Monday, 19 August 2013

In R'lyeh

I knew about this exhibition for the best part of a year before it opened and was looking forward to it a great deal, and so, after the usual amount of dithering, I finally got down there today, with a mere week to spare. The initial draw was the inclusion of some work by Paul Laffoley, Thanatos III mainly. In the end I didn't really like his stuff, I found it all a bit phoney. One piece in particular, that gave instructions on how to construct a time machine, my attitude was, "Well, why haven't you then?". It looks good in a kitsch sort of way but I just didn't buy what I was reading in the information on the wall or the text included in the pieces themselves. And I just get a feeling that Laffoley doesn't either. Having said that, he did do an hour long talk about it at the opening of the exhibition. So I could be dead wrong about that.

The good news is that this is a large exhibition and there's a ton of other, much more interesting stuff to see. My favourites were completely new to me: Marcel Storr. The first thing of his that you encounter is a giant, vertical triptych. Well over ten feet tall I would estimate. It looks a lot like Gaudi's Sangrada Familia. Insanely detailed for such a large drawing, god knows how long it took him to do it. There's a diptych right next to it, but that isn't as impressively gothic.

The picture above is one of his. It and fourteen more can be found in a darkened room at the gallery. I was in there for about an hour. They're the most absorbing artworks I've seen since the Moebius exhibition and I strongly urge anyone who likes intricate depictions of other worlds (everyone, surely) to get down there quick. Straight off I was put in mind of Gormenghast, but after looking at all of what was on display I decided that wasn't quite the vibe. I've plumped in the end for Cthulhu, but this is slightly compromised by the fact that his cityscapes are populated by lots of little people going about their business (happily as far as I can tell) amid such un-nightmarish amenities as commuter trains, pleasure boats and pleasantly tree-lined avenues.

My next favourite thing: a load of architectural models by somebody called Body Isek Kingelez. A funny name that didn't suggest any particular nationality to me. The models though looked Soviet. Turns out the artist is from The Congo (I forget which republic) and until recently hadn't seen so much as a photograph of any other country. Staring at one of his buildings (my favourite, Bodystand) I overheard a woman telling some children in her company that, of course, these buildings could never actually be constructed. A funny thing to say, I thought, having brought them to such an exhibition.

Much of the artwork on display involves numbers or formulae or schematics of various kinds and even before I read it in a blurb (for one of Alfred Jensen's artworks) it had struck me that in many cases what I was looking at were attempts to impose order on the universe. As far as the big stuff's concerned I'm content to let physicists and other boffins do the heavy lifting. This is clearly not an option for those troubled souls whose work is on display here. I loved seeing what they've come up with, but ultimately it's cargo cult stuff. We're all a bit fucked up one way or another and artists traditionally more so, but the stench of neuroses hangs over this exhibition more heavily than most. I can't remember being as fascinatedly disturbed by art as I was by Morton Bartlett's photographs at this exhibition. They're on the top floor. Of dolls he made, and then dressed in little outfits (that he also made) and then took loads of photo's of them. He was an orphan. 


  1. Sounds really interesting Arthog. Very well reviewed as well- top blogging.

  2. Cheers, I was slightly drunk when I wrote it.

    I finally made it to the Leonard Beaumont exhibition at the Graves a few weeks ago. I must say, I think the poster was a bit misleading - one or maybe two modernist prints but mainly a load of etchings of his travels in Austria. Quite nice, but not what I was expecting. Interesting to read that he was a designer for Sainsburys though - I got my copy of Own Brand off the shelf when I got home to look for his designs, but sadly they're all unattributed.