Monday, 30 November 2009
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Friday, 20 November 2009
It’s rare these days to see the level of craftsmanship that Australian artist Ricky Swallow exercises with his sculptural works with wood. Paper bags, rucksacks, car tyres and even a sleeping bag are painstakingly carved from woods such as tulip, jelutong, black walnut and English lime to beautiful, tactile effect. The level of detail is fantastic, and making complicated folds of ‘fabric’ fall realistically or representing a snake intertwined with the strap of a cycle helmet are real feats of skill. He also tackles more traditional subject matter exploring death and mortality, and skulls and skeletal figures are recurring themes, referencing the classic subjects portrayed in Vanitas paintings. The impressive level of detail in his magnum opus, 2004’s Killing Time - a large kitchen table with a rumpled tablecloth and various dishes seemingly abandoned during preparation, complete with fish and seafood scattered across it - would perhaps give the great Grinling Gibbons a run for his money.
Swallow has also created a series of bronzes of different panels scattered with gunshot which are really interesting. Reflecting the idle, mindless diversions of bored youth whiling away endless days, they hint at the slow passage of time which his more representative explores more obviously.
Now based in Los Angeles, Swallow also paints watercolours – portraits, or studies of skeletons in muted tones – which are similar in feel to the work of Karen Kilimnik or Elizabeth Peyton, but these don’t feel as special or immediate as his sculptural work.
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
Memories – lost, found, rediscovered – are the subject of much of San Francisco-based artist Colter Jacobsen’s work. His deft, subtle way with pen or pencil belies the more intriguing themes his work explores. Jacobsen first began his Proustian exploration by copying found postcards and old photographs (to which he had no personal connection) in pencil, often using antique or distressed paper, or even the back of old album sleeves to work on. He then explored this further by making a second copy from this drawn image, then showing both images side-by-side. In this way, the subtle variations between the two allude to the way memories change and alter over time, and also how our memories are inextricably linked with imagery – invariably old photographs. More recently Jacobsen has taken this idea even further and drawn the ‘second’ image from memory entirely, without referencing the original. What the viewer then sees is Jacobsen’s memory of someone else’s memory.
There is also an interesting series of painted-over newspaper pages, where he leaves only a few disparate images and words visible, creating an entirely new narrative from randomly connected events. Not a million miles away from Tom Phillips’ ongoing A Humament project, but Jacobsen’s take is far more droll and irreverent.
He has also recently collaborated with poet Bill Berkson on a series of images juxtaposing quotes from Berkson’s work with his own imagery, creating a strange series of pencil pictures which have no real narrative, and yet make a strange kind of sense as a body of work when seen together.