Chocolate, Lard and Tea

Ai WeiWei’s A Ton of Tea, recently exhibited in Bristol, conjures up Chocolate Gnaw and Lard Gnaw (1992) by Janine Antoni. Although the two pieces address different topics, they coul be perceived as following the same metaphorical discourse, with Ai’s work retrospectively expanding on the interpretation of Antoni’s.

In an interview with MoMA, Antoni explains that “[Chocolate] seemed to embody desire for the viewer, and what happens if you succumb to that desire? You get fat. So I used fat as the material to make the second cube … The lard will begin as a cube and as the exhibition goes on, it will collapse on to the floor”. By extension, her cubes could be read as a comment on consumerism, saturation of greed overindulgence and the eventual collapse of capitalism.

As if following in Antoni’s steps, Ai’s A Ton of Tea “makes reference to post-war art history and globalisation, through the humble substance of tea, China’s oldest export” (caption), thus alluding to today’s economy, with the Sleeping Giant now waking up to take over in the lead.

Photos of Antoni’s work: foodforanimals.com, batcountryx.blogspot.com
Photo of Ai’s work: my own

Textural Exhibition in Bristol

Once again, Arnolfini in Bristol is host to a truly amazing exhibition. Cologne-based artist Matti Braun has taken over the three-floor art centre with his stunning texture works.

Galleries 1 and 2 present a series of paintings in which Braun experiments with a variety of media (UV paint, ink, lacquer, etc.), dark colours and textures on raw silk canvases. Parts of the works are matt, others glossy, with some fusion and interaction between colours and media, or with the support itself, thus creating a range of intriguing effects and textures. The fluid grace of the random, yet somehow balanced, compositions is simply beautiful. Floored with rough concrete slabs that make the ground slightly uneven, thus adding texture to a three-dimensional experience, and dimly lit with a few pairs of neon lights (one UV, one normal), Gallery 1 immerses the visitor in an atmosphere that makes Braun’s art all the more captivating.

In Gallery 3, the floor has been covered with a pond liner, then flooded into a dark mirror-like lake and dotted with wood slices as stepping stones. (The wood was sourced locally: a Douglas fir in Westonbirt Arboretum suffering from an invasive fungus had to be felled). The installation is inviting and fun as well as beautiful.

Three patolas hang in Gallery 4. They blend Indian traditional patterns with the modern, flat technique of print on fabric. Where one expects texture, there is none. In Gallery 5, the soft light plays on the rich glaze of the large bowls that appear to be made of fused glass. On getting closer, the expected transparency of the material evaporates like an illusion and we realise they are ceramic bowls.

A must-see before the 6th January.

Bye Bye, Street Art!

Is this a new trend? In the past three weeks, it has been announced that three sites, derelict buildings famous as street art havens, are to be destroyed or sold on.

The owner of 5Pointz in New York, David Wolkoff, has decided that his site will disappear and reincarnate into a 47-storey skyscraper of apartments. Meanwhile, in Pantin near Paris, the bâtiment des douanes will be revamped in 2013 by BETC, a French advertising agency. And last week, the famous Kunsthaus Tacheles in Berlin, acquired in 2007 by HSH Nordbank, was permanently evacuated in order to be sold on (more photos of Tacheles here).

The punk, the funky and the colours of free expression are all set to vanish to make way for the trendy, the expensive and the more conventional. Stoke Croft in Bristol, beware! Investors are on the move…

Photos: compleattraveller, completement-timbrees.com, lesphotosdestephaniem, blogs-images.forbes.com/johngiuffo, geograph.org.uk, bristolculture