As lockdown lifts our artists are beginning to get out and about and are visiting exhibitions. Maria Walker made a trip into London recently and has picked out some highlights from her visits to galleries on the Southbank and Bermondsey.
The Hayward Gallery
I started my day at the Hayward Gallery where you get to see two exhibitions for your entrance fee. These exhibitions are on until the 25th July.
Matthew Barney : Redoubt
This exhibition is the artist’s first solo presentation of work in the UK for over a decade and features a series of imposing and intricate structures cast from fallen trees from the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho, as well as over 40 engraved and electroplated copper plates and a feature length film (which can also be viewed at home from the link in your ticket). Although the film, which weaves together the story of the mythical huntress Diana, cosmology and modern American political narratives, underpins the physical artwork, I was able to appreciate physical artworks without having watched the whole film.
As a textile artist I tend to view exhibitions through a ‘textile filter’ so for me the stars of the show were the imposing life-sized sculptures of fallen pine trunks, which had been cast in shades of silver, bronze and gold and were arranged around the galleries. The detail on these gigantic tree trunks was intricate and beautiful. This had been carved by the artist, creating patterns evoking lace and the camouflage garments worn by the characters in the film.
The beauty of the trunk contrasted sharply with the way they were supported by and combined with machine-made industrial elements so that they suggested weapons and rifle stands. All this made for a very beguiling exhibition.
Igshaan Adams: Kicking Dust
This smaller exhibition at the Hayward provided a complete contrast in atmosphere as most of the room was an immersive installation consisting of ephemeral cloud-like structures made from wire, suspended over a vast woven and embellished dreamscape.
Adams’ cross-disciplinary practice combines aspects of weaving, sculpture and installation whilst exploring concerns related to race, religion and sexuality. He draws on the material and formal iconographies of Islam and his intricate textile works also reference the socio-political histories of creole communities.
Each work, and the exhibition as a whole, is composed of multiple patterns. These explore the potential of woven material to reflect the multiplicities of Adams’ own identity and of broader cultural interchange.
Throughout the exhibition, Adams builds on this sense of movement and journeying. Visitors encounter pathways through the gallery created by the placement of weavings on the floor.
The pathways resemble tectonic forms, like the nature of the weave itself. They evoke ‘desire lines’, paths that pedestrians take intuitively rather than following set routes. For Adams, desire paths are human traces in a terrain that represent both freedom and transgression. This sense of ‘desire’ comes across strongly in Adams’ practice as he seeks to liberate himself from homogenous constructs of identity.
Cecilia Vicuna: Quipu Womb
I have wanted to see this piece of work for a long time. Reminded when I noticed a recent photo of it posted on social media, I decided to make a detour to see it.
This vast ‘visual poem in space’ is made from over 50 large strands of unspun wool, dyed red and knotted, which flow to the ground through a metal ring.
The work references menstrual blood as well as the energies, flows and cycles of nature.
White Cube, Bermondsey
Bronwyn Katz: I turn myself into a star and visit my loved ones
As an artist who has used bedsprings in my work I had to visit the exhibition by Bronwyn Katz.
The South African artist’s sculptures deal with materiality, narrative and social history and she works with found materials.
In this exhibition her large-scale sculptures consist of deconstructed metal bedframes: the exposed bedsprings are combined with metal and plastic scourers to create a brightly-coloured, patterned and textural surface but they also hint at her own cultural identity.
Bermondsey Project Space
Reconnecting: Sustainability First Arts Prize 2020
My final stop of the day was to visit the Bermondsey Project Space, where the Sustainability First Art Prize 2020 was having its delayed Private View. My friend, Estelle Woolley, had been awarded Highly Commended for her ‘Pandemic Nature Masks’ so I went along with her. She was very pleased to see her work was being displayed in the window of the Gallery and it was good to attend my first Private View for nearly two years. Perhaps things are getting back to normal.