Terry Rodgers Sweet illusion at Torch Gallery in Amsterdam

Terry Rodgers Sweet illusion at Torch Gallery in Amsterdam

By Doron Beuns 

Our experience of other people is essentially indirect. We rely on the sensual qualities of other people in order to get a grasp of their inner life. However, a substantial remainder of that inner life does not rise to a perceivable surface. Some things we keep to ourselves and other things could not even be put into words. Due to this limitation we are, at least in part, oblivious to the interior experiences of our fellow beings. This phenomenon seems to be at the chore of Terry Rodger’s latest show at Torch Gallery in Amsterdam.

Terry Rodgers, 2018, The Good Thing, courtesy Torch Gallery

‘Sweet Illusion’ showcases twenty two paintings that depict glamorously lean figures with scantily dressed bodies in luxurious environments. However, instead of figures at ease we find figures that are caught up in their own rumination. This rumination subsequently disables each figure to meaningfully engage with its environment. The figures in a Terry Rodgers painting are therefore infinitely trapped in their own shallowness and depth. Naked bodies become impenetrable membranes, draped fabrics become reflections of human listlessness, and half-empty glasses become signifiers of incompletion.

Terry Rodgers, 2019, Inside Out, courtesy Torch Gallery
Terry Rodgers, 2019, True Lies, courtesy Torch Gallery

The scenes look alluring at first but become increasingly problematic at closer inspection. Subtle nuances in brushwork, facial expression and composition subtly hint at the isolation of the multiple subjects. Rodgers is capable of exploring a dark aspect of human life without retreating to a subversive or murky visual language. His paintings rather depict a place where the rich environment and the lack of his subjects are at constant odds with each other. The paintings are on the one hand dreamlike but also strongly rooted in reality.

Terry Rodgers, 2018, Facial Recognition courtesy Torch Gallery
Terry Rodgers, 2018, Moonlight, courtesy Torch Gallery

A place where a bunch of neglected people look past each other seems a lot like planet earth at the moment. The difference is that in the real world disconnection is not an absolute condition. But it is precisely this absolute condition that gives a Terry Rodgers painting its haunting beauty. Solitude is a sublime thing. 

Terry Rodgers, 2018, Focal Point, courtesy Torch Gallery

*Sweet illusion by Terry Rodgers will be on view till the 28th of December at Torch Gallery in Amsterdam.

Doron Beuns

Jake and Dinos Chapman ‘The rainbow of human kindness’ at H.e.r.o. Gallery Amsterdam

Jake and Dinos Chapman ‘The rainbow of human kindness’ at H.e.r.o. Gallery Amsterdam

by Doron Beuns

Jake and Dinos Chapman
The Rainbow of Human Kindness, Solo exhibition at H.E.R.O. Amsterdam
18 May – 29 June 2019

Are we stuck in a vicious cycle of affirming our liberal advantages by tolerating the suffering of others? According to Jake and Dinos Chapman solo exhibition at Amsterdam’s Hero Gallery we definitely are. The title of the exhibition, ‘the endless rainbow of human kindness’ seems to be a sarcastic critique of prescribed universal optimism. The artists present a world in which kindness and solidarity conceal an immeasurable capacity for malevolence. This firstly confront us with the darkness beneath our own public personas but even more so with our uncanny ability to be entertained by the suffering of others if it is located outside the boundaries of our personal affairs.

Jake and Dinos Chapman, Unhappy Feet, 2010, Glass-fibre, plastic and mixed media, 216 x 171 x 171 cm

Jake and Dinos Chapman do seem more than happy to provide their audience with entertainment value. Their ‘Hellscapes’, of which several versions are on display in this exhibition, are so detailed and carefully constructed that it would be hard for someone to contemplate the violence without astonishment. This is precisely where the artists throw our moral framework off balance and question the necessity for a moral imperative within an artwork. The ‘Hellscapes’ prove that artworks can have a sublime dimension that enables us to experience something beyond a binary judgment of good and evil.

Jake and Dinos Chapman, The New Arrival, 2014-2016, Mixed media, Variable dimensions

Jake and Dinos Chapman, Minderwertigkinder – Wolf Child, 2011 Mannequin, wig, and trainers 131 x 39 x 32 cm

Jake and Dinos Chapman, Minderwertigkinder – Small Duck Child, 2011,Mannequin, wig, and trainers
116 x 41 x 32 cm

We are off course aware that the bloodshed in the work ‘Unhappy feet’ is fictional and that the actors are interchangeable but that doesn’t mean that the artists cease to put their finger on the sore spot of human history. In addition they demonstrate how images of violence are always carefully packaged to conceal something else. For example, works such as ‘I had to punish myself’, ‘The new arrival’, and ‘Someone offered me money to do it’ appear as precarious torture machines but are in fact well-crafted and monumentally sized bronze sculptures. These works also appear older than they are due to their stained finish, vintage colour-scheme and knick-knack choice of objects. The illusion of things looking older furthermore applies to the visual quality of the two-dimensional works in this exhibition. In ‘Living with nearly dead art’ and “The larger rainbow of human kindness’ we see the works of Jake and Dinos co-exist with older artworks as if they were from the same time-period. A clever mixture of drawing and printing techniques makes that the illusion could be perceived as a plausible historical artefact.

Jake and Dinos Chapman, World Peace Through World Domination I-IV, 2013 Banners 494 x 196 cm (each)

Jake and Dinos Chapman, Someone offered me money to do it, 2008, Painted bronze, 165 x 360 x 91 cm

Jake and Dinos Chapman, I wanted to punish myself, 2008 Painted bronze 227 x 103 x 68 cm

The works of the Chapman brothers exist in undefined place between the past and a dystopic future. This also applies to the work ‘Minterwertigkinder’,a group of child mannequins dressed in sportswear gazing at a painting. The title of this work clearly relates to the superiority/inferiority complexes of the Second World War whilst the facial modifications of the mannequins are more reminiscent of a future totalitarian regime in which a generation of inferior children emerged from failed bio-engineering experiments. It furthermore seems fitting that these children would be obliged to wear normcore sportswear and swastika badges. In that way they become the diametric opposite of the cultured human individual. This is by default the category that most exhibition visitors would like to place their selves in. This in turn brings about an opposition between the spectator and the artwork that confronts us with our tendency to fear, reject or exoticize a perceived impurity. We are more susceptible to that tendency than we would like to admit, especially today. Jake and Dinos Chapman are not afraid to point that out.

Doron Beuns

LEVI VAN VELUW “BEYOND MATTER” at GALERIE RON MANDOS, Amsterdam

LEVI VAN VELUW “BEYOND MATTER” at GALERIE RON MANDOS, Amsterdam

By Doron Beuns

Levi van Veluw’s latest solo presentation ‘Beyond Matter’ at Galerie Ron Mandos displays a mesmerizing interplay between sacred geometry and organic interference. This principle slowly unfolds through a series of blue assemblages mounted on the crisp white walls of the gallery. The first work encountered showcases a wooden grid flooded by formless heaps of clay that are slightly marbled. It appears as a snapshot in an active thought process in which the two brain halves congregate. Van Veluw’s thoughts seem to physically manifest, whilst speaking to our own processes of deciphering that manifestation.

The display of the artist’s process seems to be a primary concern as the next few assemblages on the wall address the manual labour that went into that work. Up close a multiplicity of finger prints are revealed, pressing the blue clay into multiple geometric arrangements. From afar, we see harmonious compositions with a slight edge of whimsicality. The works contain a delicate balance between order and chaos as the artist’s neurotic tendency to perfect things is countered by the slight imperfections that occur during manual clay modelling.

‘Beyond matter’ clearly shows the artist’s ability to challenge his previous works. The previous work of the artist shows a strong inclination to impose order on the natural world. This new work clearly inverses that inclination. Van Veluw allows uncontrollable materials and human error to interfere with his imposed order. The consistent repetition of this exercise throughout the show testifies to a profound ability to let things go. This adds an additional dimension to the artist’s work that we haven’t seen before to this degree.

This sentiment of letting things go also ties in with some of the religious connotations we find in van Veluw’s wall pieces. During a studio visit, the artist mentioned how he is fascinated by the way in which humans turn immaterial and spiritual experiences into material substances. One work contains a clay grid stuffed with box-like inserts, strongly reminding me of the little notes that are stuck between the remainders of the Jewish temple wall in Jerusalem. Equally, the altar-screen silhouettes in some other wall pieces could be found in one Christian Churches down the road. Furthermore, the geometry throughout the work draws connections to patterns in a nearby Mosque. The colour blue, which is omnipresence throughout the presentation, ties the works together as the blue sky that covers all the above religious institutions.

The coloration of van Veluw’s work also invites contexts beyond the three big religions. This becomes apparent when one of the wall pieces appears to be a passage to a smaller installation space within the gallery. Walking through it, we enter an industrial cube of steel and glass. Behind it, we again observe a set of blue grids flooded by marbled matter. But this time it looks like the alchemical aftermath of a volcanic eruption that preserved an array of ancient artefacts, that have now been approved for a public viewing.

Even when repeated, no pattern looks the same within van Veluwe’s latest show. Every little mark and tweak are to be enjoyed in their own right, perhaps encouraging us to let ourselves go a little whilst doing so. Nevertheless, I am very curious about how these current wall pieces might translate into more floor-based sculptural works. This is another area in which the artist has previously produced a lot of  works with a high degree of geometric perfection. Only time will tell whether the artist will allow for imperfection in that area as well.

Doron Beuns

ALL IMAGES ARE COURTESY OF GALERIE RON MANDOS. COPYRIGHT © THE ARTIST

Daniel Arsham / Static Mythologies at Galerie Ron Mandos, Amsterdam

Daniel Arsham / Static Mythologies at Galerie Ron Mandos, Amsterdam

By Doron Beuns

Daniel Arsham’s latest exhibition ‘Static Mythologies’ at Galerie Ron Mandos in Amsterdam could be best described as a play on the passage of time. When entering the gallery, the spectator steps into Arsham’s ethereal version of a Japanese Zen garden, otherwise known as a ‘Karesansui’. The repetitive line patterns in the sand of these gardens are often enjoyed for their meditative qualities and again prove to be effective in the format of this exhibition. The additional quality of Arsham’s lunar garden is the creation of an ambient space that contains an interplay between an illusory standstill and passage of time.

Daniel Arsham, Lunar Garden, Installation of 200m2 , Wood, Sand, NewMat, Foam, Crystal, 2019

The standstill of time is firstly evoked through the inviolable patterns in the sand. The fact that the sand patterns are so delicate but yet retain their imposed composition make it appear like the exhibition space is exempt from external forces. The same could be said about moon-like light source, that provides an unperturbed illumination of Arsham’s garden. This illumination seems to translate into careful gradient colouration of all the sand in the space. The gradient goes from lighter to darker, from the respective position of the light source. This makes the garden appear very still, when one stands still, but dynamic when one walks through the work.

Daniel Arsham, Lunar Garden, Installation of 200m2 , Wood, Sand, NewMat, Foam, Crystal, 2019

This interplay between the standstill and progression of time also occurs when we look at the monochromatic white tree at the darker part of gradient. At first this tree appears to be inanimate and standstill due to its artificial and monochromatically-white colouration. However at closer inspection the tree all of a sudden regains vitality when observing how multiple crystals grow from its branches. These are the sort of experiential qualities in Lunar Garden that would be hard to capture on an Instagram post, even though its surreal and utopic qualities are perfectly fit for this medium. The amount of selfies that were taken during the exhibition testify to that.

Daniel Arsham, Lunar Garden, Installation of 200m2 , Wood, Sand, NewMat, Foam, Crystal, 2019

Daniel Arsham, Static Mythologies

Arsham most certainly has a grasp on popular culture but not only by producing utopic environments. When entering the second space of the gallery we find uncanny wrappings of icon figures of our time placed on scaffold-like pedestals transformed into solid pieces of sculpture. These ‘wrapped sculptures’ cleverly commodify the more esoteric legacy of Christo, Jeanne Claude and Man Ray but are at least as mysterious in their materiality. The wrapped fabric around Arsham’s icons look rather soft and wet while being solid and dry. If one does not appreciate the artist’s commercial approach or the banality of his iconography , then one could certainly be swayed by the workmanship that is invested in his works.

This especially occurred to me when looking at his ‘fictional archeology’ sculptures in the latest room. Widely recognizable products are transformed into eroded, fossilized and crystallized relics of our present society. Their singular outcome makes them even more desirable as commodities. Their conventional presentation also made them appear as such. However, this did direct my attention to the right place, which are the objects in their own right. They namely contain a near perfect equilibrium between the order of flawless mechanical reproduction and the chaos of organic interference. This is essentially what we all look for in both art and life. Daniel Arsham, in that respect, seems to be giving the people what they want to see in an art exhibition. So far, it served him well.

Static Mythologies | Daniel Arsham
Galerie Ron Mandos, Amsterdam
12.01.201916.03.2019

all images: COURTESY OF GALERIE RON MANDOS. COPYRIGHT © THE ARTIST

Doron Beuns


PUBLICATION LISTED IN THE ITALIAN PRESS REGISTER BY THE SASSARI COURT OF LAW WITH REGISTRATION NUMBER 447/2017.
EDITOR IN CHIEF: ALICE ZUCCA

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