Exhibition: Michael Craig-Martin

Working with etching, digital printing, screen printing and light-box installations, Michael Craig-Martin’s instantly recognisable imagery is vividly coloured and crisply defined, with objects presented on one-colour backgrounds. A solo exhibition at London’s Alan Cristea Gallery sets out to explore the conceptual artist’s most recent work.

A significant influence on the Young British Artists when he was tutor at Goldsmiths College, London – where he remains professor of Fine Art – Craig-Martin is possibly most noted for his 1973 An Oak Tree where a glass of water stood on a shelf on the gallery wall – the accompanying text using semiotic argument to explain that this is an oak tree.

The new exhibition includes a series of 12 screenprints entitled ‘Objects of our Time’, alongside other recent editions in several different media – all of which focus on everyday items and objects from the worlds of art and design. ‘Wish List’, also curated by Craig-Martin, brings together iconic 20th and 21st century prints by major modern and contemporary artists both from his personal collection.

Inspired by a trompe-l’oeil violin painted on the back of a secret door of the private apartments at Chatsworth, Craig-Martin, for instance, has produced his own contemporary version of the violin in the form of an edition to be sold during the exhibition at Chatsworth.

Michael Craig-Martin: Objects of Our Time and Wish List is at the Alan Cristea Gallery from 28 March to 3 May 2014.

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Chalayan’s visual adventure

B-Side showcases Hussein Chalayan’s explorations of the body, of movement and of voyeurism – highlighting his fascination with form and process. From pieces represented in new ways, to those making their public debut, the exhibition at Spring Project confirms that Chalayan’s work isn’t just about radical fashion design. Here he is sculptor, filmmaker and animator.

Hussein Chalayan B-Side ©Nicholas Smith

With his inter-disciplinary mindset, the British/Turkish-Cypriot fashion designer is regarded as a leading innovator in visual culture, with a significant body of his art collected internationally.

Speed, displacement and cultural identity all play a role in the two discrete projects on show at B-Side. Chalayan describes Anaesthetics as a ‘film sketch book’ consisting of 11 chapters each based on what the designer refers to as ‘institutions which codify behaviour in order to conceal violence’.

Hussein Chalayan B-Side ©Nicholas Smith

Light boxes isolate imagery from the film. And just as music has always been crucial to his fashion shows, here the designer provides a diverse soundtrack ranging from Bulgarian choir, to songs by Antony and the Johnsons, and Chalayan himself playing the electric guitar.

Chalayan named his spring/summer 2009 collection Inertia. It contained sensational body hugging dresses with dramatic protruding backs created in rubber foam – representing a snapshot of speed and the moment of collision. The moulds are on full display at B-Side.

Hussein Chalayan B-Side ©Nicholas Smith

‘The moulds are really beautiful in their own right,’ he enthuses, adding: ‘but showing them is about process and the in-between moments. I always talk about movement and animation in my work, but this instead is the monumentalisation of the frozen moment. A freeze frame,’ he notes.

B-Side at Spring Projects follows on from an exhibition at the Lisson Gallery where Chalayan created an installation that explores music as a cultural form. The two are a reminder of the his remarkable talent as a leading conceptual artist.

Words and images by guest blogger Nicholas Smith

Hussein Chalayan: B-Side was on show at London’s Spring Projects this autumn.

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | UK | www.d-talks.com | Bookshop www.d-talks.com/bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

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Ai Weiwei’s 100m Sunflower Seeds

The latest installation to fill the enormous Turbine Hall at London’s Tate Modern is an inch-thick carpet made of over a hundred million tiny artworks collectively knows as Sunflower Seeds. Each intricately handcrafted porcelain sunflower seed carries its own unique note delivered by the skilled craftsmen of Jingdezhen.

AAi Weiwei portrait - Photo© Tate Photography ©Ai Weiwei

Sunflower Seeds is the work of Ai Weiwei and the eleventh in the Unilever Series to fill this challenging space at the London gallery. The Chinese artists is best known for his work on the Bird’s Nest Stadium at the Beijing Olympics and for his constant conflict with his government who has arrested and beaten the artist and censored his work.

Sunflower Seeds is splendidly simple in concept, yet completely grand in execution. Ai had 1,600 former makers of imperial porcelain in the town of Jingdezhen work on his project for two years to create 150 tons of handcrafted ceramic covering 1000 square meters.

Ai Weiwei Sunflower Seeds 2010 - Photo ©Marcus Leith & Andrew Dunkley for Tate Photography ©Ai Weiwei

Additionally, the seeds carry multiple meanings – Mao Zedong depicted himself as the sun and at the same time during the Cultural Revolution when food was scarce, sunflower seeds were plenty.

Ai Weiwei Sunflower Seeds at the Turbine Hall Tate Modern @Andrea Klettner

Ai wanted the public to walk on his installation, to feel and hear the crunch of the seeds. Sadly, dust raised by the feet of visitors on the first few days, created health and safety issues and the site has since been closed off to the public. This is a real shame, but it is also the very nature of public art.

Viewing it from behind the barrier, Ai’s Sunflower Seeds is forbidden territory, which perhaps adds a new dimension to his message.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks & Andrea Klettner

Sunflower Seeds 2010 by Ai Weiwei is on until  2 May 2011 at Tate Modern.

A series of video booths installed in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern allow visitors to record questions and comments for the Ai Weiwei. Each week until May 2011, the artist will be selecting new videos to respond to and recording his answers.

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | UK | www.d-talks.com | Bookshop www.d-talks.com/bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

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