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ArtSlant – Matthew Darbyshire Rackroom

20 Jun

James Thompson: You’ve spoken previously about an ‘exhibition structure’ for your work, how does this relate to this show in Paris? Also what’s your criteria for the selection of the objects, which have previously also had a structure?

Matthew Darbyshire: I often adopt some sort of notion or environment as an armature upon which I can place the elements (ie. A two-bed appartment in Kennington, London; an entrance hall in Stalin’s Palace of Culture, Warsaw; a building site hoarding in Bethnal Green, London etc.) however in this instance I, for the first time, decided to use the galleries physical architecture as a structure within which to present more of an overview. Being my first exhibition in France I felt I should offer some sort of overview or introduction to my practice before launching in to one of my larger scale ‘environments’.

JT: You’ve been categorised as ‘anti-consummerist’, your work offering a critique, yet you’ve also stated that you don’t want to be didactic. Can you say something about critique, how you reconcile these two things, how you find a valid position for comment?

MD: I’m wary of consumerism – particularly the agendas of those who abuse it; sometimes the aspirations of those who are slave to it; always its effects socially; and of course the repercussions environmentally. But who isn’t? I don’t set out to make work that is ‘anti-consumerist’. I make work in response to that which surrounds me — that which most interests me and that which I am drawn to. It’s probably a combination of formal attribute, social and political implication, personal association and whim…all of which roll in to one I guess.

With regards to its critical dimension, of course it has one but it’s probably only as pronounced or seemingly overt as it is due to my own inhibition rather than intention (ie. like many I long for the poetic and the ineffable but get snared on the cerebral and literal). The work, or the process through which it is made, eventually offers up a critique but I don’t deliberately focus on this aspect from the outset. Most upsetting of all is when the work’s interpreted solely on its perceived social claims…I hope it’s more oblique than that.

Sorry to ramble on but I think the critique surfaces through the combining of various personal traits and for me these seem to be the social, the poetic, the satirical and the formal. This was highlighted in my recent Tramway show that dedicated an antechamber to each and I’m since consciously trying to incorporate and reconcile these four traits in every work.

ArtSlant – Matthew Darbyshire Rackroom.

Anthony Gormley: Two States

20 Dec

You come in from the privileged vistas on the terrace at the back of Harewood house, through a small arch and into a rectangular white walled gallery.

The ritual space is charged. The tension of the massive architecture presses down on the smooth rounded pillars. We are under a wealth of West Indian sugar, a sub-hall beneath a sweet pile of grandeur from the 18th Century. Children have played here. Wet dogs and muddy boots, now clean but still echoing. Servants have walked through, maybe slaves?


And yet this place doesn’t hold the irony of Shelley’s Ozymandias – that collapsed power in the sand. Here it is “look on my works and celebrate”. The Imperial power has surrendered slowly and gently. Out of the sands of the Empire emerge two rusty sentinels. They confront each other respectfully, they recognize their long term decay, they know they will stand for generations before their blocks are broken into the archives of future archaeologists. They are not two states, but one pulsing circuit, carefully balanced magnets in the field of presence.


Anthony Gormley’s work is, like all effective sculpture, about the fine art and craft of tension, the dichotomies within the material, and the relationship of the finished piece to the environment within which it dwells. The ‘Two States’ are not the two figures, but the historical states of the past and the historical states of the present. The stately home and the post-stately guests. Here there is a state of rusty angular blocks, there, at each corner is the state of round pillared stone. The figures are calm, reflective, introvert, contained. The doric columns are proud, reaching up, extrovert, muscular.


Gormley’s work is modernist. In this work the cubism could be criticised for being too literal. I prefer to think of it as a generous cubism. Although on-guard, these two figures are welcoming. All they ask is a certain respect. A longer look does lead to deeper questions. Where did the muscles go? This is a state of structural integrity, a built-up-from-the-ground struggle with gravity. This is abstract bone-work, spinal developmentalism. And therefore human.


A what is common to both states? Dignity. Somehow we stand tall, despite the balancing act of boxes that we are. We look more like these sculptures than we might initially think. Our blood is ferrous. We will one day rust. We will come to see ourselves across the room. We might realise that life has been held up for us: there are pillars in place, built by others, maybe polished by us, maybe maintained, but generally unnoticed.


This is how we stand, without plinth or platform. This is how we are, stripped back beneath the skin and bone, vertically vulnerable. In this room we are pared down to lintels, lines and invisible ligaments. Our body-room is one of compression and load-bearing.


We enter and leave in different states.

Andreas Gursky: Rhine II

17 Nov

Rhine II by Andreas Gursky, 1999 (350cm x 200cm)

This photograph by the German artist Andreas Gursky (b.1955) recently sold for $4.3m (£2.7m) at Christies New York. This sets a new world record for a photograph.

It is initially bleak and minimal, yet I am captured by the composition, at the same time uncertain as to why I like it so much. Maybe it satisfies my appreciation of abstraction: six clean lines of limited tonal contrast. Green and grey comfortable side by side. Easy on the eye – a textless sweep from left to right. To the eye it is simple, restful, a relief. I resist the cliché ‘meditative’ and yet I do feel I could sit and look at the landscape for hours – absorbed in a nowhere place that heightens the sense of somewhere.

I want a large print. I know it is worth paying for, a lot maybe. But that much? Maybe. The photograph presents itself as priceless and like a clever salesman uses hypnotic charm to convince us of value.

In an interview Gursky states “It says a lot using the most minimal means … for me it is an allegorical picture about the meaning of life and how things are.” (see video below). How are ‘things’? Flowing by, bleak, but with the green grass as an allegory of eternal growth, nature gently pushing up despite the ordered human bands of grey. But life is also an image manipulable reality. We are increasingly digitalised, morphed and modified. This photograph has been cleaned up digitally, dogs and walkers have been erased. Yet there is a feeling that anything (dog, bird, plane or boat) or anyone (jogger, walker, pram-pusher) is likely to enter stage left at any given moment. The ‘already there’ is removed and in a sleight of paradox the possibility of repopulating the frame with our own cast is heightened….or not, if we choose to drift into reverie and a break from the image saturated world we currently navigate.

At the back of my mind is Hirosho Sugimoto’s seascape series ‘Time Exposed’. And maybe his photographs are behind this one of Gursky.

Hiroshi Sugimoto - Norwegian Sea (1990-1999)

Sugimoto is closer to the void, Gursky’s photograph just gives us a little more land – half way between a landless ocean and coastal reassurance. And if Gursky’s photograph is trying to present us with a post-industrial landscape (the Rhine surely being on of the most industrial rivers in Europe) perhaps L S Lowry can be invoked. Lowry, painter of the highly populated British industrial North is less known for his empty seascapes.

L S Lowry, Seascape 1950 (Kelvingrove Art Galley, Glasgow)

For me these three images are worth comparing. Maybe they represent a thread of desire, expressed through art, to withdraw from the populated world, from the imaged overloaded spectacle, from the industrial and technological sprawl. I don’t think any of these images are so simplistic, or nihilistic as to negate the phenomena they remove us from. They all are dependent on the busy context they arise from. Yet they all remind us to drop down under, or away from the relentless forms of change we live with. Perhaps Gursky’s allegory is that we live with a need to remove ourselves, to withdraw in order to re-draw.



Guardian Article

Creative Criticism: Notes from an interview with Camelia Elias

14 Nov

Keep it simple.

Write elegantly.

Create correspondences.

If you must write textbooks or introductions to this or that concept –  à la what is most commercially valuable for Oxford and Harvard – then make sure that you won’t be afraid to say ‘fuck’  a few times, provoke the establishment, or show what an idiotic idea the idea the that the democratization of writing means adopting a non-offensive stance is.

Allow yourself to move with ease between beliefs.

Create improbable scenarios, and the sillier the better. We need more laughter.

‘Know thyself.’ Write for yourself and strangers. Don’t write for peers.

Presume nothing. Assume nothing.

Write for the occasion, even if the occasion means that you will be read by no more that 2 people.

Value ‘nothing’, silence, and the usefulness of the useless in creative academic writing.

Think with the heart and the gut.


B: EyeCorner emphasizes creative criticism. What is “creative criticism”? Why is it important in the current lit-crit landscape?

CE: The importance of creative criticism is also politically determined and linked to the need to counter the illegitimate act of measuring, quantifying, and weighing academic discourse in the age of ‘open source.’ The whole idea with peer-reviewing and gate-keeping is becoming more and more abhorring, and of course impossible to maintain, especially when we can all agree that, if there is knowledge in the world, we need to let it flow, rather than barricade it behind concrete walls. Sure, the ones against the ‘everything goes’ philosophy will do anything to hang on to the moribund tradition of ‘we must not let errors into the world,’ but the way I see it, that merely emphasizes the general stupidity that informs such endeavors. To give you an example, I like to read esoteric and hermetic texts, and what amazes me the most is that it is almost always the case, than not the case, that what we come to appreciate in them is the ‘creative errors’ connected to their reception. For instance, people believed that the Zohar originated with the mystic rabbi Simeon bar Yohai some 2000 years ago. The Kabbalist texts have been greatly inspired by the Zohar, and a good deal of brilliant writing and wisdom has been produced throughout the following centuries. The fact that the historian Gershom Scholem proved that the Zohar was written around 1100 did little to remove the Kabbalists’ enthusiasm for the now ‘fake’ text. The same goes for other texts. The Emerald Tablet and the Golden DawnOrder, all claiming mysterious origins for their foundations, have not suffered from dismissal either, when it was proved that they based their claims on inauthentic sources. What we still appreciate is the ingenuity associated with their building up systems of thought that were not imagined before. In other words, such texts and contexts can be said to have produced a lot of creative criticism, which means rigorous thinking that is not deterred by factual knowledge.

EyeCorner Press is interested in another kind of potency, namely, that which leads to a form of insightful criticism that leaves us in a state of astonishment, open-hearted, and in awe of open ends. In other words, to answer your question, we use creative criticism in the same way that Raymond Federman used to talk about what he termed ‘critifiction.’ We follow his ideas to legitimize our own condition for being in the world, the world of a myriad of texts published by all sorts. Here’s what he says:

“The term critifiction is used because the discourse that follows is critical as well as fictitious; imagination is used in the sense that it is essential in the formulation of a discourse; plagiarism [read play-giarism] because the writing of a discourse always implies bringing together pieces of other discourses; an unfinished endless discourse because what is presented here is open at both ends, and as such more could be added endlessly.” (Critifiction, 1993: 49, author’s emphasis)

B: Do you perceive any hostility toward post-structuralist writing/methods/philosophy, and, if so, how do such hostilities manifest?

CE: I like this question, though, I have to make an effort not to answer it without disclosing general dismay at all rationalists, literalists, and positivists who are convinced that what makes their academic life worth living is the idea of exactitude and promptitude in relation to all things ‘fuzzy.’ The reason why there is hostility towards post-structuralist writing is because such writing allows itself to be imprecise. Of course, and as a general rule, all those against it, don’t bother to ask or look for the motivation behind such ‘imprecision’. And why, well, because one takes one’s name at face value, for you see, if you are a rationalist, a positivist, and a literalist, then, you, by definition, are exempted from having to really engage with all that which does not bear your name. But then, also by definition, if you are a realist, a positivist, and a literalist, then, you will also be self-righteous, and see it as your duty to denounce that which you don’t understand. And so it goes. People have been burnt for having contrary ideas. I myself prefer it when precision interacts with how it manifests itself in some higher order, higher even than itself, and then I like to see how this precision relates to a dynamic system of thought that is ever changing. And that’s all, but mind you, people have been burnt for even less.

See: Original Interview of Camelia Elias with Biblioklept