conceptual pieces which are obsessed with the mundane, with the detritus of every day life, and the leftovers of a consumer society. Our blue and white planet is now made up of a sea of toxic landfill but somehow we still manage to create something beautiful with our lives.
The 12,000 unique images endow the art with a quiet rhythm, and although perhaps too much to call it a rhapsody, these assembled objects take on a new meaning as you step away from the single image and get swallowed by the whole. Like hundreds of individual tessera, when look at the whole effect,  the pattern is obvious. In this case calming, overwhelming, and ultimately uplifting.

Walead Beshty 'A Partial Disassembling of an Invention Without a Future: Helter-Skelter and Random Notes in Which the Pulleys and Cogwheels Are Lying Around at Random All Over the Workbench' (2014) is on from 9 October 2014 - 8 February 2015 at The Curve. Free.

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