RECASTING THE GODS / 13/09/12 - 19/10/12
Exhibition runs: 13th September to 19th October 2012
Sumarria Lunn is pleased to present Recasting the Gods, an interdisciplinary exhibition of five contemporary artists, whose works both extend and challenge a tradition of reinterpreting idealised tropes of classicism.
It is clear that over the centuries classicism has become synonymous with notions of stability, cultural value and political authority - consequently its visual languages are frequently misunderstood and misrepresented to serve specific contexts. Contemporary attitudes toward the classical have become so mediated by its modern reincarnations, that arguably present audiences have lost sight of the actuality of its ancient past. Recasting the Gods opens a new dialogue with those past models of classicism presenting artists who forge new counterpoints with the past, and reveal time, history and cultural value as key issues informing their practice. As Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, suggests the study of Classics 'continually finds a richer texture in its works of art and literature – its meanings changed and renewed – from the multiplications of reactions and reworkings across its vast community of readers across millennia.' Here, the artists' responses are not products of mere counter-reaction, but instead demonstrate a synthesis of contemporary practice with the visual languages of classicism.
The exhibition is heavily indebted to the interrogative nature of present academic discourse, which is re-evaluating notions and upturning the validity of the concept of 'Classicism' and the 'Classical'. Although it is not possible to exhaust the breath of current research here, even to cite a few examples reveals how each of the artists in Recasting the Gods partake and engage with such a reconsideration. Archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann has gone to painstaking lengths to demonstrate how many ancient Greek sculptures were gaudily painted; likewise, David Batchelor considers the notion of classicism as an aesthetic of purity as whiteness has become political and woven into the fabric of culture. In a different vein, Stuart Frost, Head of Interpretation at the British Museum, writes of how unabashedly sexual material in ancient Greek and Roman decorative arts has been carefully edited out of aesthetic and museuological interpretation of classicism. Following the ramifications of Modernism and Post Modernism, today classicism has perhaps fallen from grace, but despite this it remains as culturally ubiquitous as ever.
Continuing her ongoing 'Translation series', Meekyoung Shin considers how the history of classical art might be said to be a series of misunderstandings, where translation is perhaps controlled misunderstanding. Her work questions the meaning and authority of historical artefacts by recreating cultural beacons in soap. In some cases we see the sculpture painted in colour, a vision of the original nature of these statues. Other soap sculptures are placed in public bathrooms and worn down as people remove the dirt from their hands, mimicking the loss of polychromy caused by weathering. Using a domestic material to replace marble, and manipulating it in this way Shin sets up a conflict with traditional notions of permanence, value, purity and whiteness.
Darren Harvey Regan presents objects stereotypical of classicism, painted directly with the Photoshop checkerboard pattern to insinuate empty space. The painted objects are then photographed to create the finished work, leveraging the traditional association of photography with truth over other forms of representation. Manipulating recognizable stylistic aesthetic reproductions, such a Statue of Aphrodite, a bust of Plato and a classic period Greek vase Harvey-Regan suggests that their symbolic association may no longer correspond to what we understand or believe to be their origins. The works offer a recognisable form but effectively create an ambiguous platform for how to understand it. Simultaneously his actions echo the means by which our relationship to classicism has become actively confused; "Photoshopping" is contemporary short hand for manipulation, editing or recontextualising. Similarly the suggestion of absence echoes both the accidental and conscious omission of historical material. The Photoshop aesthetic is a contemporary methodology and conflating it with the classical aesthetic invites a kind of parallel. He nullifies the conditions of their forms; they are at once present and void, echoing their status in our cultural environment today.
Ruins and fragments play a significant part in the perception of antiquity, as most of classical culture is known through various degrees of its reconstruction. Nika Neelova draws on this process of re-interpretation as a working methodology. Her sculpture is based on the transposition of the classical fragment and on the idea of borrowing a set of forms and changing their original meaning. The work creates new fragments out of decontextualized sections of architecture by adopting motifs from the classical cannon and transferring them or carving them into sculpture. The logically organised divisions of space, the formal taxis with its obsessive consistency offer countless options rather than monotonous repetition. Here the derivation from classical sources is a way of distancing the sculpture ideologically; including a strong allusion to the past and at the same time emphasising its departure from it. This new set of ‘fragments’ together form the sense of a distorted archaeological reconstruction. The imposed notion of decay and deliberate fragmentation introduces features of disorder, fracture, particularity and realness that are contrary to the classical canon despite preserving the intrinsic system of measurements and proportion. Applying a conscious distortion to these features, the sculpture confronts the classical reality while simultaneously representing it.
Nick van Woert is known for sculptures effacing and reworking contemporary renditions of classical figures and busts, pulling Johann Winckelmann's belief in 'noble simplicity and calm grandeur' at every seam. However his new work, 'Choose Your Weapon' comes at the idea of classicism through the back door. Here ideas of violence form a web of interlacing cultural and historical considerations. A seemingly passive set of objects such as a pipe, digging bar and shovel handle are cast in white bronze and stand in a jagged pile on the floor. Their destructive possibilities and white finish are symbolic of the violence of iconoclasm, war, and weather that has played a part in altering our understanding of Classical sculpture and its copies. There is the suggested irony here that, as in the Bildersturm, the tools of destruction are often designed with creative intentions. Sharp or blunt the potential violence in these objects is camouflaged by a veil of familiarity and it is this that alludes to another kind of violence. Within the cultural familiarity of classicism and classical styles hide dangerous notions of supremacy, purity and order for those who might use them. Perhaps most famously, Hitler drew on notions of the classical ideal in many areas of his Third Reich. Like the seemingly harmless objects in ‘Choose Your Weapons’, the less tangible notion of classicism has sometimes been manipulated to violent ends.
Andreas Blank questions past and present systems of cultural value by focussing on material over form. Recreating ordinary articles from everyday life in materials such as marble and alabaster he sets up a value equation that appears both oxymoronic and contradictory. The value we attribute the material glorifies the subject, while the banality of the subject debases and questions the value we attribute the material. The reverence we have for these stones can be seen as stemming from their classical association which still embodies a cultural capital. If the ideals of purity, civility and nobility attributed to classicism have permeated the materials from which these objects are made then perhaps we can see a stronger parallel with Blank's contemporary subjects. He repeatedly chooses to represent objects and paraphernalia from the modern corporate environment; the crisp clean lines of a pure white shirt echoed in the order of a filing cabinet. Here the perceived order and civility echo the ideals of classicism and crumble just as easily.
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Meekyoung Shin is a graduate of Seoul National University and Slade School of Fine Art. Solo exhibitions include Written in Soap; A Plinth Project, Cavendish Square, London (2012), Translation, MOT Gallery, Taipei (2012), Translation, Haunch of Venison, London (2011), Translation, Kukje Gallery, Seoul (2009), Translation, Lefebvre & Fils Gallery, Paris (2009), Translation, Museum of Art, Seoul National University, Seoul (2008), Translation, Moon Jar, Korean Gallery, British Museum, London (2007), Translation, Tokyo Humanité Gallery, Tokyo (2002) and Translation, Sungkok Art Museum, Seoul (2002). Group shows include Korean Eye, Saatchi Gallery, London (2012), Synopticon-Contemporary Chinoiserie, Plymouth Museum/Saltram House (2012), Material Matter, East Wing X, Courtauld Institute, London (2012), As Small As a World and Large as Alone, Gallery Hyundai, Seoul (2012), Material and Energy; Korean Eye, Museum of Art and Design, New York (2011), Poetry of Clay: Korean Buncheong Ceramics from Leeum, Art Museum of San Francisco, San Francisco (2011), TRA: Edge of Becoming, Palazzo Fortuny, Venice (2011), 38°N Snow South, Charlotte Lund Gallery, Stockholm (2011), Memories from the Past, LEEUM, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul (2010), The Alchemists, Edel Assanti, London (2010), Art & Synesthesia, Seoul City Museum, Seoul (2009), Art n Play, Hangaram Mueum, Seoul (2008), Nanging Triennale, Nanging (2008), Meme Trackers, Song Zhuang Art Center, Beijing (2008), Particules Libres, nouvelle génération d'artistes Coréens en Europe, Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris (2007), Telltale, Museum of Ewah University, Seoul (2005), Gwangju Biennale-Korea Express, Gwangju (2004), Chemical Art, Gallery Sagan, Seoul (2003), Alchemy, Sungkok Art Museum, Seoul (2001) and Soft Outside/Solid Inside-Softness Crossing Over Solidness, POSCO Art Museum, Seoul (2001).
Darren Harvey-Regan is a graduate of the Royal College of Art. Solo exhibitions include A Collection of Gaps, Phoenix, Exeter (2011) and Fact, Room Gallery, London (2011). Group shows include Brush It In, Flowers East, London (2012), I'll Be Your Mirror, Monte Vista, Los Angeles (2012), Collaborators 3, Room Gallery, London (2012), Matter in Hand, Kingsgate Gallery, London (2012), Breaking Surfaces, Galerie Jette Rudolph, Berlin (2012), I'll Be Your Mirror, Nancy Kranzberg Gallery, St. Louis (2012), Spinning Yarns, 800 and Ice House Galleries, New Jersey (2012), I'll Be Your Mirror, Nancy Kranzberg Gallery, St. Louis (2011), The Animal Gaze Returned, Cass Gallery, London (2011), Object Dada, Edel Assanti, London (2011), Photography as Object, Sumarria Lunn Gallery, London (2011), Catlin Art Prize, London (2011), Catching' Drifting, SW1 Gallery, London (2011), Spinning Yarns, Gallery 114 and Kendall Gallery, Michigan, US (2011), New Contemporaries, ICA, London (2010), Hal Silver, Russian Club Gallery, London (2009) and Close Distance / CONTACT Photography Festival, York Quay Gallery, Toronto (2009). Darren Harvey-Regan is a recipient of the Leverhulme Trust Award (2009) and is part of the Hal Silver collective.
Nika Neelova is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Fine Art (BA), The Hague and Slade School of Fine Art (MA). Solo exhibitions include Involuntary Fractions, Jarmuschek + Partner, Berlin (2011), Monuments, Charlie Smith Gallery, London (2011) and Attitudes to a Miss, Christus Triumphatorkerk, The Hague (2009). Groups shows include Dividing Line (curated by Sumarria Lunn), High House, Oxfordshire (2012), The Crisis Commission, Christie's London and Somerset House, London (2012), RAW Rotterdam (with Charlie Smith Gallery), Rotterdam (2012), Reworking Memories, Federica Schiavo Gallery, Rome (2011), The Future Can Wait (curated by Zavier Ellis), Shoreditch Town Hall, London (2011), 3 Worlds in 1, London International, Klaipeda, Lithuania (2011), Volta Art Fair, (with Jarmuschek + Partner Gallery), Basel (2011), Polemically Small, Torrance Art Museum, California (2011), London Art Fair (with Charlie Smith Gallery ), London (2011), New Sensations (Saatchi Gallery and Channel 4), Boswall House, London (2010), Young Gods, Charlie Smith, London (2010), The Grove (public art commission), Keukenhof, Lisse, The Netherlands (2010) and Paraat #4, RonMandos gallery, Amsterdam (2008). The artist is recipient of the Land Securities Prize (2011), The Saatchi Gallery/Channel 4 New Sensations Prize (2010) and the Kenneth Armitage Foundation Young Sculptor Prize (2010).
Nick van Woert is a graduate of the University of Oregon and Parsons The New School for Design (MFA). Solo exhibitions include Improvised Munition, Grimm, Amsterdam (2012), Anatomy, Yvon Lambert, Paris (2011), Breaking And Entering, Yvon Lambert, New York (2011) and She-Wolf, Grimm, Amsterdam (2010). Group shows include Science On The Back End, Hauser & Wirth, New York (2012), Black Medicine, Room East, New York (2012), Into The Surface, Brand New Gallery, Milan (2012), The Ephemeral, Arndt, Berlin (2011), It Ain't Fair, OHWOW, Miami (2011), What You(ngs) See Is What You Get, Rosenblum Collection, Paris (2011), Death Valley, Cleopatra's, New York (2011), The Shape We're In, Zabludowicz Collection, New York (2011), LʼInsoutenable Légèreté de lʼêtre, Yvon Lambert, Paris (2011), Paperwork, Kravets Wehby, New York (2011), H x W x D, Wentrup, Berlin (2011), Hybrid Velocity, Twig, Brussels (2011), Play Time, Yvon Lambert, New York (2011), Call It A Good Marriage, Battat, Montreal (2011), Je Crois Aux Miracles, Collection Lambert, Avignon, France (2010), Christmas In July, Yvon Lambert, New York (2010), Group Show, Fourteen30, Portland (2010), Tragedy Comedy, Marvelli Gallery, New York (2010), Lean, Nicole Klagsbrun, New York (2010), Where The Sun Don't Shine, Nudashank, Baltimore (2009), High, Low and In Between, Grimm, Amsterdam (2009), ISC Award Show, Grounds For Sculpture, Hamilton, New Jersey (2007) and Also Known As, fette's gallery, Los Angeles (2007).
Andreas Blank is a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts Karlsruhe, Germany and the Royal College of Art (MA). Solo exhibitions include Shadows of Words Spoken, Galerie Christian Ehrentraut, Berlin (2012). Groups shows include Memory – International Contemporary Sculpture, Palazzo delle Arti di Napoli, Naples, Oh, Plastiksack!, Gewerbemuseum, Winterthur, Switzerland (2012), Stillstehende Sachen aus der Sammlung SOR Rusche, Museum Abtei Liesborn, Wadersloh, Germany (2012), Stressing Spiritual Needs Even When Selling Ice Cream, DNA-Galerie, Berlin (2011), ´13´, Galerie Christian Ehrentraut, Berlin (2011), Please Write, Posted Projects, London (2011), Transcending, LARMgalleri, Copenhagen (2010), Cocktail, Galerie Frank Schlag, Essen, Germany (2010), New Sensations, Rochelle School, London (2009), Abschied und Ankunft, DB Museum, Nuremberg (2009), Afghanische Botschaft, Berlin (2009), Optimism, Hannah Barry Gallery, London (2008), Regionale 7, Projectspace 54, Basel (2007) and Sculptureproject, Osterburken, Germany (2007). The artist was a finalist for the The Saatchi Gallery/Channel 4 New Sensations Prize and is winner of the Land Securities Studio Award (2009) and the Conran Foundation Award (2009).