Adrián Villar Rojas – Rebooting the Serpentine

There’s something about the Adrián Villar Rojas exhibition that adds a sense of mystery to the new Serpentine Sackler Gallery. Titled Today We Reboot The Planet, Rojas’ work has consumed the Gallery, covering it’s floors and core with brick and concrete as if to give it a new form and life. And in doing this through his signature large scale installations, he explores several themes including those of the fossilised monument, the vulnerability of the natural versus the man-made, and art taking over a given space to add greater meaning.

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The Serpentine Sackler Gallery in it’s newly renovated form and with an extension by Zaha Hadid Architects was built in 1805 and was originally used as a gun powder store. And at the heart of the Gallery are two vaulted passages that no doubt will be put to dynamic use by all exhibiting artists. Rojas himself has left one empty for visitors to walk through while the other contains a floor-to-ceiling presentation of the unfired clay sculptures he and his team have made during his residency in London. These numerous sculptures are misshapen and otherworldly, and are aimed at representing how human interference affects nature’s intent.

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We love the brick floor, the way Rojas’ work sweeps across the space, and the fact that cracks, imperfections and unabashed vulnerability is celebrated in this display. Add to that the mystery of what the Gallery actually looks like given that most of the central area and floor have been taken over by this site-specific installation.

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We’re still undecided about the Hadid extension wrapped around the corner of the historic building, but then it brings with it great potential as a cafe or events space. More on this soon as we’re going back to explore shortly.

Adrián Villar Rojas – Today We Reboot The Planet 
Serpentine Sackler Gallery
Till 10 November 2013

Richard Rogers: Inside Out

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The current Richard Rogers exhibition at the Royal Academy is deeply thoughtful and inspiring. And more than a historic documentation of all of Rogers’ projects, this retrospective offers a wealth of wisdom about being a socially conscious architect, in a way that Rogers thought architecture should be. In what took us three well-spent hours to walk through this display, here are some of Rogers’ ideas that remain with us several days later –

‘Architecture is too complex to be solved by any one person. Collaboration lies at the heart when different disciplines, from sociology to mathematics, engineering to philosophy, come together to create solutions.’

Centre Pompidou, Paris, 1971-77. Piazza. (Image Source: http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/)

 

‘The scale of a building is not defined by its size alone, but by the articulation of its parts. To reduce the apparent bulk of the Pompidou, we created a façade that could catch and sculpt the light. A layered façade, not a wall, but a series of transparent screens, metal structures with terraces and balconies, one behind the other.’

Centre Pompidou, Paris, 1971-77. (Image Source: http://articolor.wordpress.com/)

 

‘My first government appointment after finishing the (Centre) Pompidou was to join the Board of Tate Gallery. Later I became Chairman. It was a wonderful experience surrounded by knowledgeable artist trustees: Tony Caro, Patrick Heron, Rita Donagh, but it was also in some ways an old-fashioned institution.

One of my last jobs was to sit on a small committee to appoint a new Director. I consider my greatest achievement to be appointing Nick Serota, a man who has totally changed the culture of art in this country.’

Centre Pompidou, Paris, 1971-77. Colour-coded external services. (Image Source: http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/)

 

‘What I stand for is more important than what I have achieved.’

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National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff, 1998-2005 (Image Source: http://www.richardrogers.co.uk/)

 

‘To bring about change you need to campaign constantly. Demonstrations, parliamentary speeches or the way you run your life and business could all be means at our disposal. It is equally important to campaign for the planting of a tree as for a just National Planning Policy.’

‘I shall leave this City not less but more beautiful than I found it” was the ancient Athenian citizen’s oath and is the driving ambition behind my work.’

Terminal 5, Heathrow Airport, London, 1989-2008 (Image Source: http://www.richardrogers.co.uk/)

 

‘No one is more integral to the clarity of a project than an enlightened client.’

‘Work is not an end in itself. A balanced life includes the enjoyment of leisure and time to think.’

‘In ‘open-minded’ spaces we are readier to meet people’s gaze and participate. These spaces give us something in common, bring together diverse sections of society and breed a sense of tolerance, awareness, identity and mutual respect.’

Lloyds of London, London, 1978-86 (Image Source: http://www.richardrogers.co.uk/)

 

‘Our buildings are more like carefully designed indeterminate objects than frozen temples. Flexibility to meet the changing needs of a building over time is key to our design approach.’

‘Architecture is measured against the past, you build in the present and you try to imagine the future.’

‘Good design humanises. Bad design brutalizes.’

Barajas Airport, Madrid, 2000-05 (Image Source: http://www.richardrogers.co.uk/)

 

 

We love the explosion of colour that is Inside Out, the personality of Rogers’ that shines through, and the vibrant open room at the end of the exhibition with its wall covered with ‘Your Ideas for London’.

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Don’t miss the poetic note written to Richard Rogers at birth by his uncle, the architect Ernesto Rogers.
Calling him ‘Dani’ it says,’Dani, beautiful baby, this is life – do you like it?

It goes on to have Ernesto describing himself –
‘In general I am likeable.
I am not handsome but I live to compensate the world,
forcing myself to invent beautiful things.’

And among other bits of wisdom, Ernesto tells Richard to,
‘Live.
Life is beautiful, life is curious
Many get confused and spend their lives eavesdropping through the door.
Break through the door!’

Such honesty is hard to come by. But when we do, it stays with us a long time.

Richard Rogers
Royal Academy – Burlington Gardens
Till 13 October 2013

Carl Randall’s Japan

 

The BP Portrait Award 2013 is currently on view at the National Portrait Gallery, with works by over fifty artists on display. And despite our best efforts and the obviously impressive range of skills on view, we were at a loss to pick a favorite; one work that would leap out from the walls to grab our attention and demand a ‘like’.

Until that is, we saw the work of BP Travel Award 2012 artist, Carl Randall.

After spending several long minutes looking at his paintings, peering up close to stare at details of doe-eyes and count the number of mobile phones within a frame, we were finally satisfied that we had found ‘it’.

With art degrees achieved in both London and Tokyo, and with numerous awards under his belt, Randall used the £5,000 prize of the BP Travel Award 2012 to travel along the ancient Tōkaidō highway between Tokyo and Kyoto in Japan. In doing this he traced the footsteps of the famous Japanese woodblock print artist Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858), who traveled that very route in 1832 to create a series of ukiyo-e woodcut prints called the The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō. While this area has undergone many obvious changes from then to now, what does impress us in Randall’s depictions of modern-day Japanese life is that the urban and rural co-exist neck-to-neck but without any discomfort or condescension.

His series is called ‘In the foosteps of Hiroshige: Portraits of Modern Japan‘ and fifteen of the works are on display at the Award exhibition.

The Rice Farmers’ Daughters (Image Source: http://kafka-on-the-shore.tumblr.com/)

 

Aka Fujii (Image Source: http://kafka-on-the-shore.tumblr.com/)

 

Carl Randall, "In the Footsteps of Hiroshige: Portraits of Modern Japan" @ National Portrait Gallery, London (until 15 Sep 2013)Carl Randall won last year’s BP Portrait Travel Award with a really striking painting called “Mr Kitazawa’s Noodle Bar” => HERE. He was given £5,000 to go explore & paint Japan. Above are a few of the portraits that came out out that journey. Carl Randall:The japanese woodblock-print artist Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858) made prints depicting the places and people of his day. In 1832, he travelled along the Tokaido highway, a trading route from Tokyo to Kyoto, producing depictions of the people he met and the landscapes he experienced. Those prints now serve as a valuable document of life in japan at that time, forming an important part of the country’s cultural heritage. In june 2012, I travelled the same route to make modern portraits of people and their environments: a cross-section of old and mew japan, from salary men in office blocks to farmers in rice fields. The journey started in Tokyo where, drawn to its densely crowded streets, I painted hundreds of residents, directly from life. These depictions of strangers in crowded public spaces are related to my interest in urban alienation — people sharing physical space, but mentally existing in separate worlds. In cities such as Yokohama and nagoya, I painted other features of modern japan including sushi restaurants and department stores. As the highway moves out of cities and into rural areas, elderly rice farmers work their fields, their backs permanently bowed, skin leathery and wrinkled from a lifetime of farming. I also saw aspects of traditional japanese scenes: hot springs, fireflies and red autumn leaves. However, the modern and urban were ever present in the rural, with old and new often sitting side by side, such as bullet trains, motorways, telegraph poles and tower blocks. This unique and exciting opportunity allowed me to develop my interest in portraiture and japan, while following in the footstep of a great artist.Sushi + Shibuya + Aka-fujii + The rice farmer’s daughters + Onsen + Rainy season + Kyoto + Sumo + Tetrapods + Zen garden, Kyoto
Sumo (Image Source: http://kafka-on-the-shore.tumblr.com/)

 

Carl Randall, "In the Footsteps of Hiroshige: Portraits of Modern Japan" @ National Portrait Gallery, London (until 15 Sep 2013)Carl Randall won last year’s BP Portrait Travel Award with a really striking painting called “Mr Kitazawa’s Noodle Bar” => HERE. He was given £5,000 to go explore & paint Japan. Above are a few of the portraits that came out out that journey. Carl Randall:The japanese woodblock-print artist Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858) made prints depicting the places and people of his day. In 1832, he travelled along the Tokaido highway, a trading route from Tokyo to Kyoto, producing depictions of the people he met and the landscapes he experienced. Those prints now serve as a valuable document of life in japan at that time, forming an important part of the country’s cultural heritage. In june 2012, I travelled the same route to make modern portraits of people and their environments: a cross-section of old and mew japan, from salary men in office blocks to farmers in rice fields. The journey started in Tokyo where, drawn to its densely crowded streets, I painted hundreds of residents, directly from life. These depictions of strangers in crowded public spaces are related to my interest in urban alienation — people sharing physical space, but mentally existing in separate worlds. In cities such as Yokohama and nagoya, I painted other features of modern japan including sushi restaurants and department stores. As the highway moves out of cities and into rural areas, elderly rice farmers work their fields, their backs permanently bowed, skin leathery and wrinkled from a lifetime of farming. I also saw aspects of traditional japanese scenes: hot springs, fireflies and red autumn leaves. However, the modern and urban were ever present in the rural, with old and new often sitting side by side, such as bullet trains, motorways, telegraph poles and tower blocks. This unique and exciting opportunity allowed me to develop my interest in portraiture and japan, while following in the footstep of a great artist.Sushi + Shibuya + Aka-fujii + The rice farmer’s daughters + Onsen + Rainy season + Kyoto + Sumo + Tetrapods + Zen garden, Kyoto
Onsen (Image Source: http://kafka-on-the-shore.tumblr.com/)

 

Carl Randall, "In the Footsteps of Hiroshige: Portraits of Modern Japan" @ National Portrait Gallery, London (until 15 Sep 2013)Carl Randall won last year’s BP Portrait Travel Award with a really striking painting called “Mr Kitazawa’s Noodle Bar” => HERE. He was given £5,000 to go explore & paint Japan. Above are a few of the portraits that came out out that journey. Carl Randall:The japanese woodblock-print artist Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858) made prints depicting the places and people of his day. In 1832, he travelled along the Tokaido highway, a trading route from Tokyo to Kyoto, producing depictions of the people he met and the landscapes he experienced. Those prints now serve as a valuable document of life in japan at that time, forming an important part of the country’s cultural heritage. In june 2012, I travelled the same route to make modern portraits of people and their environments: a cross-section of old and mew japan, from salary men in office blocks to farmers in rice fields. The journey started in Tokyo where, drawn to its densely crowded streets, I painted hundreds of residents, directly from life. These depictions of strangers in crowded public spaces are related to my interest in urban alienation — people sharing physical space, but mentally existing in separate worlds. In cities such as Yokohama and nagoya, I painted other features of modern japan including sushi restaurants and department stores. As the highway moves out of cities and into rural areas, elderly rice farmers work their fields, their backs permanently bowed, skin leathery and wrinkled from a lifetime of farming. I also saw aspects of traditional japanese scenes: hot springs, fireflies and red autumn leaves. However, the modern and urban were ever present in the rural, with old and new often sitting side by side, such as bullet trains, motorways, telegraph poles and tower blocks. This unique and exciting opportunity allowed me to develop my interest in portraiture and japan, while following in the footstep of a great artist.Sushi + Shibuya + Aka-fujii + The rice farmer’s daughters + Onsen + Rainy season + Kyoto + Sumo + Tetrapods + Zen garden, Kyoto
Tetrapods (Image Source: http://kafka-on-the-shore.tumblr.com/)

 

Sushi (Image Source: http://kafka-on-the-shore.tumblr.com/)

 

Shoe Shop (Image Source: http://daily-norm.com/)

 

Mr Kitazawa's Noodle Bar (oil on canvas © Carl Randall)
Mr Kitazawa’s Noodle Bar (Image Source: http://daily-norm.com/)

 

Shinjuku (Image Source: http://daily-norm.com/)

 

Here’s a short video that follows Randall through Tokyo as he makes his sketches.

 

The BP Portrait Award
National Portrait Gallery
Till 15 Sept 2013

Saatchi Gallery FOL2OWS

 

Our experiences of Saatchi Gallery exhibitions have been quite varied – from the ok, to the amazing, to the absolutely meh.

But the exhibitions they currently have on are definite must-see’s. Because you don’t know which work’s going to hit you first (BAM!) and have you thinking about it at least for the next week. Which in this distracted age is long. We won’t tell you our favorite but you’ll know straight away which one it is. 

From the Hugo 20th anniversary exhibition – RED NEVER FOL2OWS – an exhibition that celebrates ‘the adventurous and unpredictable path creativity takes’, there are quite a few artists we want to see more of.

As you walk into the gallery, Cornered, 2013 by Mark Jenkins makes you stop and stare.

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A red dome by sound artist Marco Barotti’s The Pulse of London, 2013 is unmissable in the centre of the space. But as we went in so did three little kids, and we didn’t realise it was a sound piece till Google told us.

Image Source: http://schonmagazine.com/

 

We loved Painting Reality, 2010 by Iepe Rubingh where 500 litres of paint were let loose on the street at Rosenthaler Platz in Berlin. Now wouldn’t that be a fun sight to see tomorrow at Oxford Circus?

 

Bart Hess‘ Mutants, 2013, combines shiny latex with a grid of tubes and gave us the ‘good’ creeps. 

 

The interactive Proximity/Repulsion, 2011-13 by Felix Bonowski, is perfect for getting gallery goers to wave their hands in the air and jump around. And more importantly to acknowledge that it’s not just about ‘me’ and the art, but in this case, it takes a ‘we’ to make the art.

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And finally there’s the installation by Jeongmoon Choi that you shouldn’t miss. Using fluorescent threads she creates an immersive piece that feels other worldly.

Image Source: http://londonist.com/

 

On the lower floors of the Gallery we liked Richard Wilson‘s site specific sump oil and steel installation called 20:50, 1987. The oil reflects the ceiling and the room with surprising clarity. And it’s the stillness within the space, and the reverential air that its audience holds that will hit you first. Along with the smell of oil! 

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As for the Paper exhibition that fills the rest of the spaces, we loved how different it was from the ICA’s current Keep Your Timber Limber (Works on Paper) show. Saatchi’s paper doesn’t make a statement. It just shows you the variety of uses you can put the medium to. And it’s the gravity defying ones that we liked the most.

Rachel Adams’ Posturing, 2012

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Rachel Adams’ Ottoman, 2011

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Rebecca Turner’s Dubstruck, 2011

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José Lerma and Hector Madera’s Bust of Emanuel Augustus, 2012

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And last but definitely not the least, Marcelo Jácome’s Planos-Pipas n17, 2013 made us want to take to the skies.

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With lots to see and a decent bookshop as well, we definitely recommend a visit to the Saatchi Gallery this weekend. And if the art fails to impress, then there’s always the wonderful Sloane Square that’s a guaranteed charm.

Paper
18 Jun – 3 Nov

Richard Wilson 20:50
Site-specific Installation

RED NEVER FOL2OWS
31 Jul – 1 Sept

Saatchi Gallery

Sou Fujimoto’s Cloud

A beautiful structure by acclaimed Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto, this year’s Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2013 is made for sunshine. Like a cloud that’s drifted apart from its flock in the blue sky, the Pavilion is so apt for the weather, just like last year’s structure by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei (2012), was perfect for dull rainy days.

Here are some images of the Pavilion, that invites you to clamber around its fragile looking frame, all the while bouncing back blinding white serenity.

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Image courtesy: http://omonstony.wordpress.com/

 

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Image courtesy: http://omonstony.wordpress.com/

 

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Image courtesy: http://omonstony.wordpress.com/

 

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And if you’re around London on 18 – 19 October 2013, make your way to Serpentine Gallery for The 89plus Serpentine Gallery Marathon, two days of talks, performances and so much brain food you want to swoon. A fitting finale before the Pavilion is taken down, after my experience at the Marathon last year, this is one event I won’t miss.

Landy heaven

Dear Michael Landy,
You turn art upside down.
Cut it up to bits, and then stick them back together;
Add noise, irony and honesty to all things that you make.
And in doing this you create magic.

You make people respect that art concepts are to be destroyed and reconstructed;
That every generation, every new audience would do better to first start with a blank page
And not hold on too fondly to the past.
But still look with a discerning eye on the things gone by.

And as I walked through the National Gallery to the clang, bang and tickety tock of your work
Those ginormous, superhuman beings that have been given the special Landy touch.
I realised that only an artist like you could bring the Saints Alive.

***

The Saints Alive exhibition is an amazing insight into the genius that is Michael Landy. An artist who was one year senior to Damien Hirst at Goldsmiths College, Landy is most famous for encouraging people to bin art and for destroying all his possessions in an epic work called Break Down in 2001.

In 2009, the National Gallery invited Landy to become the eight Rootstein Hopkins Associate Artist – an appointment by invitation only, where a contemporary artist is given studio space within the National Gallery to make new work that connects with the existing collection of the Gallery.

And surrounded by works of Boticelli, de’Roberti, Conegliano, Tura, Pintoricchio and Cranach among others, this is what Landy came up with.

Saints Alive, installation view (Image Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/)

 

What is very evident in this exhibition is how Landy has married the paintings he found within the National Gallery, with his admiration for the work of Swiss artist Jean Tinguely, famous for his sculptural machines. Just before he started this residency, Landy had co-curated an exhibition Joyous Machines: Michael Landy and Jean Tinguely at Tate Liverpool. And in Saints Alive, Tinguely comes in as the perfect filler to Landy’s poin, albeit with a lot of clang and whirr.

Saint Appollonia, 2013 (Image Source: http://nigelartreviews.wordpress.com/)

 

What is particular about Landy’s sculptures is that they are out to destroy themselves as is amply evident. His 9ft Saint Apollonia sculpture that is inspired by Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Saints Genevieve and Apollonia, has pliers in her mouth holding on to a tooth that was pulled out as a form of torture. If you step on the pedal right in front of the sculpture, she smashes the pliers into her mouth again and again.

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Lucas Cranach the Elder, Saints Genevieve And Apollonia, 1506 (Image Source: http://www.oceansbridge.com/)

 

Landy’s Saint Thomas is an energetic finger poking into the Christ’s torso. The loudest work of all, you’re most like to hear this piece before you see it.

Saint Thomas, 2013 (Image Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/)

Inspired by Conegliano’s The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, in this work Landy makes an incredibly emphatic interpretation of an otherwise seemingly innocous painting.

Cima da Conegliano, The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, circa 1469-1518 (Image Source: http://www.casa-in-italia.com/)

And to avoid limiting himself to one saint alone, Landy presents Multi-Saint, or what you could call the Super Man of Saints. With bits of Saint Peter Martyr who was murdered with an axe blow to his head, Saint Lawrence who was roasted alive on a griddle, Saint Lucy who plucked out her eyes and sent them to an admirer who was praising their beauty, Saint Michael who will call the dead to rise on Judgement Day, and Saint Catherine who was tortured on a wheel, this work is truly majestic. In a horrendously gory way.

Multi-Saint (Image Source: http://www.theartcircus.com/)

 

Landy has truly outdone himself in this exhibition. And accompanying the sculptures, are some collages and drawings that show his thought process during this project, how he went about combining different depictions of the Saints by various artists in the Gallery’s collection.

This exhibition is a definite must see, and do stay to watch the short interview with Landy they have playing in the gallery. He sits throughout the clip, in easy conversation with the interviewer, with his sagacious dog perched peacefully on his lap. What stands out is the intelligence he wears casually, and endearingly so.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes interview Landy did with Charlotte Higgins in the runup to the exhibition.

I’m a big Landy fan. A BIG one. So go see him make the Saints Alive.

Saints Alive
National Gallery
Till 24 November 2013

Saloua Raouda Choucair – Sculpturesque

 

The Saloua Raouda Choucair exhibition at Tate Modern is a humbling ode to one of Lebanon’s pioneering abstract artists. With sculptures so beautiful, they make you stop and forget everything – including the busy gallery, the enticing book shop, and the cafe with the delicious view – in this gallery on the fourth floor, time moves slowly; quietly and in smooth, fluid shapes.

Choucair’s formative years were spent making art that mimicked the geometrical patterns and forms of Islamic architecture. Strongly influenced by the two basic elements of Islamic design – the straight line and the curve, she used these in various combinations to create paintings, murals and the most successful of all her artworks – her sculptures.

Self-portrait, 1943

 

Among Choucair’s influences, this exhibition counts a trip to Cairo in 1943 which inspired her to use geometry, calligraphy and architectural patterns in her work, and a three year stint in Paris where Choucair worked under the tutelage of Fernand Léger and had her first encounters with abstract modernism and cubism. When she finally returned to Beirut in the 1950’s, Choucair began making sculpture in earnest with most of her works strongly reassembling architectural structures. That she would have been a very passionate architect, given a second choice, is clearly evident in her work. And though I’m not sure how successful she would have been at making livable structures, you can almost see a skyscraper or a designy museum space in every one of her sculptures.

Les Peintres Celebres 1948-1949, by Saloua Raouda Chocair.
Les Peintres célèbres, 1948-49

 

Paris-Beirut, 1948

 

Working in line with the unique stanza style of Sufi poetry where each line may stand alone as an individual or be combined with others to form a whole, Choucair’s Poems series is ingenious. As is also her Duals series where she marries pairs of materials including wood, stone, metal and fibreglass. And her versatility and progressiveness – as is evident in the Tate video below where she shuns nostalgia in favor of embracing modernisation and science – shows how far ahead of her time Choucair was.

Saloua Raouda Choucair, ‘
Poem, 1963-65, wood

 

Saloua Raouda Choucair, ‘
Poem of Nine Verses, 1966-68, aluminium

 

What makes her work successful is that Choucair’s influences are clearly visible to her audience; you don’t need to be an art historian or make long winded deductions to see that she was influenced by architecture and Islamic forms. With her ideas being so simple and accessible, but yet so delicately crafted and balanced, you know instantly you are in the presence of good art. And the fact that four rooms later, you still want to see more is further evidence that Tate has got this one right. Sometimes it is the smaller exhibitions that leave you spell bound, versus the ones they so readily advertise around coffee cups.

Detail – Trajectory of one line, 1972-74, plexi and nylon

 

Saloua Raouda Choucair
Tate Modern
Till 20 October 2013