Yesterday we took a trip to the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham to view and discuss the work of artist Alice Cattaneo. I hadn't seen any leaflets or previews of this show so didn't really know what to expect. Added to that, she is a relatively young artist and this was her first show in Britain.
Entering the first room of the show you are presented with a large floor based sculpture made from wood and some sort of white plastic board. On closer inspection, one can see that it is infact foam mounting board which has been cut into various shapes, both regualr and geometric. Some almost look like sails, an Armarda sailing across the gallery floor. The thin wooden batons that go to make up the structure of the piece, are joined with nothing more than strips of gaffa tape (tm). There are bumps, scratches and other marks across the surface of the board. These, in our opinion were in no way deliberate and sort of took quite alot away from the piece. Not good.
Connected to the first room is a darkened space, on the far wall is projected a piece entitled The Singer 2004. A harshly edited piece involving a small blue paper figure who bends, folds and ultimately collapses overlain with a broken soundtrack of opera singing. It isn't a million miles away from being used on an Ice Cream advert. This piece made me laugh in it's almost slapstick combination of movement and sound.
The next room contained 1 more video projection and a Television looping 5 short video works. These pieces in my opinion didn't work as well as The Singer 2004 A group of seemingly white paper cubes are dragged and pushed around by a hand across a tabletop, arranging themselves into orderly rows and then exploding into disarray. It is quite obvious that part of the footage is reversed to achieve some of the effects, but still I hadn't taken anything from it. The other video of note involved a series of household objects being passed from one detached hand to another and after a pause were handed back. I really couldn't see what I was supposed to be taking form these works as they didn't seem to share anything apart for the crude way they had been edited.
Walking into the next and largest room of the show, you aren't some much presented as eventually notice a arrangement of mainly wooden sculptures. The first thng I noticed was a small piece of 2 x 4 about ten feet from the floor sticking out of the wall. It had been cut at an angle and appeared to have been forced through the plasterboard, almost like the Caddilac at the Hard Rock Cafe. In my opinion that was the best part of the show, although reading the literature and the small title panel on the wall, it wasn't a piece on its own - a missed oppoutunity. The other pieces were again tied and fixed with whatever the artist could find, gaffa tape, sandwich ties and bits of string and white tack. One piece hung from the iron bar that supports the ceiling and had the look of an explosion, another wall based sculpture made of curved wooden sticks intersected with straight rods sat alongside a plinth like piece made of wood with a stack of paper skewered with a metal rod. With all these pieces, there was a definite relationship to Constructivism, Futurism and Modernism. Whether that was deliberate or not I couldn't say but as we discussed, there was no possible way you couldn't bring that Art historical baggage with you when viewing this work.
The piece that really let the show down ws the corner floor sculture, which was again , a mixture of wooden batons, engineering bricks, gaffa tape and fishing line. The gaffa tape was the thing that really let the work down in my opinion, not so much the stuff that joins the batons together, but that which secured the fishing line to the wall. It looked a mess and wasn't adding anything to the work. Attached to the fishing line were small tabs of gaffa tape whose function was not clear. Were they defining that space? Would they create a shape as you move round the sculpture? No. They were added to the sculpture on the orders of the IKONs Health and Safety officer. I had lost all interest in this show by now. There were a series of video works in the tower room, although I have seen them, I don't want to take any more of your time by writing about them.
Like the old adage... There's a whole lot of nothing going on.
Read the blog entries of two MA fine art students. Nathaniel Pitt and Chris Hodson are studying at Wolverhampton and Birmingham respectivly. This blog is a recording of their experiences in these two seats of learning