Ishbel Myerscough Grief, Longing, and Love

Ishbel Myerscough Grief, Longing, and Love

FLOWERS Gallery, London

4 March – 11 April, 2020

Myerscough is recognised for her highly detailed and meticulously observed portrayal of her subject matter, which over the past three decades has primarily included herself, her close friend and fellow artist Chantal Joffe, and their families. In this exhibition, Myerscough combines a focused study of youth and coming-of-age with adult experiences of parenthood, desire and bereavement, evoking the complex cycle of human experience.

Ishbel Myerscough, Two Painters, 2019

Paintings of sleeping and resting figures record moments of flux from childhood to teenage and young adulthood, which Myerscough describes as a ‘passing over’ from one state to another. Here, subjects are depicted lounging on beds or sofas, as though waiting or suspended in time. Often painted with eyes closed, Myerscough’s figures reflect the hidden or inaccessible inner lives of others, distancing the sleeper from the close familial gaze.

Ishbel Myerscough, Bella, red, 2019

Beds in Myerscough’s paintings are swathed in mis-matched striped patterns or swirling floral sheets, revealing a fascination with finding beauty within the everyday domestic environment.The frayed threads of careworn upholstery pull textile designs into abstraction, while fabrics can also transform the reclining figures into a tangle of partially revealed limbs.

Ishbel Myerscough, Teenage, 2019

A double portrait of herself with Chantal Joffe depicts the two painters with brushes in hand, alongside Myerscough’s daughter, who has been a subject of both artists’ work throughout her life. Across their long friendship, Myerscough has reflected their evolving personal stories and shared experiences of female identity and motherhood. In this image, as with other smaller detailed self-portraits in the exhibition, Myerscough addresses a new cycle of transition with unflinching clarity.

Ishbel Myerscough, Lilly and Quaye sleeping, 2019

ABOUT ISHBEL MYERSCOUGH

Ishbel Myerscough studied at Glasgow and the Slade Schools of Art; she won the National Portrait Gallery’s annual BP Portrait Award competition in 1995 and as a result was commissioned to paint Helen Mirren’s portrait for the collection and subsequently Sir Willard White. Her portrait Two Girls (1991), was displayed in the exhibition Self at the Turner Contemporary, Margate, UK in 2015 and at the National Portrait Gallery, London, until November 2016. Her work was presented in a joint display Friendship Portraits: Chantal Joffe and Ishbel Myerscough at the National Portrait Gallery in 2015, capturing their very particular artistic collaboration; and recently was included in the exhibitions Only Connect, Royal Academy of Arts, Keeper’s House, London; and Relating Narratives – A Common World of Women, The Horse Hospital, London, 2018.

Bill Armstrong: Chroma

Bill Armstrong:
Chroma

HackelBury Fine Art, London

28 February – 9 April 2020

Chroma is a celebration of colour: vibrant red silhouettes are contrasted against a soft blue background, a bold yellow figure stretches across a swathe of rich cerulean, another figure, rendered in deep violet, appears against a green backdrop.

Film Noir #1433

Through abstract colour fields, Bill Armstrong creates an otherworldly realm. He layers and manipulates collages of found materials, building an imagined scene which he then photographs with the camera’s focusing ring set to infinity. The resulting softened images erase the figures’ features and any identity associated with them to “make it possible for viewers to put themselves into the pictures—so that the portraits can become mirrors.”

Film Noir #1432

Chroma concentrates on two bodies of work within Armstrong’s Infinity series: Renaissance and Film Noir. In Renaissance, Armstrong re-works old master drawings. The de-materialised lone figures are set against a single intense colour, chosen to elicit specific emotions in accordance with or in contrast to the figure’s pose. In Film Noir, the mysterious solitary figures placed against a layered backdrop of colour hint at the film noir themes of existentialist dilemma, yet remain haunting and unresolved.

Film Noir # 1420

Emphasising the unseen by concealing details is the foundation of Armstrong’s Infinity series. Compositions and forms take shape only through blurring dynamic colours together and merging the edges of the background and the foreground. The eye strives to resolve the areas which are left obscured, drawing the viewer deeper into Bill Armstrong’s meditative, parallel world of pure colour.

Renaissance # 1016, 2010

Tuan Andrew Nguyen, A Lotus in a Sea of Fire

Tuan Andrew Nguyen A Lotus in a Sea of Fire

James Cohan, New York

28 February – 03 May, 2020

Tuan Andrew Nguyen’s work explores the power of storytelling through video and sculpture. His projects are based on extensive research and community engagement, tapping into inherited histories and counter-memory. Nguyen extracts and re-works dominant, oftentimes colonial histories and supernaturalisms into imaginative vignettes. Fact and fiction are interwoven in poetic narratives that span time and place.

TUAN ANDREW NGUYEN
The Boat People (still)
2020
Single-channel video, 4k, Super 16mm transferred to digital, color, 5.1 surround sound
Ed. of 5 + 2 AP

The centerpiece of the exhibition is The Boat People, a single channel video installation displayed alongside hand-carved wooden sculptural objects. Set in an unspecified post-apocalyptic future at the precarious edge of humanity’s possible extinction, the film follows a band of children led by a strong-willed and resourceful little girl. Calling themselves The Boat People, they travel the seas and collect the stories of a world they never knew through objects that survived over time. The group replicates the objects they discover in wood as a way to piece together a history they are trying to understand. They then burn the carvings and scatter the ashes in the ocean to set the objects free. The little girl, who we discover is the last woman on earth, comes face to face with a mysterious statue head buried in the sand on the beach. They engage in a dialogue that explores concepts of a future and a past world through an existential lens. This dialogue, both literally and figuratively, brings the dead object to life again.

TUAN ANDREW NGUYEN
The Boat People (still)
2020
Single-channel video, 4k, Super 16mm transferred to digital, color, 5.1 surround sound
Ed. of 5 + 2 AP

The video centers itself around a series of objects found in and around Bataan, Philippines and anchors itself to the multiple layers of history in wars, migration, and perseverance contained in the land itself. Several of the beautifully hand-carved and charred wooden replicas that populate the video are displayed in the gallery. Ritual burning has a long and complex history throughout Southeast Asia, both in the Philippines and in Vietnam, where today people burn paper currency and votive replicas of contemporary luxury items—houses, cars, smartphones folded from paper—as an offering of good fortune to their dead. In The Boat People, fire is used as a metaphor for remembrance, creating a porosity between the realms of the living and the dead. It acts as both an agent of destructive change and of transformative liberation. 

TUAN ANDREW NGUYEN
The Arrival of The Boat People, 2020

Nguyen is interested in objects that have survived through time: objects that humanity has created, and in turn inherited. His work parses both the stories objects contain and our memories of the objects themselves. In The Boat People, the children discover and engage with artifacts from a refugee crisis, a world war and its attendant atrocities, and some of the earliest human migrations. They encounter Japanese machine guns, American-made gas-masks, a memorial to a World War II massacre, refugee boats, the hands and head of a Quan Yin, the female buddha of compassion, and a kampilan, a traditional Filipino blade that resembles the famous sword the hero Lapu Lapu used to slay Magellan. When the children recreate these objects, their actions highlight the nature of the replica, of the copy as a reflection on the authenticity of experience and the transference of memory. 

TUAN ANDREW NGUYEN
Not The Smell of Napalm, 2019
Hand-carved gmelina wood
23 in. high (58.4 cm)
Wooden base: 13 x 12 x 2.5 in. (33 x 30.5 x 6.4 cm)
Pedestal: 30 x 30 x 4 in. (76.2 x 76.2 x 10.2 cm)

The coastline of Bataan has borne witness to waves of migration and the movement of people both reaching for their freedom and of people seeking to take that freedom away from others, and carries the physical traces of all these journeys. The ocean that abuts this coast is a space of transition and of opposition. It is into this ocean that the children scatter the ashes of their totemic objects, in order to set them free, rendering the ocean a repository for memory. 

The Boat People was co-produced by Bellas Artes Projects and James Cohan, New York. 

Tuan Andrew Nguyen received his BFA from the University of California, Irvine in 1999 and an MFA from The California Institute of the Arts in 2004. In addition to several awards in both film and visual arts, including an Art Matters grant in 2010 and best feature film at VietFilmFest in 2018, his work has been included in international exhibitions including the Asia Pacific Triennial 2006, Whitney Biennial 2017, and the Sharjah Biennial 2019. In 2006, Nguyen co-founded The Propeller Group, a platform for collectivity that situates itself between art collective and advertising company. Accolades for the group include the grand prize at the 2015 Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur and a Creative Capital award for its project Television Commercial for Communism. Besides a major travelling retrospective that began at the MCA Chicago, the collective has participated in international exhibitions including The Ungovernables [2012 New Museum Triennial], 2012 LA Biennial, Prospect3 [2014 New Orleans Triennial], and the Venice Biennale 2015.

Paul Eachus and Nooshin Farhid Variations on a Ballistic Theme

Paul Eachus and Nooshin Farhid Variations on a Ballistic Theme

MATT’S GALLERY, London

29 February – 22 March, 2020 

Variations on a Ballistic Theme is a video trilogy and sculptural installation by Paul Eachus and Nooshin Farhid, with improvised incidental music by David Ben White. Central to the installation is a ninety-minute cycle of video works in three parts, completed and extended by Farhid following the passing of Eachus. This body of work combines installations, animations, texts and moving images, working with on and offline material. Eachus’ work mainly comprised drawings, photoworks and installations, while Farhid’s work is primarily concerned with the moving image, installations and the production of texts. The artists’ practices overlap through an interest in collage and fragmentation: a form of critical engagement within which the idea of meaning can be unfixed, unrestrained and multiple. Eachus and Farhid extend the idea of fragmentation into a space where events, both real and fictional, intersect and can form new relations. Narratives appear and disappear, crisscross and become entrapped within the trajectory of other forms of assemblage. Their work presents an excess of visual and referential material that resists being subsumed under systems of categorisation. 

Paul Eachus & Nooshin Farhid, Panta Rhei, digital video 2019 (still). Courtesy of the artist.

The three video works in the trilogy are: 

A Bullet in the absence of Air Resistance

Which takes its references from established historical events, reconstructing them outside the continuity of their time and space. Violence is the main contour throughout the film, sitting alongside historically significant events and inconsequential, frivolous or even irrelevant incidents. 

Panta Rhei 

Which depicts a Heraclitan world of nature deteriorated as a result of ecological calamity; a trajectory along which bodies are located within the wreckage of dilapidated structures, witnessing a world in the process of being annihilated. 

Snakes and Ladders

Which references chance as well as means of ascent and descent, where bodies are forced to manoeuvre within the confines of a symbolic game; a game which reveals itself as the embodiment of a gigantic machine, a governing system of domination and state-controlled social practices. 

David B. at Anne Barrault Gallery

David B. at Anne Barrault Gallery

Anne Barrault Gallery, Paris

29 February – 29 March 2020

Anne Barrault Gallery presents the third exhibition of David B.
The exhibition will premiere two new sets of drawings :“the detective dead man” and “Nick Carter and André Breton: a surrealist inquiry”, which are the subjects of two books, respectively published by l’Association and Delcourt-Soleil.

David B.
Nick Carter & André Breton 2, 2019
ink on paper
28,7 x 37 cm

A surrealist investigation

David B says there were initially two characters: the Young Detective and the Detective Dead man,whose creation coincided with the time after l’Ascension du Haut Mal, which threw the author into a state of idleness as destabilizing as morbid. “Something was dead inside me”. The Detective Dead man showed how it was difficult for him at the time (about 2014) to give an appearance to his fictitious characters. “At that point I started to turn to characters as signs, objects, and symbols”. The girl with a thousand daggers corresponds to this disembodied character. On the contrary, with her bewitching head of hair –“what is most dear to women” Eudes de Châteauroux is reported to have said – calling to mind these twelfth century ladies described by Georges Duby, she embodies a vital principle. Together or separately, they give life to playlets full of literary references, in which images and texts combine, like death and life unite the detective and the girl. The “surrealist inquiry”, Nick Carter et André Breton invites us to another interweaving of text and image, but also fiction and reality. Based on the character of a serialized novel created in 1866 by J.R. Corvell, adapted in French from 1907 onwards and praised to the skies by the Surrealists-to-be, the inquiry relates the breathtaking journey of the American detective into the life of André Breton. The chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissection table, according to David B.

Erik Verhagen

David B.
Nick Carter & André Breton 5, 2019
encre sur papier
28,7 x 37 cm

Preface, David B.
Nick Carter & André Breton

Nick Carter, the great American detective, is the character of a serial story created in 1886 by the writer J.R.Coryell and published in the New York Weekly. Until the sixties, successive authors will write his adventures, which will be adapted for the theater, the cinema, comics, and translated into many countries.

In the various instalments, Nick Carter fights criminals such as Dazaar who has a hundred shapes and a thousand faces, a true evil Hydra, Doctor Quartz, the devilish physician assisted by venomous Zanoni, his faithful disciple, Moutoushimi, the Japanese spy master, a secret agent and an expert magician in illusions and apparitions.

When it was adapted in French, from 1907 on, the future members of he surrealist group, André Breton, Louis Aragon, Robert Desnos, and also Philippe Soupault discover Nick Carter who will be, along with Fantômas and Judex, one of their great references in serial literature. Soupault, in 1983, will even write a chapter entitled The death of Nick Carter.

David B.
Nick Carter & André Breton 11, 2019
ink on paper
28,7 x 37 cm

As for Aragon and Breton, they will try, in 1928, to write and produce a four handed play, Le Trésor des Jésuites, inspired from the serial films of the series Les Vampires, directed by Louis Feuillade in 1915, in which the actress Musidora, who embodied Irma Vep, triumphed. They will engage the actress for the part of their play heroine, but time had gone by, and Musidora did no longer fit in the hotel thief costume of long ago. The tribute of the two surrealists, considered too dated, was cancelled, and Le Trésor des Jésuites will be performed only once…in Prague, in 1935.

For his part, Robert Desnos, in 1933,will write the long poem la Complainte de Fantômas, which will be adapted for the radio Ecoutez…Faites silence…La Triste Enumération… and Magritte will paint Fantômas above Paris roofs, a rose in his hand, in the posture of Rodin’s thinker.

David B.
Le mort détective, 2019
a set of 16 drawings
ink on paper
18 x 25 cm

The tributes paid by the surrealists to the serial literature of their youth would be too many to be listed. This literature, quickly written, leaving room to improvisation and most unrestrained imagination, in which commonplaces and the wildest imagination met, had everything to charm the members of the surrealist group. In it they recognized automatic writing, something of the exquisite corpse, daydreams, events looking like poetical images and sparks of the supernatural, all that André Breton cherished. This the idea came to me to associate Nick Carter, a fictitious character with André Breton, a real character in a serial and surrealist investigation, in which their two worlds mingle in the quest of what the master of the surrealist movement called the gold of time.

David B.

Charles Atlas OMINOUS, GLAMOROUS, MOMENTOUS, RIDICULOUS

Charles Atlas OMINOUS, GLAMOROUS, MOMENTOUS, RIDICULOUS

ICA – INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY ART, MILAN

29 February – 19 April, 2020 

CHARLES ATLASOMINOUS, GLAMOROUS, MOMENTOUS, RIDICULOUS, the first solo exhibition in an Italian institution dedicated to Charles Atlas (St. Louis, 1949), internationally renowned filmmaker and video-artist. Curated by Alberto Salvadori and developed in close collaboration with Charles Atlas, the exhibition presents new and recent works alongside historical pieces, contextualizing the most significant periods of the artist’s oeuvre in an installation that will transform the foundation into an immersive environment. 

Charles Atlas, Hail the New Puritan, 1986, 16mm film transferred to video, sound; duration: 84’54’’. © Charles Atlas; Courtesy the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.

Atlas is well known for his innovative and groundbreaking video-based practice. For more than forty years he has explored the dialogue between different disciplines such as video, dance, and performance. His work has stretched the boundaries of film and video, including installations, documentaries, works for television, multimedia projects, and live performances.

Charles Atlas, Hail the New Puritan, 1986, 16mm film transferred to video, sound, Duration: 84:54 minutes © Charles Atlas; Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.

Following the exhibitions by Masbedo and Simone Forti, Fondazione ICA Milano continues the focus on investigations related to the themes of the living and the body. By presenting work which uses performance and video art as an expressive means and research tool, Atlas’ show carries through April 2020 this shared thread which has characterized the exhibition program since the start of the Fondazione. 

Charles Atlas

Atlas was born in St. Louis, MO in 1949; he has lived and worked in New York City since the early 1970s. Recent solo exhibitions include The Kitchen, New York; the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; De Hallen, Haarlem; Bloomberg SPACE, London; and Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 2017, the Hammer Museum acquired Atlas’ five-channel video installation with sound entitled The Tyranny of Consciousness, which had been recently featured in Viva Arte Viva, the 57th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennial. Atlas’ work is included in the permanent collections of major institutions worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; San Francisco Museum of Art; Tate Modern, London; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin; Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zürich; and De Hallen Haarlem, The Netherlands. In 2017, Atlas and choreographers Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener premiered Tesseract, a new two-part work consisting of a stereoscopic 3D film and dance performance with live cinematic mixing. In September 2019 Atlas will unveil a new commission for Art on theMART, the piece will span across the 2.5 acre river-façade of theMART in Chicago.

Bernd and Hilla Becher, Sarah Charlesworth, Sherrie Levine

Bernd and Hilla Becher, Sarah Charlesworth, Sherrie Levine

Paula Cooper Gallery, NY

29 FEBRUARY – 04 APRIL , 2020

Paula Cooper Gallery announces an exhibition of works by Bernd and Hilla Becher, Sarah Charlesworth, and Sherrie Levine, curated by Sherrie Levine, the exhibition brings together three related approaches to conceptual image-making, (post-)modernism, and the genre of the still life—understood both as a depiction of everyday inanimate objects, foods or flowers, and in a broader sense, as a formal representation of a specific time and place through its cultural artifacts.

Sherrie Levine, Salubra 3, 2007, oil on mahogany and wall paint, 14 parts: 27 x 27 in. (68.6 x 68.6 cm), overall dimensions variable; painted rectangle on wall 65 in. (165.1 cm) height, length variable

Beginning in 1959, Bernd and Hilla Becher pursued a project of systematically documenting industrial architectural forms—an objective that took inspiration from the precisionist approach of the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) artists August Sander, Karl Blossfeldt, and Albert Renger-Patzsch of the 1920s. Post-war Germany’s ubiquitous cooling towers, gas tanks, blast furnaces, and grain elevators—remnants of a fevered industrialization—provided the Bechers with the raw matter for their “typologies,” an effort to visually organize and render comparable the unique details of each structure and the intricate relationship between form and function. For the artists, these typologies were conceptual categories based on the general ideas used to sort a large body of information. “We didn’t really see it as artists, we saw it as something like natural history,” Hilla Becher noted in 2012. “So we also used the methods of natural history books, like comparing things, having the same species in different versions.” In the twilight of the industrial age, this loving census of steel and cement structures charts the outlines of a still life of modernity.

In 2006, Sarah Charlesworth produced her Concrete Color series—still life inspired photographs of precisely ordered dishes of hand-mixed paint. Set against white or gray backgrounds and completed with lacquered frames, the images visualize classical theories of color as well as contemporary tools in digital photography. “I’m interested in the idea of using art materials, the medium, as the subject and really examining the formal elements of art-making as content,” the artist noted. In Munsell Tree and Ostwald Triangle, Charlesworth reproduces early twentieth-century color systems, respectively theorized by the American inventor Albert H. Munsell and the German chemist Wilhelm Ostwald. In RGB Cube, she punctuates the eight corners of a Necker cube with various pigments—a nod to Gestalt psychology and the study of spatial interpretation in visual representation. Within other works, such as CYM Gray and Color Patch, Charlesworth embeds a Kodak Gray Scale or Color Control Patch that is mirrored in the configuration of the potted paints. Reflecting and questioning commercial tools and standards, the works reveal the constructed nature of photography—a conceptual investigation that Charlesworth pursued throughout her career.

Sarah Charlesworth, Dress Macleod (Lewis), 1982-1983, black and white print, mounted with color adhesives and lacquered frame, 33 1/4 x 25 3/4 x 1 1/2 in. (81.9 x 65.4 x 3.8 cm)

Sherrie Levine’s Salubra 3 reference color charts produced by renowned architect Le Corbusier for the Swiss wallpaper company Salubra in 1931. Published as an interactive design guide, Le Corbusier’s collection included twelve ‘Clavier de couleurs,’ or ‘Color Keyboards’—each consisting of a different combination of the forty-three ideal tones in his suite. The architect believed that specific shades produced specific effects and could thereby alter a person’s perception of space. Identifying functions that could be applied to different shades—including psychological effects, weight, depth, perception, and unity—he created the color palettes, or keyboards, to reflect each of these. The fourteen monochrome panels of Salubra 3 represent Le Corbusier’s third color keyboard. Levine’s postmodern revisiting of Le Corbusier, a kind of über-realistic still life, proposes a heightened, sensuous experience of the architect’s chromatic range, while also laying bare for reappraisal the utopian ideals at the core of High Modernism and the International Style.

Michael Williams at Gladstone Gallery / NY

Michael Williams at Gladstone Gallery

Gladstone Gallery, New York

29 February – 25 April, 2020

Williams’ work highlights both the banality and extraordinary nature of contemporary life, and the works in this presentation continue the artist’s careerlong interest in visualizing these complex subjects. His multifaceted, masterfully constructed compositions collage text, symbols, animals, and figures that require a new mode of reading in order to understand the meaning behind each narrative he depicts. To divine Williams’ works, the viewer visually unpacks obstructed layers and image fragments to find concrete signifiers that are actively constructing and deconstructing themselves. Though there may be hundreds of layers in one of Williams’ paintings, the process of printing flattens the picture down to a single plane, removing any physical evidence of the artist’s complex approach to each composition. The multilayered nature of these paintings is readily apparent in a work like “Struck Set,” which depicts a disheveled dining room table with chairs out of place, broken plates, and red wine spills. In this composition, Williams also includes his own paintings from this exhibition on the walls of this imagined room, suggesting conceptual and narrative through lines between this group of paintings. In addition to demonstrating Williams’ compelling ability to visualize narrative events and concepts, this exhibition also reveals the artist’s dark sense of humor and continual investigation of the role of the painter in a post-internet world.

Painting, 2020
Inkjet on canvas
120 1/8 x 75 1/4 inches (305.1 x 191.1 cm)

For this exhibition, Williams presents a series of large-scale inkjet paintings that continue his exploration of the possibilities and complications inherent to making and understanding a painting in the digital age. The works on view are composed entirely in Photoshop with the use of a digital drawing pad. By rendering these works in the format of flattened inkjet prints, Williams questions the action of painting as a physical extension of the body. Utilizing the full potential of these new processes, Williams makes paintings that can also function formally and move the conversation beyond what defines the analog versus the digital. Through a series of compositions that incorporate both familiar and new subjects, Williams demonstrates his singular approach to artmaking.


Michael Williams was born in 1978 in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. He has been the subject of numerous major solo and groups exhibitions at institutions such as Le Consortium, Dijon, France; The Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Brant Foundation, Greenwich, Connecticut; Rubell Family Collection, Miami; Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montreal, Canada; Secession, Vienna; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas; Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio; Ballroom Marfa, Texas; and the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, Moscow.

MELIS BUYRUK / Habitat at LEILA HELLER GALLERY / Dubai

MELIS BUYRUK / Habitat at LEILA HELLER GALLERY / Dubai

LEILA HELLER GALLERY, Dubai

from 20 January to 12 March 2020

by Hania Afifi

With Climate Change taking centre stage across the global socio-political spheres, it is not surprising to see artists participate in the discourse du jour. Some take on an activist role such as members of the collective Dear Climate whoseartworks are judged by their ethical value and influence rather than aesthetic composition and creative merit, while others prefer gestural commentary. Melis Buyruk belongs to the latter. 

At first glance, one may mistakenly consider Buyruk’s work to be minimal due to the sterile monochrome hue of both the work and the walls on which it is displayed. Every artwork piece in the exhibition space is white. Every display wall on which the artworks hang is white as well. Although the artworks are protruding from the walls within large soft-lit framed boxes, the white on white reality challenges the viewer’s ability to discriminate between the artwork and the surrounding environment.

Habitat The Bearded Dragon, 2019 – Porcelain and 18k Gold 120 x 145 cm

Indeed, this is maybe one of the intended reactions Buyruk wishes to instigate in visitors of Habitat, her debut exhibition outside her native Turkey. Conceived to respond to Leila Heller’s Dubai gallery space with its characteristic white-cube setting, Buyruk urges the viewers to contemplate our fractured and disjointed relationship with the natural environment. Like the walls that support her artwork, nature supports our human habitats. Yet, unlike those displays, we fail to retreat gracefully into our support and become one with Nature.

Habitat The Bird, 2019 – Porcelain 120 x 145 cm
Habitat The Hawk, 2019 – Porcelain 120 x 120 cm

Each of the nine artworks on display, is a ceramic topography of intricate flora and fauna meticulously conceived to mimic real-life vegetation and animal habitats. The uncanny realisation of flower fields is offset by the singular white paint that covers every hook and nook within the artwork. They are a far-cry from minimal art. The porcelain has been worked thoroughly to become malleable enough for the creation of thousands of hyper-real flower petals, delicate leaves and the fine texture of animal fur, which have been densely packed together to create a lush square field that sometimes expands beyond 1 sqm.

Habitat The Pig, 2019 – Porcelain 50 x 50 cm
Habitat The Snake, 2019 – Porcelain and 18k Gold 125 x 125 cm
Habitat The Snake, 2019 – Porcelain and 18k Gold 125 x 125 cm

Three of the artworks displayed; The Snake 1The Snake 2 and The Bearded Dragon are accentuated with 18K gold beads and nuggets that add a further pleasing visual aesthetic dimension to the artwork. This addition reads like a celebratory nod to the traditionally feminised discipline. Along with the other six artworks, Buyruk’s Habitat pieces demonstrate the ability of the often less-regarded art of craftwork to engage in contemporary art practices and discourse. Although they feel undeniably feminine; possibly due to the poetic fragility of the porcelain and the intricate detailing mostly associated with domestic objects, the exhibition setup and the subject matter are more forceful. Indeed, this almost echoes the juxtaposing temperament of Mother Nature. They also stand as a true testament to Buyruk’s mastery of the pottery craft. 

Habitat The Tarantula, 2019 – Porcelain 120 x 145 cm

NATHALIE DJURBERG & HANS BERG, It Will End in Stars, 2018 at Julia Stoschek Collection

NATHALIE DJURBERG & HANS BERG

It Will End in Stars, 2018

Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin

From 25 January until 26 April 2020

by Elda Oreto

It Will End in Stars (2018) is a virtual reality project by Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg for Acute Art (www.acuteart.org). The project, directed and curated by Daniel Birnbaum, will be exhibited until April 26, 2020 at the Julia Stoschek Collection (www.jsc.art). Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg create an interactive VR work that combines the aesthetic of a video game with that of an escape room. The work investigates freedom of choice and the way each of us reacts to different possibilities. In order to make tangible the importance of decisions and intentions in human action, the work requires the viewer to move and operate “actively” within the virtual space. A sensor detects hand movements and causes the VR to react accordingly.

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, It Will End in Stars, 2018, virtual reality. Courtesy of the artist and Acute Art.

The viewer of the work, once the VR glasses are on, has access to the virtual landscape: in a dark wood faces the first decision — to enter an abandoned hut or to remain in the woods, wandering aimlessly, exposed to unknown dangers. Entering the hut, inside, there is a gray wolf sitting on an armchair near a fireplace. Around him are scattered various objects, including a gramophone and a skull. Enclosed in a small birdcage, hanging from the ceiling, there is a miniature woman. Djurberg’s disturbing images recall the typical motifs of her work, creating an alienating and obscene world, like those described in certain nursery rhymes for children. Djurberg continues her artistic research into the archetypes of western mindsets, with her charcoal drawings in black and white, together with text inserts and a soundtrack by Hans Berg. Strange words appear suspended in mid-air. They remind us of the voices in our dreams: they make sense but are truncated and only partially intelligible. Among the writings, two passages captivate the attention: Let’s keep memories they make me company… I am scared… 

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, It Will End in Stars, 2018, virtual reality. Courtesy of the artist and Acute Art.

The interactive element of It Will End in Stars requires the viewer to find an element or an object that activates the next level, in order to continue along the path and reach the end. The viewer must perform various actions: offering the wolf a cigarette, lighting it, touching the skull, touching the gramophone to make the wolf dance and finally, touching the woman in the cage. Performing these operations in succession allows to enter another dimension — the patio of a temple, where the tiny woman becomes a giant. While flashing, the woman turns into a skeleton that resembles some kind of primitive deity. Walking under the huge legs of the giant, who, among other things, seems to have cannibalistic intentions, one is able to escape the temple, becoming free into a starry universe.

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, It Will End in Stars, 2018, virtual reality. Courtesy of the artist and Acute Art.

In It Will End in Stars, each choice leads to another choice and then to more. Time is always an eternal now, with a constantly flexible perimeter. If a choice we have made has not led us anywhere, we can correct it and revise it; we can go back and change it. There is no “game-over.” The past is reversible, without guilt. This double interactive and simultaneously programmed nature of VR creates a sense of openness to infinite possibilities accompanied by a limitation of choice.

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, It Will End in Stars, 2018, virtual reality. Courtesy of the artist and Acute Art.

In Djurberg & Berg VR, what we encounter is more than a crossroad, it is like a three way junction. The past lies behind us, with the choices we have made (like the dark, endless wood); ahead of us is a future with two possibilities: following established habits (like the wolf on the chair who smokes cigarettes), repeating the choices of the past infinitely, inevitably leading us to the same point, as in a vicious circle, or changing, overcoming our fears (the woman in the cage) and evolving into something unexpected and bigger (the starry sky).

Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, It Will End in Stars, 2018, virtual reality. Courtesy of the artist and Acute Art.

Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg’s research revolves around the primary fears and instincts of the human soul – jealousy, avarice, lust – analyzing them when they are still in a primitive and concrete state and not yet defined abstractly as feelings, bound by logical measures and moral norms. The complex symbolic universe they create represents a short journey inside the dark zone of our soul, reflecting the opportunities that a person encounters in every moment of life, on order to achieve what he wants. Their work combines Djurberg’s characteristic clay animation, which she developed in 2001, and Berg’s hypnotic musical compositions and sound effects. By mixing cinema, sculpture and performance, their most recent works have also created immersive environments rich in symbolic meaning. These works include We Are Not Two We Are One (2008) and Tiger Licking a Girls’ Butt (2004), which present a visionary world made up of grotesque figures and anguished atmospheres. The artistic duo exhibited together at various events including The Secret Garden (2016) at the Shanghai 21st Century Minsheng Art Museum, China; the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art and the Australian Center for Contemporary Art, Melbourne. They have also participated in group exhibitions, including the 53rd Venice Biennale (2009). 

Nathalie Djurberg was born in Lysekil, Sweden in 1978, and she received an MFA at the Malmö Art Academy, Sweden in 2002. Hans Berg was born in Rättvik, Sweden in 1978, and he is a musician, producer and composer, working mainly with electronic music. Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg live and work in Berlin, Germany.


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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