Sunday, April 25, 2004

Like Beads On An Abacus Designed To Calculate Infinity

Now there are some of you who are probably quite justifiably yawning and thinking what a load of pretentious artistic rubbish is going to follow a title like that. Well I can’t really blame you. Although in its defence this line seems perfectly alright in the context of the book it was taken from, the fantastic The Rings of Saturn by WG Sebald (which by some strange coincidence I have just finished reading)

In this instance though Like Beads On An Abacus Designed To Calculate Infinity is the title of a show at the achingly trendy Rockwell, 230 Dalston Road, London, E8 until 16 May. The show is curated by Andrew Hunt and contains work by 43 artists some of whom are fairly well known and quite a few who aren't. The theme of the show is unsuprisingly work about or inspired by The Rings of Saturn by WG Sebald. The book describes a journey by the author through East Anglia. It is a slow situationist drift of a journey and along the way he is sidetracked by almost everything he sees. It is engaging, moving and illuminating.

The show is also a rambling kind of drift, each artist has contributed a small piece of work that in some way or another they or the curator has decided fits the brief. One piece is by the nineteenth century, Norwich School, water colourist John Sell Cotman. So it is an eclectic affair. Some things I quite liked (a list of which follow along with descriptions from the excellent gallery notes) but no artist seemed able in the allotted space to expand on anything, so it was a stilted affair. Overall it left me with an empty feeling, which added nothing to the book, in fact most pieces were hard to relate to the theme at all. It was not engaging, moving or illuminating.

This kind of show sounds good in a proposal to the Arts Council, but it is lazy and pompous. Please just give me a little more conceptual emotion, a little whimsy, a little romance. I want to be moved.

Work I Liked
1: Elizabeth Wright – Dalston Lane, Amhurst Road, Pembury Road, Pembury Place – Removed
An architectural model of the junction in Hackney near the gallery where four roads meet. A response to The Rings of Saturn where Sebald talks of a spot into which memory collapses
2:Eleanor Cherry – Projections 1, 2, 3
Beautifully crafted sculpture from everyday plastic materials*
3:John Russell – Purple (Guitarist)
A collage showing Peter Frampton with a giant bird’s head

*these were little pretty flowers made from plastic lolly spoons

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