The Gallery of Modern Art, which has popped up numerous times in previous research, is a controversial slave merchant’s legacy to Glasgow. It isn’t mentioned much inside but that’s not the point of this blog post, just an initial note. There were a couple extremely poignant pieces stood out and were much worthy of analysis. It seems that my interests in art are beginning to becoming more narrow, I found the environmental art of Andy Goldsworthy and Carol Rhodes to be some of my favourite pieces in the exhibition. A focus on environmental art in Glasgow as the COP 26 conference talks are in waking memory is understandable as the city attempts to grasp the importance of the nature which it takes it’sresources from.
Six Clay Pot Snowballs 1996 Clay Print On Paper
A variety of clays used on the piece show the difference of material in the subterranean world which is of great concern to Goldsworthy. Ranging shades and hues slither and roll across the cartridge paper in an eternal dance only capable of raw nature. The title, containing the word Snowball evokes uncertainty, impermanence and a sense of nostalgia as memories of playing in the white powder in younger years come to mind. Further connotations of play are contained within the narrative as one thinks about the method of application in making this piece, as it appears the balls have rolled from their individual plinths into a primordial collective pool, is this where the narrative becomes more political I wonder? The overall form resembles a jellyfish form, it is tentacular, fluid and reminiscent of nature’s constantly evolving and shifting tendencies. Hinting at human interference whilst paying attention to the origins of the material, the gravitational pull to the earth reminds us of our humanity and insignificance in the wake of our host planet and environment. I imagine the myth of Siphysis in his eternal struggle against damnation, the existential ploy of mankind and the artists struggle for coherence and clarity in a chaotic world. It seems Goldsworthy remains loyal to his home as the accompanying photograph evidences the collection process of collecting the clay, from an untrained and relatively uninformed eye, I am drawn to the perfect circular shapes in the riverbank, begging me to reduce myself in order to fit inside. Perhaps these clay pot holes could also be a host to otters or other river dwelling mammals, in which the balance between interfering for the sake of creating is balanced with conservation efforts. Regardless of these speculations, the piece is of great interest to me as I am beginning to focus more and more on material and process based work, Goldsworthy has paved the way for artists to engage with the natural world in intimate and intuitive ways.
Rhodes has deployed relatively new ways of seeing the landscape to inform her painting practice which focuses on peripheral spaces on the outskirts of cities seen from aerial perspectives. The bird’s eye view is one now shared with surveillance technology and information gathering magpies, satellites, drones and military aircraft all share Rhodes’ painting eye in differing ways. However it is not a paranoid feeling I am reminded of when looking down on these pictures rather one of calm and distance. The forms in the pieces lend towards abstraction in her earlier works yet again this doesn’t seem to be her goal as more representational ways of seeing are again used. It seems Rhodes is a trawler of the internet’s endless information, she seeks objectivity and escape in a world too often seen from the safety of our homes. The bird’s eye view turns to a god’s eye view as one imagines themselves in a dreamlike state soaring above the people, yet the spaces which are depicted are places of abandonment, industrial complexes on the edges of cities which hint towards transcending our possibilities of imagination and space. The city has been forgotten as these new spaces open up a well of potential, or pity. Although concerned with the objectivity of these spaces, the paintings question the role of painting and artists in the wake of large surges of post-capitalist development and the sociological implications of peoples land. Rhodes asks for an art of seeing and observing, topographically reconfiguring the landscape in order to rethink our traditional trompe d’loeil dialectic, painting regains a revolutionary status, a transcendental experience contained within an informative but heavily problematic narrative.