A walk through of British Art Show 8
Previewing some of the most exciting artists featured at BAS8
Rachel Maclean, 'Feed Me', a co-commission by FVU and Hayward Touring for British Art Show 8 / Jonty Wilde
If you’ve been paying attention to the contemporary art scene in the UK this past five years you won’t be surprised to find that British Art Show 8 is gleefully tactile with an emphasis on new technology and moving-image works. What undoubtedly sets this edition of BAS apart is the number of belly laughs provoked by many of the artists. Not irony with a smirk, but good-natured inclusive humour: something of a relief if you were expecting something more stuffy and academic.
By far the best thing in BAS8, Feed Me is something unusual for contemporary art these days – it’s genuinely shocking. Watching it, there is palpable tension in the room as Maclean comes perilously close to taking things too far this time. Adopting the same format as the rest of her films, Maclean assumes various roles in gloriously sickly sweet dress-up. Faces sticky and cracking with makeup grimace guffaw and wimper through her most ambitious film to date that is both repellant and hilarious.
True to form, the giant flat screen TV on which we are shown Williams’ absurd new film appears to have hatched from an enormous egg. His work, which is stylistically similar to Tim and Eric, is every bit as serious as films by more po-faced contemporaries. At the eight highly regarded Cambridge institutions where Century Egg is filmed, Williams is careful to treat the artefacts with as little reverence as possible with highly amusing results.
Wine’s ceramic ‘wall paintings’ make the obvious point about our romantic relationship with painting and modernism. Citing the beautiful paintings of high modernist painter Giorgio Morandi, it is unclear whether Still.Life is an insulting parody or straightforward pastiche – or both. Either way, it’s hard to understand why the artist went to the great effort he has. The Sports Direct mug that intrudes the otherwise signature Morandi arrangement of containers is funny – at least it is for a moment.
Richard’s Raking Light is a stark reminder that our exterior world is only as real as our senses allow. The mostly monochrome film shows fragments of randomly sourced footage that are treated to appear otherworldly and at times ominous. The accompanying ambient sound has been carefully synchronised with the video producing an overall uncanny effect, as if we’ve intruded upon an abandoned house with the TV still on. This is an intense and beautiful meditation on perception.
'Sudden', 'Retail Therapy', 'DAN', 'Strategic', 'Zedative', 'Modern Touch': some of the seemingly random words being flashed at us from Prodger’s daunting lineup of TVs. The boxy reconditioned monitors sit eye level with their audience, perching precariously on spindly legs. Wires like tendrils are not hidden out of site but become part of the work. Nothern Dancer, while obscure, says something of the authority of language.
I can understand why Drew claims his installations are escape routes 'from the horrors of the modern world': it is tempting to take shelter in his work forever and live as a child discovering the world anew. Except Drew’s world appears to be based on B-Movie Sci-Fi films and educational science centres for kids. Perhaps this is the future – when we’ll be so far down the line we don’t know where we end and technology begins, and nature is only alluded to by pixels.
Lawrence Abu Hamden
Is it art or just research? Increasingly art is determined to prove itself as being part of 'real life'. It already is of course by virtue of being in the world, but as this year’s Turner Prize victors proved, that aim is becoming ever more explicit. And so Abu Hamden’s A Convention of Tiny Movements, which relies heavily on research by engineers at the Massachusetts Institution, comes as no surprise. By aligning his work with Object Oriented Ontology it’s certainly bang on trend.
Dashayes’ industrially made objects recall Minimalism’s Donald Judd and Robert Morris, exemplifying contemporary artists’ tendency towards a re-hashed modernism. Unlike his predecessors, Dashayes’ prefers to contaminate his slick sculptures with detritus, and in the case of Becoming Soil, the waste including toilet roll packaging makes his sterile tubing more reminiscent of a sewage system than something you might find in the revered space of the gallery (at least not in Minimalism’s heyday).
Achaintre’s sculptures positively ooze ‘thingness’. It is a joy to behold objects that have been crafted by an artist who is clearly in thrall of the materials she chooses to work with. The sumptuous materials rather speak for themselves, Achaintre just nudging them in the direction of meaning. A shadow of a face can be seen in her amorphous blobs and we can simply take pleasure in perceiving figurative elements. Perhaps this is an attempt to ground us in the physical world.
And the award for most outlandish exhibition statement goes to 'painter’s painter' Daniel Sinsel with Hansel. 'Culinary pleasure and digestion (not least the appeal of gingerbread, or a witch’s preference for roast boy) is reflected in his use of appropriated material, including fossilized animal faeces and a type of irregular quartz known as Kerkimer diamond.' Accompanying statement aside, the irregularly shaped realist-style paintings are actually a pleasure to behold.
British Art Show 8, Inverleith House, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art One and Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh, until 8 May.
British Art Show 8
Works by 42 artists in the nationally touring show curated by Lydia Yee and Anna Collin, exploring the increasing convergence between the real and virtual spheres.