artists of interest
Zhuang Hui's work explores his experience of China and the tensions between these political ideals and the reality of modern-day Chinese life. He often depicts real places and events through a diverse range of approaches and materials.
Factory Floor (2007) is a realistic reproduction of the machinery from ‘The East is Red Tractor Factory’ where the artist once worked. Hui's recreation speaks about 'the new reality of the social climate today for the people it affects most.’ Workers from the factory created the individual components of this work, which are constructed from Polystyrene. ‘I love the idea of the final parts not being that which on the surface they appeared to be.’
Using scrap and surplus materials, Reaves explores function through handcraft and domestic furniture designs to facilitate our bodies. She works with these materials in an almost decorative way so they become ornate and reflect a merging of different styles from history and sometimes references well known designers.
The way Reaves manipulates and works with the materials relate to ideas of skill and making, and grounded in her technical understanding of product design. The work is playful and absurd - recognisable elements reconstructed in unexpected ways - but her understanding of material properties and unique form of reconstructing found materials feels sincere.
Olivia Bax combines different materials - both traditional art materials and more unconventional materials - to create linear and physically imposing sculptures, that start as drawings in space, but are built up using this composite material. Inspired by visual clues that she expiences and interacts with, the structures speak to different forms that exist within construction, found structures, and our own bodies.
The role of the hand remains prominent in the sculptures - by the tactile, textured surfaces that have been hand-moulded, and by the likeness to objects such as handles. The structures are complex and the forms continually contrast against one another whilst appear uniform in the single colours.
Using material as a staring point, Katinka Bock often gathers material from her locality or is inspired by elements of surrounding environments. She often lets these environments modify materials and objects she's working with.
She's interested in how materials and construction sites are anachronistic - belonging to a previous time - and affect the present landscape and population both physically and psychologically.
Often making work in response to the spaces in which she's exhibiting, manipulating how visitors navigate space, the objects within her installation explore domestic and function. Her work makes us question the purpose and use of the spaces that we, and the artworks, inhabit. Her practice is often inspired by some of the architectural features that are commonplace in Georgia, where she is from. She often re-configures her own works and studio materials so there is a continued dialogue between the works.
In her solo exhibition at South London Gallery, Djordjadze utilised materials from near the gallery. The installations speak to the architecture of the building, and absorb its characteristics.
Sun at Night by Shilpa Gupta at Barbican, London, 2021
Shilpa Gupta’s solo exhibition ‘Sun at Night’ shows a real sensitivity to material, using objects as tools to tell stories. Even down to the nails pinning the paper to the wall, the attention to detail and the awareness of how the materials speak together was present in the work. I liked the combination of found materials and objects, and more formal mediums, like drawing, came together to create interesting compositions, and whilst the work along the walls was small and under-stated, it was still incredibly powerful. The installation at the end of the gallery was also incredibly powerful – the use of light and dark to obscure and reveal was very interesting, and I felt like you could experience the work as a whole, or delve into specific details. Overall, I learnt a lot from this exhibition, not just about the themes Gupta’s exploring around censorship and human rights, but about material considerations, scale and minimalist approaches to presentation.
Spider the Pig, Pig the Spider by Alvaro Barrington at South London Gallery, London, 2021
Alvaro Barrington’s exhibition at South London Gallery was loud and impactful from the minute you step foot in the room. SLG is a gallery I have visited many times, and I was impressed by how effectively he transformed the space and took you on a journey throughout the exhibition. Splitting the room into two spaces - South and North – the viewer was immediately faced with a choice; how to navigate the space and where to focus attention first – ultimately having to decide between the South and North. However, this geographical split isn’t obvious when you first enter the space, and only becomes apparent the more you explore the material. Barrington’s playfulness of material is exciting and at times menacing, which feeds into the visual clues and references in the work, down to the title, references games, cultural references, cartoons and animals in a joyful but loaded manner. Refusing to play by the rules of the space and the gallery setting, Barrington placed works uncomfortably high, low, and close together, which contributed to the encompassing effect of the exhibition as a whole artwork - singular. I was really taken by how sculptural the work was; despite the work being almost completely wall-based (except for the benches he, himself, designed).
Burri, Kounellis, Nunzio curated by Bruno Corà at Mazzoleni Gallery, London, 2021
The exhibition places the three generations of artists side-by-side, and it appears to me it’s as much an exploration into time as it is material influences. Already familiar with the work of Kounellis, whose work responded to the industrialisation of Italy, I was interested in how the material choices expanded across the three time periods. One of the most striking differences was the pictorial plane; how the work gradually becomes more three-dimensional and the colour palette becomes more refined over time. I think Kounellis is more concerned with how different materials and objects speak to each other, and he creates three-dimensional compositions that have a strong relationship to painting (and he is quoted in the exhibition as saying he sees himself as a painter).
All three artists are interested in presence and action in their work. Nunzio’s work focuses on how two materials interact, and the artworks feel very active, with the materials directly corresponding to process: ‘combustion on wood’. I’m also interested in the forms Nunzio chooses in his work – something I’m trying to work out in my own practice – and the structures he creates are simple, have a relationship with the material and process, and also has a strong relationship to space and the body.
Jannis Kounellis at Lévy Gorvy, Paris, 2021
Just a couple of months later I visited a solo exhibition of works by Jannis Kounellis at Lévy Gorvy in Paris. The thing that really strikes me about his work so often is the attention to detail despite the often unshowy and sometimes clunky presentation. There is always carful consideration into how the different materials relate to each other, down to the fixings and attachments, and this is something I think Matt has asked me consider too. Included in the exhibition was a series of wall-based sculptures that displayed materials and objects in boxes. The compositions and the way Kounellis arranged the materials to consider colour, shade, light, space, and line reminded me of the Burri, Kounellis, Nunzio exhibition where Kounellis was quoted as saying he always felt like a painter.
Trace Elements curated by Rosalind Davis at The Factory, London, 2021
With an interest in found materials comes an interest in found spaces, and I have always been interested in how art can exist in unusual spaces, and how these environments speak to the art. The Factory Project setting brought so much to the work, but also brought a lot of challenges. The space was very busy due to sheer quantity of work in the building, and all the details and features of the space at times felt like it was competing with the work. One of the exhibitions that I felt was most effective was Trace Elements, curated by Rosalind Davis. Rosalind had a strong affinity to the building; with several generations of her family having worked in the Tate and Lyle factory. Modernisation, digitalisation, and the histories of places. With a focus on materials, a lot of the work was made in response to the space and I think this shows. Andrea V Wright took impressions of the distressed walls with latex, Justin Hibbs and Rosalind Davis used mirrored metals to reflect and absorb the space. Even the colours and shapes within the exhibitions corresponds to features of the space, and I’m interested how this can translate even to white cube spaces.
Lazarus by Ibrahim Mahama at White Cube Bermondsey, London, 2021
I’m interested in the work’s relationship with place, which was explored through different mediums, to investigate time and regeneration. ‘Nkrumah Voli-ni’ is an abandoned silo in Tamale, Ghana, that once housed grain and food during the post-independence era but has since flooded and is now inhabited by fish, reptiles, birds and a large colony of bats, which is the main motif throughout the exhibition. A unique animal that has existed in popular culture and whose form is instantly recognisable, Mahama replicated these bat-like features throughout the exhibition, from the patterns in the collages, the ideas of life and death as reflected in the title and installation ‘Lazarus’, and the flock of sewing machines, whose sound travels through the gallery space in waves. The sewing machines, used in the installation ‘Capital Corpses’, are decommissioned sewing machines, representative of circular economics, and I think there are strong correlations to the use of repurposed desks, jute sacks and tar-soaked fabrics once again reminds me of the work of Kounellis and other Arte Povera artists, and I think it’s interesting how this movement, directly translated as ‘poor art’, continues to move across the globe as different places react to the effects and after-math of industrialisation.
Erratics by Lubna Chowdhary at Peer Gallery, London, 2021
I’m really interested in Lubna Chowdhary’s use of shape in her practice. Whilst I’m trying to understand how to construct and utilise the cut up fabric, I found Chowdhary’s work a useful investigation into form and pattern. Her family worked in the textiles industry, which has informed Chowdhary’s use of pattern, colour, texture and assembly. There also appears to be tensions within the work between the hand-made and the manufactured, with the impression of perfectly formed objects that ‘evoke the standardised patterns of industrial finished’ (Subversive Deposits: On the work of Lubna Chowdhary by Daniel F. Herrmann in 2021), and the use of ceramic tiles in her practice calls to question the decorative, and the artisanal versus the industrial. The wooden sculptures explore the relationship between computerised technologies and traditional craft skills, whilst ‘Modular 3’, a site-specific installation connecting the two gallery spaces, calls to question these industrial spaces and how pattern and the ornate may present itself in industrious environments.
Grace, No Gridlock by Sheila Hicks at Galerie Frank Elbaz, Paris, 2021
I found Sheila Hicks’ exhibition particularly insightful, largely because of the things I didn’t like as well as the things I did. I had always been interested in her work because of the installations she creates using textiles that references traditional processes and skills, but carried out on a large scale, however I found much of the work displayed at Frank Elbaz not as well thought out as some of per previous work, in particular the medallions. Throughout much of the gallery at Frank Elbaz, Hicks had created these round 3D pieces made from bunched fabric and then wrapped in string. The colour choices felt muddled and ill-thought-through, and the finish of the work felt messy, which wasn’t in keeping with some of her other wall-based work that showed a very deliberate and sensitive application of lengths of yarn. She had repeated a similar process with long stick-like forms that leant against the wall, and whilst I felt this was more effective because of the tactile nature of the work and how it stood vertically confronting the viewer, I still felt like more consideration could have gone into colour choices, and the way the string was applied, which felt scribbled on top. The central installation was effective, which utilised the high ceilings of the gallery and the different types of fabrics and the different colours, weaves and weights of fabric had an interesting relationship, especially with the display of the ‘completed’ balls of yarn, which really takes us back to the processes involved in the textiles industry.
published by Phaidon Press
Edited by Eva Grubinger and Jorg Heiser
published by Sternberg Press
published by Verso
(Documents on Contemporary Art)
published by Whitechapel Gallery
The Nature and Art of Workmanship
published by Herbert Press
Caroline Criado Perez
published by Vintage press
Echoes in the Darkness
(Writings and Interviews 1966-2002)
published by Trolley Books
Phyllida Barlow Cul-de-Sac
Alastair Sooke and Edith Devaney
published by Royal Academy of Arts
Seven Years: The Rematerialisation of Art
from 2011 to 2017
published by Sternberg Press
Brave New World
published by Chatto and Windus
(Documents on Contemporary Art)
published by Whitechapel Gallery
Arte Povera (Movements in Modern Art)
published by Tate Publishing
other key influences
After The Dream, 2009
Dresses and black wool
Seen in group exhibition 'Walking in my Mind', Hayward Gallery, London
Expanded Expansion, 1969
Fiberglass, polyester resin, latex, and cheesecloth
309.9cm x 762 cm
Part of the Anti-form movement
polyethene plastic bags, mattress, bed frame, bedside table, sofa, paraffin lamp, Bible, coffee mug and bricks
Exhibited at Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town
Polystyrene, fabric, timber and cement
Seen in solo exhibition 'RIG'
at Hauser and Wirth, London
The Act of Hatching the Parquey Dragonfly in Le Landerson, 1983
Textile, latex and mother of pearl pigment
130 x 105 cm
Seen in solo exhibition at Parasol Unit, London
The Magic Box, 1988
wood board, cotton cloth
Exhibited at Hauser and Wirth, Hong Kong
Part of the Gutai movement
Untitled (One Hundred Spaces), 1995
Seen in solo exhibition at Tate Britain in 2017
Untitled (Living Sculpture), 1966
Exhibited in 'Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera' at the Tate Modern in 2001
Part of the Arte Povera movement
Cell XXVI, 2003
Steel, fabric, aluminium and wood
Seen in 'Hans Belmer - Louise Bourgeois Double Sexus' at the Kunst Museum, The Hague
Untitled (Brown Felt)
Part of the Anti-form movement
Decommissioned fire hoses
137.2cm x 241.3cm x 10.2cm
Seen in solo exhibition 'My Labour is my Protest' at White Cube Bermondsey, London
New Palace of Justice