Student Review: George Eksts: Casual Cursive

George Eksts: Casual Cursive

12 August 2015 – 3 October 2015 (Admission free)

Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury

George Eksts (b.1978) is a British artist who lives and works in London. He works across a range of media from: drawing, printmaking, photography, installation, video, painting and sculpture exploring ideas and connections between progress, completion and the temporary passing of time.[1]

Having completed a BA in Photography at Falmouth College of Art, Eksts went on to the Royal College of Art, London, to study an MA in Printmaking. When he is not busy creating new artworks, Eksts works for the V & A, London as a photographer documenting the archives.[2]

Influences from Francis Alys (b. 1959, Belgium) can be seen in Eksts’ preoccupation with the flâneur’s element of chance from observing society, and the cyclical repetition in his video installations. Similarly, the wit in Eksts’ video loops can be seen to have inspirations from Marcel Broodthaers’ (1924-1976, Belgian poet and film maker) humorous approach to creating art works, as in Falsework, 2012 which documents scaffolders at work. Like Mike Kelley (1954-2012, American artist), Eksts is also drawn to working with found objects such as road signs he discovered taped up in the City of London for Don’t Stop 1 & 2, 2012 and the flagpoles he acquired from outside a town hall in Manchester in Three State Solution, 2012.

Reflecting on his work Eksts explains: ‘I’ve always been fascinated by placeholders, variables, lacunae, support structures, anything that is not an end in itself but suggests interchangeable and unknown possibilities. The grey silk of Three State Solution seems to absorb colour and light from its surroundings.’[3]

Casual Cursive is a selection of pre-existing works such as Three State Solution, 2012 and the 5 channel video installation, Roman Holiday, 2012. Sitting comfortably alongside these earlier works are four new works such as mixed media diptych, Wandering by Night, 2015 and the 3 channel video installation, Well, 2015, commissioned for exhibition during a month’s studio residency. Eksts’ new works link to previous works through their structures even though they look quite different on the surface. For example, the text paintings seen in Wandering by Night, 2015 are of palindromes which read the same forwards and backwards, like some of the videos which loop by going forwards and backwards in time, back to the beginning point.

Speaking about his studio residency Eksts reveals his intentions, ‘I wanted to make temporary work (mostly directly on the wall) and document the process through photography, which would then hopefully feed into other forms, like animation. I tried to work quite quickly and not be too precious about the results. By photographing every stage, I’m able to make decisions later through an editing process.’[4]

To make the wall drawings, Eksts connected a projector to a drawing tablet. He then drew/wrote while looking at the wall where it was being projected, in order to get an idea of how the architecture of the studio interacted with the drawing. The drawing part is very gestural with a quick and loose hand movement, to produce a dynamic and unpredictable line. He repeated this process over and over again, deleting it until he was happy with the form. Then, he carefully traced a pencil line around the projection, turned off the projector and painted inside the outline. This process was utilised for the panel drawing, Wandering by Night, 2015.[5]

The title refers to cursive handwriting where not all of the letters are joined up. Eksts sees his practice as a language, where each of the individual pieces is like a letter which can be joined together in varying sequences to produce meaning. In this sense, Casual Cursive is about making those connections between the pieces of work, and sometimes breaking the connections too. In many ways, it’s the connections and sequences that are as important as the individual works themselves.

Upon entering the gallery, these connections and breaks can best be seen in Wandering by Night, 2015. This mixed media piece was created through experimentation by creating a large cursive palindrome in paint. This was then transferred onto wooden sections that were broken up and moved around to create the blue-edged diptych. On closer inspection, light pencil lines can be seen breaking the cursive flow of the paint. This is followed by one of his previous works, ink jet prints, Don’t Stop, 2012 (inkjet prints). The contrast with Duchampian found objects (road signs) followed by newly produced mixed media is a good balance.

A hexagonal wooden structure situated in the centre of the gallery screens five video loops of Roman Holiday, 2012. Here, viewers can stand and become mesmerized by the repetitive looping present in each non-narrative video whilst searching for the similar time structures within each one.

Sidney Cooper Gallery’s curator, Hazel Stone, describes Eksts’ work: ‘There is a wonderful sense of play in George’s work. The fluidity and fabric of the everyday re-presented, edited, looped or reversed into a new state of being. The gallery has been delighted to host George as artist in residence and to be able to showcase new works produced during the residency to the public. The mix of existing and new works gives the viewer insight into the interplay between concept and fabrication and the constant drive to create works which side step preconceived endpoints whilst maintaining the ongoing possibility for revision, refabrication and endless outputs.’[6]

This show sheds light on the creative thought processes that Eksts has followed to produce the variety of artworks on display. Seemingly simplistic, yet deeply thought-provoking his work will provoke visitors to search for how these works are linked, possibly deciding to look for different perspectives and connections of the everyday.

Frances Chiverton, Curating MA Student

 

 

[1] www.tintypegallery.com/artists/george-eksts – accessed 11 August 2015

[2] 1st interview with artist George Eksts 15 July 2015.

[3] Correspondence with Sarah Grant for Ornament prints and Contemporary Art, V & A blog, London 12 March 2012

[4] 2nd interview with artist George Eksts, 12 August 2015

[5] 2nd interview with artist George Eksts, 12 August 2015

[6] Interview with Sidney Cooper Gallery curator, Hazel Stone, 11 August 2015

Coming Soon – Beautifully Obscene: The History of the Erotic Print

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Beautifully Obscene: The History of the Erotic Print

15th May – 12th June, 2015

Private View: 15th of May, 2015, 6 PM – 8 PM

Studio 3 Gallery is pleased to present Beautifully Obscene: The History of the Erotic Print. Featuring over 50 works from across Europe and Japan and spanning the course of 500 years, the exhibition incorporates the different approaches used by artists in order to explore themes of sexuality, gender roles and power.

The show explores Sir Kenneth Clark’s famous distinction between the socially-acceptable ‘nude’, and the socially-pejorative ‘naked’ body, with the majority of the works included arguably belonging to the latter category. Beautifully Obscene will not only present viewers with a comprehensive study of the aesthetics of the human form and sexuality, but will also challenge our deeply ingrained discomfort with erotic visual representations, and suggest that beauty can in fact be found in the obscene.

Prints have historically been affordable ways to rapidly and economically reproduce and disseminate images, and this has created a rich legacy of erotic art. As well as showing how these themes have evolved across centuries and continents, this exhibition will also document how the viewers’ relationship to the image has shifted over time. Many of the older examples in the show come from books or pamphlets where they could be viewed intimately and privately. More recent and contemporary works were intended to be shown in a gallery setting, so expand the scale of the body, confronting the viewer directly.

The featured artists have represented motifs such as the classical nude of Western Antiquity, modern French eroticism, through to the 30 explicit prints of 18th and 19th century Japanese Shunga, and contemporary meditations on the human form and sexuality. This exhibition explores what we reveal and what we conceal, and the hidden educational and religious connotations that the erotic can harbor. It questions societal fears of the explicit and the pornographic, tackling themes of sexuality, gender and the role of the erotic in a diverse range of cultures and eras.

The exhibition will include works from Pietro Aquila, Pietro Santi Bartoli, Monika Beisner, Jan de Bisschop, Emma Bradford, Simone Cantarini, Stephen Chambers, Marianne Clouzot, Gabriel Dauchot, Angele Delasalle, Roland Delcol ,Amandine Dore, Tracey Emin, Brad Faine, Henri Fantin-Latour, Valentin Le Fevre, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Othon Friesz, Frans de Geetre, Paul Guiramand, Sarah Hardacre, William Hogarth, Katsushika Hokusai, Anita Klein, Rudolf Koch, Antonio Lafrery, Martin Van Maele , Albert Marquet, Henri Matisse, Patricia Nik-Dad, Pablo Picasso, André Provot, Felicien Rops, Berthommé de Saint-André, Kitagawa Utamaro, Alex Varenne, Marcel Vertes , Denis Volx, Lucas Vorsterman, and Shane Wheatcroft.

This exhibition has been organised by students from the Print Collecting and Curating Module at the University of Kent’s School of Arts. This course gives students the opportunity both to curate a museum-quality exhibition of their design and to acquire prints for the Kent Print Collection. In thinking about this exhibition, this year’s students wished to address the lack of erotic art in the permanent collection and to explore the rich and varied history of sensuality and eroticism depicted in print.

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Student Review: ‘Constable: The Making of a Master’ at the V&A

This article comes to us from Laura Desouza, who is a curator currently studying MA Curating at The University of Kent. She holds a BA hons Degree in History. She currently voluntarily works for The East Grinstead Museum and is involved with creating a new exhibition at the University of Kent’s Studio 3 Gallery. 

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‘Constable: The Making of a Master’

Laura Desouza

The spellbinding and headlining exhibition; ‘Constable: The Making of a Master’, recently opened at the Victoria and Albert Museum following on from a successful tour of Constable’s oil sketches in 2012. Its curator Dr Mark Evans has adopted a fresh new approach to the artist and his works.  Until this point it has always been presumed that Constable worked directly from nature and in some circumstances he did, however, this new reassessment of Constable’s work challenges the notion that he was just a ‘natural painter.’ The exhibition demonstrates the extent to which his artworks were shaped by artistic tradition and influenced by the art of ‘The Old Masters’. In the words of the exhibitions curator Dr Mark Evans, the exhibition ‘seeks to dissipate the illusory aura of autonomy’. It undertakes this by showing that Constable acquired his mastery through mimicking and imitating works, rather than from a straightforward encounter with nature.

The V&A have brought together over 150 works of art for the exhibition including oil sketches, watercolours, drawings and engravings. Included in these are numerous paintings by Gainsborough, Turner and Claude Lorrain, and all of these on their own are worth visiting. These artworks neighbour a number of Constables, in order to denote how Constable replicated certain elements of their work such as brush stroke and light and shade techniques. These comparisons were very astute but I often found myself desperately trying to prosperously compare Constable’s work to those of the other artists, unfortunately sometimes to no avail. An example, of these comparisons is Rubens ‘Landscape by Moonlight’; Constable simulated this with a big emphasis on the need to reciprocate the impact of light falling on figures in the night in his own adaption, but it was not in my opinion as successful as Rubens’ original.  From my point of view, Constable failed to capture the light and shade within his version, his use of broken brushstrokes, often in small touches, which he glazed over the lighter passages, were not as successful as Rubens’  brushstrokes which created an aura of a sparkling light enveloping the Landscape. Claude Lorrain’s ‘Landscape with Hagar and the Angel’, on the other hand was depicted by Constable as ‘Dedham Vale 1802’ and Constable’s technique of allowing the brown ground of the canvas to show through and his style of painting the foreground with thin strokes and dabbing of paint made this artwork stunning .  Constable’s imitations are good at getting an innovative approach into how light, weather and atmosphere are put onto the canvas, but if you are looking for like for like art work then this will not be the case asstable does bring his own emulation into each artwork with his brushstroke technique.

Alongside his paintings, in some of the rooms are numerous glass cabinets, harking back to the old ‘cabinets of curiosity’, and featuring a number of Constable’s sketchbooks. The detail in these sketch book drawings are definitely worth a viewing as the work within them was second to none; Constable’s detailing within them is a great testament to his work and studies of his surroundings.

Many of Constable’s most renowned artworks including ‘The Hay Wain’, ‘The Leaping Horse’ and ‘Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Grounds’ are shown  towards the end of the seven meandering sections, taking viewers through a journey of the training and development of the young artist to his most acclaimed pieces.  The V&A exhibited these famous artworks alongside the preparatory work that Constable had put into producing them. This work included sketches and first drafts of each of his famous works of art, demonstrating the depth of composition, colour, and light that went into each piece. By the end of this section you will admire him for the amount of work he put into all of his preparation.

This exhibition encouraged me to reconsider my assumptions of Constable, that his art work was dry, clichéd and in some cases lacked any interest in anything other than the trees and sky that were in the forefront of his vision. The exhibition has instead left me in awe of Constables work and the preparations that went into all of his art works.  The work that has gone into bringing together this detailed, eye opening and wide-ranging exhibition is also incredible. Whether you think this exhibition is ‘good’ or ‘great’ will come down to whether you actually like Constable’s paintings but for me, Constable: Making of a Master is a great exhibition. My exhibition experience has made me fall in love with Constable’s work and I encourage everybody to visit it.

 ‘Constable: The Making of a Master’ is at the V&A until 11 January 2015.

Student Review: Rose Hilton’s Quiet Still Life

Another writer in our series of student reviews, Christine Buckley has been at the University of Kent for four years where she studies History and Philosophy of Art at undergraduate and Masters level. She hopes to continue her studies at PhD level and eventually hold a career in academia.

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‘Quiet Still Life’

Christine Buckley

Quiet Still Life, Rose Hilton (2010)
Quiet Still Life, Rose Hilton (2010)

Quiet Still Life (2010) immediately caught my attention because I felt it was different from the other pieces in the exhibition. Hilton’s style in this piece uses muted colours and artistic skills to create a visually outstanding art work. The greyish blue tone of the piece which incorporates hints of white and includes colouring the frame in the same way works very well and creates a piece which is coherent. It is also one of the pieces in the show that really showcase Hilton’s abilities as an artist. What is depicted is quite clear and expertly executed. I feel that a lot of thought went into making this piece an artwork that needs to be looked at deeply to intrigue thoughts within the viewers as it did with me. This is a stand-out piece in the show that is a testament to Hilton’s skills which uses subtlety and precision. Quiet Still Life has the elegance to steal the show.

Student Review: UNDEREXPOSED – A Tribute to Female Artists

We are please to launch a new series of articles written by our History and Philosophy of Art students in response to our current exhibitions. This inaugural entry comes from Nigel Ip, a second-year HPA student, whose particular Art History interests include the Italian Renaissance, the Pre-Raphaelites and Conceptual Art. You can find more of his writing here: http://nigelartreviews.wordpress.com/.

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UNDEREXPOSED: A Tribute to Female Artists

Nigel Ip

In the space of ten seconds, how many female artists can you think of?

Now repeat the same exercise but with male artists…

Off the top of my head I counted four female artists – Artemisia Gentileschi, Barbara Hepworth, Marina Abramović and Tracey Emin – and about seven male artists – Raphael, Michelangelo, Velázquez, Damien Hirst, Rubens, Leonardo da Vinci and Picasso.

You can do the same exercise over and over again and still find more male artists than their counterparts.

Female artists in general have been under-represented throughout art history. Art-making and the training that preceded it was an intensely expensive activity. Those women artists who did succeed were usually from wealthy backgrounds, whether through marriage or inheritance. In other cases, the lack of female artists was largely due to gender biases in society and also the dismissing of their work as ‘craft’ rather than ‘fine art’. It is precisely this that UNDEREXPOSED takes as its starting point. Through the medium of print, it attempts to elevate and shed light on the work of female artists, past and present.

The works are almost entirely by artists of the 20th century and the present day given the relatively limited availability of older works accessible by curators and University of Kent students Lynne Dickens and Frances Chiverton. However, a wonderful print of a Holy Family (c. 1575) by Diana Ghisi did make it into the show under the generosity of Dr Ben Thomas. Ghisi, also known as Diana Scultori, was an Italian Renaissance engraver who is recorded as being the first female artist allowed to sell her own work under her own name. The inclusion of this print stands out as a historically significant statement amongst the rest of the works that women artists did exist and succeed before the 19th century.

Just around the corner of the same wall are two prints by Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt, kindly lent from the Victoria & Albert Museum Print Collection. Both artists were deeply involved with the Impressionists during the late 19th century, the former being well acquainted with Édouard Manet, the latter with Edgar Degas. Thematically, their work focuses on the culturally restricted lives of women, evident in Morisot’s choice of domestic settings and Cassatt’s specific interest in mothers and children as subjects. Unlike their male counterparts, these women provide us with a glimpse of women’s private lives from the perspective of one who is also restricted by the same rules as imposed by society. These artists have empathy for their subjects. You can almost feel their unspoken pain in the vacant expression of the fan-holding subject in Cassatt’s Tea (1890).

This exhibition attempts to provide the viewer with a small sample that displays the richness and variety of ideas and techniques exploited by these artists. Towards the latter end of the 20th century we have seen a flourish of successful women artists. Royal Academicians like Anne Desmet – whose Babel Tower in Pieces (1999) is one of three pieces in the exhibition – are examples of women’s recognition within the art world – and society – as artists worthy of praise. Tracey Emin’s appointment in 2011 as one of two Professors of Drawing at the Royal Academy of Arts since its founding is proof of this. One of her autobiographical prints proudly hangs in the foyer of the School of Arts building beside an edition of the Guerrilla Girls’ Do Women STILL Have to be Naked to Get Into the Met. Museum? (2012).

Artists exhibited in the show include Kent University alumni Dawn Cole whose solar plate etchings allude to pieces of white lace. Her series Reading Between the Lines take passages from a diary written by her great aunt during her time as a WW1 Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse. The diary records some of the wartime horrors and incidents at the hospital, and passages like “Men had their eyes removed” are interwoven into the lace-like patterns of Cole’s work.

Gwen Raverat proved to be a fast favourite at the private view, while others took interest in Barbara Hepworth’s minimalist lithographs and screenprints. Charlotte Cornish’s vivid abstractions raised a few eyebrows too, and what a pleasure it was to see some of Bridget Riley’s works – Frieze (2000), Two Blues (2003), Composition with Circles (no. 5) (2005) – whose conceptions are always made with the medium in mind, taking into account their size and effect on the viewer.

However, big names like Sarah Lucas weren’t necessarily the most popular as evidenced by Lucy Farley’s silkscreen print To the Lighthouse, Ile de Re (2013) – directly opposite the former’s Squab Squaw (2011) and Sarah Hardacre’s openly controversial screenprints of women in urban settings – generating much discussion among visitors to the exhibition. Farley studied BA Fine Art in 2001 at Central St. Martins and specialised in printmaking at the Royal College of Art in 2007. She is currently undergoing a fellowship at the Royal Academy of Arts and she has exhibited in several small-scale group shows over the years. The subject of her work is usually urban and rural locations with a great degree of expressiveness, bold use of black lines and atmospheric choice of colours, contrasting very well with the almost photographic quality of Alison Wilding’s lithographs of Starlings (2005).

For figurative art there is a concentrated display of prints by Eileen Cooper, Anita Klein and Ana Maria Pacheco. These prints have a particular focus on women with the first two often incorporating the same figure in a large body of work. Cooper’s linocuts tend to be psychological at first glance – some might say surreal, others even Freudian. Their content is a mix between fantasy and reality with titles like The Moon, The Bird and The Bride (1992) and Walking on Air (2005). Her recurring figure is a naked woman. Klein, on the other hand, uses a clothed figure. Her themes often revolve around the idea of beauty in art and everyday life such as nature, romance, family and birds. The prints displayed in the exhibition – The Goddess of the Pear Tree (2013) and The Spider (2013) – are part of the former category. In an interview in 2011, Klein said that she “grew up with a very strong sense of possibility of everything being taken away…I know that what I would miss are the very small things like having breakfast with my family, cleaning our teeth together… not holidays or birthdays or the photo-album version of life. Not the things we record but things that go past, slip through our fingers, things we don’t manage to enjoy”. It is in the ordinary in which we find the most happiness and create the most memories.

This exhibition has a certain lightness to it, perhaps due to the variety of its displays. A range of techniques and media are explored here – woodcuts, linocuts, screenprinting, photo-etching, engraving – and the content is just as diverse – people, houses, sea, sky, nature, society, abstract forms – and it keeps on going. Not only does this show women’s freedom in exploiting the possibilities of art-making but also the analogous diversity in printmaking itself when compared to painting or sculpture. From a method used to allow artists to advertise and promote their art, as cheap reproductions of paintings – or labour-intensive equivalents to present-day postcards – to the idea of prints as a medium and original work of art in its own right. The exhibition is a celebration of women’s recognition in the art world and printmaking’s infinite possibilities; two understated aspects of society combined to create something beautiful and perhaps even moving.

UNDEREXPOSED: Female artists and the medium of print runs until 19th June 2014 at Studio 3 Gallery, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent. https://blogs.kent.ac.uk/studio3gallery/past-exhibitions/underexposed/