Creative Global Network for the Visual Arts

Roundup #10: The Best Artists This Week on artreview.com

Our guest critic, the independent curator, critic and regular reviewer for ArtReview magazine, Laura McLean-Ferris continues her selections of outstanding artists on artreview.com.

Anonymity. There's not a lot of it about. We're in the grip of a high-visibility period when it comes to culture and personality. MySpace, Facebook, Heat magazine… On artreview.com most members have little avatars – a photo of a face (your face?) or an abstract image, or did someone perhaps catch you at an arty party?

However, we have – literally and metaphorically – all seen up Britney and Lindsay's skirts by now, and it only follows in the cultural push-pull that there will inevitably be a backlash to this trajectory. Post-Basel, with all that exhausting 'face-time', it's time to take a trip in the other direction. So hide your faces and come with me in search of anonymity: after all, you wouldn't want to get papped looking like that would you?

Brian Harte, ORMEAU PARK 3, 2007

You won't find any faces here, and what strange killing game is this? Dead bodies everywhere, with a strange body count next to them. The blankness and anonymity of Brian Harte's figures here recall LS Lowry's matchstick workers leaving the factory. Harte's title immediately had me googling to find out about a massacre in Ormeau Park, Belfast, but like the figures themselves no history is forthcoming.

The painting's ground is divided into colour fields, as in abstract painting, but it might also represent water, a wall, snow, ground, sky. Are the figures sleeping, after a festival? Or are they dead? The black blood of their suits bleeding into the ground….

Also recalling Lowry's paintings and their expression of the anonymity of modernity is this rain-on-lens photograph from Danish-born artist Alexandra Buhl, who studied at Goldsmiths. Here she takes a CCTV approach to a street photography – an all-seeing-eye that manages to see everything and nothing at once.

Alexandra Buhl, Untitled

Buhl has a plethora of eclectic and intriguing documentary images on her profile page, as well as a lot of portraits on her website, but, interestingly, much of the work explores portraiture as a representational trap, and many of her images of women in particular are fragmentary images of body parts, such as legs and stomachs.

Alexandra Buhl, Hide and Seek

The figures here seem caught in a bind, unable to represent themselves through image-making. The viewer, the photographer and the subject are all part of a process of refusal and small resistance.

Eva Lis uses an extremely economic style of line drawing that gives faces anonymity by reducing them to basic features. These drawings look like they’re traced from photographs – either from newspapers, or a personal archive.

Eva Lis, First Day in a New Country

Lis, whose other projects include travelling around the M25 London orbital in a reflective black wagon drawn by a gypsy-like pony, explains on her website how her experience as an immigrant has been a 'ghost-life', fuelled by dreams, and the title of this work, together with the headless, mannequin-like figures, certainly conveys a sense that one's identity is lost in this process.

Eva Lis, TEAM

The particular can be found through the universal, and vice versa, and this image, entitled TEAM, looks exactly like one that can be found on my brother's wall at home. And probably your brother's. Or yours, a friend's, cousin's, or boyfriend's, as each member and each face is interchangeable with any member of a group of boys: a football team, a group of friends, a university or school photo. A pro-forma, identikit model for male sociality, if you like.

Another approach to non-portraiture can be found in the work of Robin Clare, from Brighton, whose paintings employ an amusing anthropomorphism, allowing household objects to stand in for human counterparts. The house is a well-worn metaphor for a the human body, with its extensions of bodily processes involving respiration, ventilation, waste disposal and fuel intake. This funny painting of a toilet 'hiding' behind a skip manages to capture a gleeful expression on the toilet's 'face' as though it has outwitted its captors who would take it away to be dumped.

Robin Clare, Hiding

The objects that Clare uses manage to appear pathetic and sorry as well as vibrant and mischevious, painted in a milky dreamy style perfect for capturing the futuristic dreams that 'white goods' once provided.

Robin Clare, Radiator on Lime Pattern

Clare also depicts objects in a discarded and degraded state, but on a background that evokes the popular styles of advertising, wallpaper and patterning from the 1950s and 1970s. Clare describes this juxtaposition as a 'metaphor for homelessness and our impact on the word.'

Deborah Hally, The Kingdom

Deborah Hally's photographs of children are all faceless too – and children's faces are especially well-guarded in the age of the all-seeing camera, particularly when there is a heightened fear of predators.

However it is the children themselves who obscure the faces in these works, rather than those blurry pixels that we have become accustomed, attaching them with a level of power and agency as they seem to control our gaze. This work of Hally's in particular has a peculiar David Lynch feel to it. Are we looking into a tiny doll's house. Is it a dream, is it a memory? The image conveys the sense that there is something of the realm of childhood that somehow escapes us as adults and becomes frightening. The child, or the memory might just slip behind the striped circus curtain into a strange, non-linguistic world inaccessible for grown-ups.

Laura McLean-Ferris is an independent curator and critic, and a regular contributor to ArtReview magazine.

For more artworks picked out for the Roundup, see the slideshow.

Roundup #9
Roundup #8
Roundup #7
Roundup #6
Roundup #5
Roundup #4
Roundup #3
Roundup #2
Roundup #1

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Comment by WWgallery on September 13, 2008 at 18:30
Comment by WWgallery on September 13, 2008 at 18:28
EVA LIS will be showing 4 works in the group exhibition "I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night' at WW Gallery, 20 Sep - 18 Oct 2008.
Private View 19 Sep 6-9 pm, 30 Queensdown Rd, London E5 8NN
Comment by mija on August 6, 2008 at 15:54
Showing your real face is scary. Revealing identity is prevail. In some sense, you are still thinking ordinary.
Comment by Scott Cartwright on August 6, 2008 at 1:45
Face it.. As Richard Prince put it (probably twenty years ago) "In twenty years, no one will be famous." And yes, parity much like basketball can seem a bit boring and watered down. However, the benefits to this era of oversaturation is quite liberating without the burdens of being unique.
Comment by mike hinc on July 31, 2008 at 6:17
I don't dislike what you do and didn't say I did. I questioned what you said - much of which you have now gainsaid. From your recent posting it now seems we actually agree on quite a lot. And trying to get a decent glass of wine in a pub can be a fool's errand.
Comment by Alex on July 31, 2008 at 6:06
Do they serve beer? (Or perhaps absinth)

Mike, thanks for your answer.. I think I felt like joking first, claiming to actually want to regress or move backwards in time, which I am quite certain cannot be done ;)

Off course there is value in theory and I certainly realize I'm contradicting myself, but it's really impossible to write anything true, I think. I love the dadaist manifesto for that reason.

I don't like all old things, but I do find old age a value in itself: For instance old B-movies are interesting because they tell us something about people and popular culture of a certain age.
So what? Well, maybe I'm just bored with the celebration of the new and young.
Why is it a just criticism of RoundUp to say "there's nothing new here"?

To me time and change is the same thing. Your body changes all the time, it ages.. And memory is flawed at best.

Off course I care what I make. I try and find some meaning in the big and small everyday things.. At least I think that's what I do.
You don't have to like what I do, but I am still doing it because I want to show you something. Maybe. "a process of refusal and small resistance"
Comment by mike hinc on July 30, 2008 at 16:02
Whilst I respect your penchant for "Spanish old pubs" (sic) I would have sad 'old Spanish pubs' - I just don't see the connection. What's spesch about Spanish? Is this some form of disorientalized racism? Do tell.

Nor do I consider this discussion artwork - although I do concede that emailed communication may accede to that condition - trust me, ours doesn't as yet.

Whilst I'd agree that a picture tells a story, is worth a thousand words etc- the less than great and sadly not late rod stewart, weren't it ? - I don't see what one would contribute to rational debate at this particular stage in the debate. Please feel free to enlighten me howso it mightso. That said, I appreciate this conciliatory gesture.
Now then, have you rethunk your ideas on balance in this world without stasis?
Comment by mike hinc on July 30, 2008 at 14:42
Thank god Lisa - well said!! Is art an aspirin or should it not reflect or perhaps refract the world around us? Is that world around us "in balance"?
Like hell it is - NOT!!

What I keep trying to say - is that when the art is good - the form IS the content - and "balance" has sod all to do with it. Walter Pater said (some time ago) "All art aspires to the condition of music" - where form is content - and that condition can be as balanced or as imbalanced as the world around us - but like you, I'd suspect the latter to be the more usual condition.

Ha! Bugger balance - it's not there anyway!! Thanks for your input. You've made my day! Asymmetrically yours.....
Comment by Lisa Maners on July 30, 2008 at 14:25
"In common we search for a balance between form and content, as long we did'nt find it." Is this true for everyone? Not for me. My identity does not exist in balance. Balance makes me uneasy. I prefer asymetrical to symmetrical in art and in life.
Comment by mike hinc on July 30, 2008 at 11:01
John, I don't like old pubs. Worse still are new pubs dressed up or rather dressed down and dissembling age and authenticity. I think it was the Modernist confusion of change with progression within your thought that concerned me. And as I have already said, thanks for your clarification.

Likewise Alex, the idea of 'I am, therefore I make and I don't care what I make' terrifies me. It might suggest a lack of both a working aesthetic and discernment. And when you say "I like old art" - will any "old art" do? Or just the bit of old art that happens to be before you in any given moment? Is age alone the qualifying reason for your liking art or just old art?

And you like "old people too". I'm quite old. Does that mean you quite like me? You shouldn't. You don't even know me. Discernment is an invaluable tool.

You say "Sometimes I try and move backwards to rediscover something, I may have once known. " well yes, of course. We can only know what we already know and all art is based on memory. Even our imaginings of futurity are made with reference to past memory.

You say "The future and the change is automatic" . Well, it's not is it? It's a matter of choice. We can all change our destinies both collectively and individually. "The past is too easily forgotten" The past is all we know - so how could we forget it?

You are and so you make but you don't care what you make. Existence alone is justification enough. And yet contrariwise, you like it when someone " likes what you do."
I guess it's Pavlovian - we all like our Bonios.

But perhaps "theoretical discussion" has some value, afterall?


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