Exhibition – Benedict Drew: KAPUT at Liverpool Walker Art Gallery

Kaput is an art installation by Benedict Drew that occupies two rooms in the Walker Art Gallery.  The information before you enter the first room  warns you of darkness and explains the installation is on the themes of space tourism, day dreams, learning and the power of music.

As you first enter you are greeted by a mock wall of day-glo posters with very psychedelic colours reminiscent of the 80s.  In the main section of the first room are numerous elements, you can’t miss the giant day-glo Richard Branson portrait at the end of the room overlooking the rest of the installation.  Also on the left hand side is a black and white pyramid sculpture which is interesting on its own but when thought about in context of the rest of the room is even more so.  In the centre of the room, again in day-glo colours, is what looks like a sculpture of a human corpse, wired up with day-glo wires.  In the four corners of the room, wired up to the Branson portrait’s eyes are four speakers with a metal like foil sculpture on each.  Also present in the dark room are two TV screens and music is playing to add to the eery, anxious atmosphere.

These are the words that I wrote in my notebook whilst experiencing the installation: eery, weird, dystopian, darkness, control, power, out of body experience, scary, anxious, frightening, torture, influence, death, disturbing, pain, hair raising.

This wasn’t actually the exhibit that I went to see, I went originally to the Walker to look at what still life paintings they had on display to do some research for my next assignment but this exhibition is the one caused the biggest reaction in me during my visit.  I was intrigued as the exhibit door was blackened out and the notice on it warned about the darkness.  The exhibit was labelled as looking at ‘space tourism’ and so that also attracted me as Physics is my other passion.  To be honest, the only part of the space tourism I got from the experience was the link to Branson but I don’t think that idea shone through that strongly.

One thing that the exhibit did remind me of is the Netflix TV series ‘Black Mirror’.  Black Mirror looks at the way we use technology and often has quite dystopian themes.  Whilst I was in the installation room and talking to one of the gallery staff afterwards, I very much got the dystopian message of Drew’s piece.  The overriding image I have is one of big businesses (represented by Branson) taking control of our lives through technology and how technology itself is becoming apart of us.  The four foil sculptures to me seemed like the four chambers of a beating heart that was wired up to Branson, when you stood close to them, they did seem to beat like a heartbeat.  The body in the middle was our sense of individuality being dead and we are just robots in the corporate technology machine, again controlled by rich individuals.  The pyramid structure was interesting as pyramids are a symbol of entering the after-life and ancient religious practices and it here seemed to suggest we have left one life and are entering another world where technology is even more powerful than it is now.




Research – Philippe Parreno

The first article in the latest edition of ‘Art Monthly’ is an interview with the French artist Philippe Parreno.  Parreno is one of a group of artists who emerged in the late 1990s and has an exhibition named ‘Anywhen’ currently in the Turbine Hall at the Tate gallery.

In the interview Parreno states that in this exhibition he is reducing everything to a minimum and how Anywhen has the idea of a meaning on the back of meaning and is outside of culture; how the exhibition doesn’t really lead to a narrative or a full picture but it is something that people remember.  He states he doesn’t work with the idea of a theme but he is more interested in what the form is and how it was produced and how trying t answer these questions can lead to engagement, tension and finally a release of this tension.  He uses the phrase ‘you create a moment of collectivity in an empty space and in this process you shape the space into something else – like a sculpture’.  This is an interesting idea to me, how the place the artwork is displayed in can be a significant part of the experience of seeing it.  Similar to watching a movie in a cinema, everyone there is almost part of your personal experience, I believe this works in galleries too, the room, the building, the other spectators are all part of a multi-sensory experience that you personally have when you see a piece of work displayed.  In the same way that I can read about the exhibition, view pictures online, even perhaps see video footage but I will never get the true experiences intended as I am very unlikely to get to London to see this exhibition in the flesh.  Similarly, I can view other students work on here, my tutor can look at my work digitally but I don’t think by just seeing things on a computer screen we will ever get the true impact.

Parreno seems to use this idea of the building being part of the art in a significant way.  In the interview he talks about how he spent time with the architects of the hall before he started this project and how he uses the high ceilings of Turbine Hall in his artwork.  Also, interestingly he spends time watching people view the exhibition and often then alters layouts and adds pieces so that over the 6-month commission the piece will change and develop in response to people seeing it.


Watching the video on www.tate.org.uk gave me a glimpse of what the exhibition would be like to see for real.  However, like I already stated this is not going to be anywhere near the experience of seeing it in the multisensory way it was designed.  There are so many things that appeal to me about this exhibition, I like the way the social interactions of people are part of the experience, like Parreno says in the video, people use the space like they would use a park.  I also like the science element, of his creating a life-like component that grows, adapts and interacts with the building and weather conditions.  The time aspect also appeals to me, the fact that the exhibition is always changing and you have to wait for certain things to happen, like time itself is always changing, you can’t go back and look at the exhibition in the same way as you could a 15th Century still life on a wall.

Reading about and viewing videos on this exhibition has given me a lot to think about.  I like the idea of creating something that is always changing but makes people think about time, interactions and gives a multisensory experience.  It has also made me think about the drawings I produce for this course, I can never go back to the exact moment the drawing was created or visualised, all I can do with a fixed drawing is try to capture that emotion, that feeling I had whilst I made the drawing.


Art Monthly (402), 2016.  Olga Smith p1-4


Gallery Visit – Picasso Linocuts

I am lucky to live in an area with a lot of excellent galleries nearby.  The closest one to me geographically is the Lady Lever Art Gallery and they currently have an exhibition showing 17 large linocut prints by Pablo Picasso.

This is the first time the prints have been shown outside of the British Museum in London, the artworks featured include prints from the ‘Jacqueline Reading’ series – his wife and muse – and the most famous ‘Still Life under the Lamp’ series.

Linocutting was a technique that Picasso explored in the late 1950s and early 1960s and the prints included in this exhibition were made in 1962 when Picasso was 80 years old.  What was particularly interesting to see were the progressive prints showing Picasso’s process and methods of building up the layers of colour.  

The following is video by the British Museum explaining the processes he used to build up the image.

Below is a photo I took in the gallery of the ‘Still Life Under the Lamp’ finished print.

I have not tried the process of linocutting and printing in my own work (other than using potato prints as a child) before so it was fascinating to see the prints in their various stages alongside a selection of the tools.  The images were much larger than I had imagined before travelling and were very bold and impactful on the wall, they were certainly not pieces that blended in, they reached out and grabbed your attention.  The colours were vibrant and contrasted with each other to give them extra zing.  I particularly admired the red and green in the fruit alongside the yellow of the lamp, it certainly reminded me of summer and warmer climates than the damp November day outside.  It has made me think about the way I use colour in my own work to choose colours that amplify each other.  

Not knowing a great deal about Picasso’s linocut work I took the opportunity to do some research into this area.

Picasso created more than 2000 printed images during the twentieth century.  He used a variety of techniques from intaglio (the image is cut into a surface and the depressions hold the ink), lithography (image is drawn with an oil base which doesn’t mix with the water based ink) and linocut (relief printing).

It was later in his life (1950s-60s) when he really switched to linocutting after being influenced by Hidalgo Arnéra, a printer whose shop was near his studio in southern France.   However, always being one for innovation Picasso adapted the regular technique of using many blocks to one that used a single piece of linoleum in what is called the ‘reductive print’ method.  Essentially, after each successive colour is imprinted onto the paper, the artist then cleans the lino plate and cuts away what will not be imprinted for the subsequently applied colour.

In my reading I did find some directions to try reductive printing using a potato which I will try at some point in the near future.  

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