Florian Hecker, Synopsis

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I was through visiting Glasgow at the weekend and made my way to Tramway. One of the exhibitions that was on display was Florian Hecker’s Synopsis. Installed in the amazing open space of what used to be the tram terminus, depot and factory, where railway lines still run through the ground, this installation is experiential to say the least.

This is what I have come to find appeals to me about Contemporary Art. Whereas Modern Art and the Renaissance works are aesthetically appealing and visually rich, I feel the emotive response is quite limited. You can love a Monet, adore a Piccasso or hate Kandinsky (I would like to clarify I am not speaking from a personal perspective here, I myself love the lyricism and colours of Kandinsky’s work). However, through my explorations and exhibition visits, I have come to find that it is the experience of the contemporary which I am drawn to. Sensory works that adopt more of a physical manifestation, such as audio or performance for example, are therefore interesting to me.

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I think this is due to the risk-element in art forms such as this. Whereas a painting can be satisfying and pleasing to the eye, it can very rarely be an obtrusive structure which warrants specific navigation of the room. Paintings hang safely on walls; you do not touch, you simply look. Sculptures on the other hand intervene with the space, video projections force you to move in certain directions so as to avoid shadow obstructions, video noise interferes and distracts. Your senses are challenged; you are not simply looking – you are thinking, critiquing. You are engaged. Putting on headphones to listen to a work, bending low to see the underbelly of a sculpture; these movements in themselves are performative and Contemporary Art encourages the view to transform from a passive spectator into an active participant.

Hecker’s installation, Synopsis, is a challenge to the viewer. Upon entering the room, the audio penetrates your very core, resonating in your chest as you feel the bass of the work swelling up inside you. The installation is composed of a conglomeration of sounds bombarding you simultaneously. These are technically manipulated and reverberate through the installation, which is composed of suspended loudspeakers, cables and acoustic panels, each detailing a different audio environment. Each sound piece presents a manipulated version of an original sound work, which is then played back simultaneously as one from the several hanging speakers, creating an immersive experience for the viewer.

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Now this may not be to everybody’s taste, but for me it was an interesting paradoxical experience of at once being overwhelmed by the excess of sounds yet simultaneously calmed by it. If I shut my eyes, I felt incredibly serene despite the pulsating rhythms. Navigating myself through the work at odd intervals added to this feeling of serenity, as if I stood close to a speaker, I was able to focus purely on that sound and drown out the others slightly. One sound which stood out for me in amongst the cascade of noise appeared to be that of a rhythmic heartbeat. Why I was drawn to this sound in particular, I can only assume, is because I was drawn to the human element in amongst an excess of the technological. I may be mistaken in my assumption of it being a heartbeat, perhaps that was my ears attempting to make a categorisation of the sound, which included the following: cars starting, an organ playing, heart pumping, train driving, air bed deflating, key board playing. These were the sounds my ears conjured up in the technologically manipulated landscape.

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It’s quite a contradiction in that I have photographed a sound work. Obviously, this is not accurate documentation at all. Whereas the installation installed moments of nervousness and a constant sense of momentum through the sound, the images do no such thing. They are flat and banal. They do however give some indication as to the environment and setting of the work. Although the experience and sensory components are what I love about Contemporary Art, they are also the highly problematic grey areas. The documents are not always able to – there are of course exceptions – accurately record an event. I would therefore highly recommend you visit this show and experience it for yourself!

Jim Lambie at GoMA

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‘Forever Changes’, Jim Lambie

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As well as visiting Kelvingrove at the weekend, we also visited the Gallery of Modern Art – or as it’s known in art slang – GoMA. There was an interesting collection of work on display, some that appealed to me, some that did not. The mix included well known art world names such as Karla Black, David Shrigley, Claire Barclay and of course Jim Lambie to name but a few. Yet a name is not everything as I felt some pieces really did not belong or were misplaced within this gallery setting. Particularly when set against the backdrop of another work. Frankly, anything alongside this exciting piece by Lambie took a backseat for me! I have a real thing for colour at the moment. I don’t know if it’s all the Colour Talks I’ve been attending in uni which are led by my friend and course mate, or if it’s just that I haven’t properly painted in so long I’m starting to yearn for physical colour again. Probably a mix of the two.

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Either way, the colour and apparent clumsiness of this piece instantly appealed to me. What appears as a cluttered and chaotic arrangement of useless half-chairs, is in fact a highly considered and contemplated arrangement. As Eva Hesse would say, “it’s chaos structured as non-chaos”. It’s almost like something Alice would find in Wonderland. There is no sense of guidance for the eye to travel over, it is merely left to its own devices in registering and comprehending the work.

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I thought the mirrored handbags were a fantastic addition to what was already a very exciting work. I have not researched the work, but I wonder if they are a commentary on our commercial and self-absorbed society. After all, women (and men) spend hundreds on an item used simply to carry other items. Then there is the addition of mosaic mirrors which allow us as viewers to view our own reflections. I am simply contemplating here but this was my interpretation of the piece. I may be entirely wrong and be taking far too obvious a reading from it. Either way however, Lambie is an artist I will definitely be looking into more following this absorbing experience!

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow

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So over the weekend I was in Glasgow, which was fantastic. The trip was a mix of partying, seeing friends, seeing Deadpool and seeing Glasgow. A lovely trip away! We were really lucky with the weather on the Sunday when we went to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. There was even some Scottish sunshine to be seen! It made the Kelvingrove building look even more stunning with the red brick against the backdrop of a beautiful blue sky. It really reminded me of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam – oh to go back there!

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The architecture of Kelvingrove could not have been more intricate and visually captivating. I couldn’t help but gasp as I walked in. The space and size of it all was incredible and the way the light fell through the windows only heightened my sense of awe. The building underwent a £27.9million refurbishment a few years back, as it has been in existence and open to the public as a Museum since 1901. So obviously a bit of an update was necessary and wow, what a good job they did!

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As well as being totally blown away by the building, I was also amazed by the breadth of  items on display. There are 22 themed galleries with 8000 objects. The collections are extensive and a real mix ranging from Ancient Egypt, to Arms and Armour, to Scottish History and Archeology, to Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style, to Scottish Art, to Dutch Masters including Van Gogh and Rembrandt – the list goes on forever!

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There was just so much to see, once you got to the end of one section, a whole new one began. I traveled through Egyptian objects and dinosaur bones and animal fossils to arrive at what was unsurprisingly my favourite section; the art. There was a Salvador Dali piece, Van Gogh work, Monet – it was like being in Amsterdam again and admiring all the renowned masters. Like meeting the true artistic celebrities. There was also a collection of the Scottish Colourists, another favourite art movement of mine. Samuel J. Peploe is to me the father of the Scottish Colourists, so much so that I even have a calendar of his work (yes, I am a super art nerd!)

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As well as art there was also music, with an organ recital at 3pm which reverberated through the entire space. As it was Valentines Day there were a lot of people there and it was such a beautiful moment when the organ began and everybody stopped. It was as if time stood still for a moment before people carried on drinking their tea of looking at the map of the floor plan. The music just silenced everyone, especially in that initial moment, as if a spell of amazement had been cast on us all.

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As if there wasn’t already enough to be seen, there was also this sculpture composed of floating heads with varying facial expressions hanging from the ceiling. Light was directed at the heads to make them change colour periodically. This added a sense of serene to what were in some cases very distressed countenances. Despite this is truly was a powerful piece that captured the attention of everyone. 

On the whole this was a brilliant way to spend a day, I would absolutely recommend it to anyone visiting or in Glasgow. If you want a good day of culture, look no further than Kelvingrove!