collections, collectors and control

June 11, 2010

A refresher – and a move forward  – perhaps a voyage of discovery  . . .  following  the workshop on Obsessions and Concepts from the May 14th post and also having visited the de la Warr to see Critical Mass – the installation by Gormley – I read an article on him in the summer issue of the RA magazine (also recommend  Jenny Uglow on ‘The garden as a picture’). A good article by Fiona Maddocks titled ‘Precision Made’  and I quote ‘ His formal mode of discourse is a kind of regime, which tallies with his serious, almost religious attitude to work: a privilege which requires dedication and application of the highest order to justify the pleasure he has in doing it.  . . . Ritual, self-denial and restraint are instilled in him . . . How else could he submit himself to the mental, if not physical, torture of providing his own body as the cast for much of his work . . . Prone to take life, as well as himself, seriously . . .’.  Gormley is clearly organisational  – the connection to control, obsessions and collections seemed strong. The image below shows an asisstant breaking the moulds.

And following on is an image of ‘Field‘ 1993 an organised collection of figures made by the people of St Helen’s and shown in many galleries worldwide. Couldn’t find a close up image that satisfied me unfortunately but then it’s all about the mass?

So back to a fleeting overview of Charlotte’s very thorough introduction to Obsessions and Collections event. This moved neatly through Joseph Cornell and his boxes filled with everyday dross, Kokoschka and his obsession with Alma Mahler to the extent that he commissioned a life-size ‘doll’ . . . and also Bonnard and Mme Bonnard and her life in the bathroom! As below . . .

. . then Simon Rodia and the truly amazing Watts Towers . . .

. . on to Susie Freeman and her brilliant collections of textiles and paraphernalia rather beautifully organised and presented . . .

. . and also Annette Messager, whose work has very strong underlying concepts, both political and theatrical   . . .

. . then something illuminating happened, at least as far as I was concerned, David Fowler talked about his experiences in his work as part of an MA portfolio and, eventually, what that study or work lead on to . . the following images are David’s. Firstly a postcard for a SoCo exhibition from a while ago that I kept for ages because it intrigued me so much . .

David talked about his obsessions and his fears which he related as pressures, primarily his inability to feel the need to travel . . he saw this as a problem but tried to say it wasn’t – he felt protective about what others might conceive as a problem . . all this was said in such as self-effacing manner . . he was being totally honest  . . and really very generous . .  some of his work produced as part of his procedure and process through trying to make a few day trips (dry run at travelling) and then spending time making graphic notes. Notes on his experience of moving around and along designated routes . . into his realisation that he could move on, in fact, in a very individual manner . . . the work is from sketch books and story boards . .

. . you’ll see that David’s work has a spontaneous quality – he said he works very fast . . . it has great life . . .  appears obsessional as he’s clearly searching hard but, to me, he’s not interested in the work as a finalised anything – he’s not controlling the outcome . . .

David’s system started to look like game – a type of board game – where he travelled with a throw of the dice and he wasn’t really sure how his path might evolve – he did get a finished result as a framed collection of cornucopia. David’s collections have a life – they seem to take his mind and his appetite on to other levels. He’s a designer as well as an artist, in my opinion. He found an interest in how people could travel with as little weight prohibiting their movement as possible – he found an interest in light metals like titanium and their usefulness to travellers, hikers, trippers etc. He found that he could control how these containers would be most practically used and that the potential of the containers would appear obvious to the user.

Within the remit of this blog – landscapes on micro and macro scale –  the plant collectors (Victorian to present day), whether obsessional which of course they remain, have influenced decorative landscapes hugely. The majority of the plants on the market now originated from other geographic areas. A little group – collection of pots and vegetation – on the deck couldn’t or wouldn’t be there if some seeds, hard or soft wood cuttings, hadn’t been gathered or taken by some enlightened people  in their travels around the globe. Thank goodness! This is where science and art nudge up against each other – control and creativity – as Gormley does so well.

Hexahedrons of wood and glass,
scarcely bigger than a shoebox,
with room in them for night and all its lights.

Monuments to every moment,
refuse of every moment, used:
cages for infinity.

Marbles, buttons, thimbles, dice,
pins, stamps, and glass beads:
tales of the time.

Memory weaves, unweaves the echoes:
in the four corners of the box
shadowless ladies play at hide-and-seek.

Fire buried in the mirror,
water sleeping in the agate:
solos of Jenny Colonne and Jenny Lind.

“One has to commit a painting,” said Degas,
“the way one commits a crime.” But you constructed
boxes where things hurry away from their names.

Slot machine of visions,
condensation flask for conversations,
hotel of crickets and constellations.

Minimal, incoherent fragments:
the opposite of History, creator of ruins,
out of your ruins you have made creations.

Theatre of the spirits:
objects putting the laws
of identity through hoops.

“Grand Hotel de la Couronne”: in a vial,
the three of clubs and, very surprised,
Thumbelina in gardens of reflection.

A comb is a harp strummed by the glance
of a little girl
born dumb.

The reflector of the inner eye
scatters the spectacle:
God all alone above an extinct world.

The apparitions are manifest,
their bodies weigh less than light,
lasting as long as this phrase lasts.

Joseph Cornell: inside your boxes
my words became visible for a moment.  Objects and Apparitions  Octavio Paz (translation Elizabeth Bishop)

 

 

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