Archives for posts with tag: gallery

Anthony McCall’s light sculptures make me want to play. Digitally projected lines in a dark, smoke-filled room make intangible walls of smoky white light. Once my eyes were used to the darkness I spent some time walking through these misty barriers and playing with shadows against a soundscape of trickling water and muted traffic sounds. The water sound feels close, and the traffic far away. I pictured the water like a little brook nearby. It was very relaxing. In one room a man was standing quietly, looking at the light work. I wanted to play around in it but felt like I would be disturbing him. I felt like he was missing out by not walking through the work. The Hepworth’s website talks about the viewers becoming ‘active participants’ which I usually read as art-world speak for ‘go and get stuck in’.

Two video works are also on display. Landscape for Fire, 1972, has a ritualistic, mystical air to it. Three or four people dressed in white walk around a grassy field, setting alight little circular tins set up in a grid. The orange of the flames stand out against the dark grass, the grey sky, and the white clothes made blue by the dawn light. The wind whistles and the matches flare. It was planned but not rehearsed, which is perhaps why it feels organic and very real. Crossing the Elbe, 2015, is different. It’s set in an industrial landscape, all shipyards and high rise buildings. McCall installed three 5-mile searchlights on top of buildings in Hamburg to point in different directions across the city. The video is short shots of the lights bisecting the sky in different parts of the city, with the noise of the city in the background. I was expecting this to feel more hurried, like how a city feels more stressful than a field, but it was as relaxing as Landscape for Fire. Maybe even more so – Landscape for Fire has a sense of urgency to it, like something is compelling those people to light those fires, like they have to do it before daybreak. There is less action, more stillness in Crossing the Elbe. Combined, these two works refuse the dichotomy of urban/busy and natural/peaceful.

McCall’s technical preparatory drawings show the calm logic underpinning the light sculptures. I appreciate artists who can translate cold, hard science into something tangible and emotional. It’s a delight to insert yourself physically into McCall’s light sculptures that look like three dimensional graphs. McCall’s use of light as a medium left me uplifted and lighthearted.

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The Caged Bird’s Song


This is a magical display. Chris Ofili has created a watercolour which has been woven into a tapestry by Dovecot Tapestry Studio. The tapestry is enormous, a triptych covering a whole wall of the exhibition space, and it’s beautiful. Ofili’s image is rich and bright, reds and oranges bleeding into blues and turquoises and purples. The left and right panels show figures drawing back theatre curtains to show a mythical, watery, tropical scene. A couple sit at the centre of the work underneath a waterfall, him serenading her on a guitar with a still ocean behind them. She’s holding a cocktail glass, into which a nymph or god in a tree pours a sparkling liquid. This heavenly cocktail waiter, it turns out, is Mario Balotelli. The adjacent room shows Ofili’s studies for his watercolour, the most magical of which are those where Balotelli rises from cocktail glasses like a genie robed in smoke. The piece is titled ‘The Caged Bird’s Song’, referring to the first part of the great Maya Angelou’s autobiography. A caged bird is depicted in the right of the work but the whole piece is musical. 


There’s a calmness in the room – I could sit in here for hours, like in the Rothko room at Tate Modern. There’s also a happiness and serenity in the tapestry, as well as a heady tropical expectation in the black storm clouds on the horizon. I’ve never been to Trinidad, where Ofili is based, but there’s a flavour of Caribbean nature in this piece. The couple are under the waterfall, so I doubt the imminent downpour will bother them. The work is so rich, I want to hear the tale of these figures and the myth of this landscape. The medium of tapestry is itself mythical – maybe Arachne wove this. This display doesn’t need a soundscape. You can hear the water through the tapestry. 

Balotelli the genie


From afar, the tapestry looks like a watercolour. The pigments bleed into each other like watered down paint, mixing with the waterfall and the sea. The level of skill in this piece is phenomenal – the weavers have somehow managed to translate water into wool. 

This is a tapestry not a watercolour – how

Rachel MacLean’s video and print study of social media and all its darkness is a glorious madness. Emoji-yellow Data presides as queen in a post-apocalyptic world, while her plague ridden devotees wait endlessly for her next upload. Ratty, wire-chewing trolls hack her and literally shit all over her feed. It’s not subtle, and it’s brilliant. 

The video installation was funny, gross, and completely disturbing. The scene where hacked Data masturbates using a touch screen while Scam fists her until she bleeds is a gory but accurate allegory for the self indulgence of the internet and the often unrecognised violence prevalent in online behaviour. 

I’m not sure what the printed images added to the installation, other than behaving like adverts for the film, and ironically they made a great Instagram snap. They fitted well but I can’t yet put my finger on why. 

The juvenile and sterile colour scheme of pink, yellow and blue lent an additional discomfort to the whole room – painted like a nursery, but with a sign outside warning parents not to bring their children inside. 

Video and edited photography are the perfect media to explore the phenomena of social media. The sickly brightness and a Disney-esque song sequence fit perfectly around the reference to the sinister, dark side to social media underneath all the airbrushed perfection. The artificial sweetness of the installation made it more palatable; it was bleak but funny. It didn’t offer any solutions – and why should it – but it was a clever addition to the contemporary debate around the safety and trajectory of the internet, while being a jokes way to spend a Saturday afternoon.