press release

‘Crivelli’s Nail’ takes as a starting point the vertical flatness of Byzantine painting wherein Italian Quattrocento painters pushed back into the picture plane, placing their (mainly religious) subject in a different space to the viewer. The subject depicted was often situated on a cliff edge, suggesting a chasm between the space inhabited by those within the picture and those viewing it; this device was also used when the subject was situated indoors, with the front edge of the space dropping off like a step. These techniques can be considered to be the first exploration and definition of ‘art space’.

This show takes it’s title from one such painting Carlo Crivelli’s Madonna della Rondine (The Madonna of the Swallow) which is explored in detail in the work and texts of Keir Smith. The painting depicts Mary seated on a marble throne; a note is nailed into the marble, causing it to crack, suggesting a mortal detail in the heavenly world depicted in the picture plane. So where is the event happening' It is clearly depicted in fine detail and convinces us of its veracity. Smith contests that the scene is taking place within the space and language of art. Since this spatial and philosophical rupture, art has pushed its way further into, through and out of the picture plane.

Many of the artists in this exhibition play with the space that art inhabits and the spaces that inhabit art, both philosophically and physically.

James Hyde’s Dark Chandelier (2003) hangs over the gallery entranceway, it’s lo-tech materials and DIY aesthetic jarringly at odds with the delicacy inferred by the work’s title.

In the back gallery, Mark Wallinger’s Threshold to the Kingdom (2000), is a single channel DVD projection that shows the international arrivals doors at London’s City Airport that, using Allegri’s sublime hymn of atonement ‘Miserere Mei’, metamorphoses into the gates of heaven.

Clockwise from left in the first gallery is Cheesemold Standard with Olive (1969) by Ed Ruscha. Ruscha combines the cityscape of Los Angeles with vernacular language to communicate a particular urban experience. Ruscha’s works hold a mirror up to the banality of urban life and give order to the barrage of mass media-fed images and information that confront us daily. Ruscha’s early career as a graphic artist continues to strongly influence his aesthetic and thematic approach.

Michael Simpson’s Bench Number Fifty-Five (1992-2002) is part of a series of works made since 1989. The first painting, Death of Giordano Bruno (1989-1990) was made in homage to Giordano Bruno, the Neopolitan philosopher who, in 1600, was taken to Rome’s Campo de Fiore for execution. On refusing the sacrament, a spike was driven through his tongue, and he was burnt alive for heresy.

Since then, Simpson has continued to forefront the bench for its value as a fixed coherent form, and in its associations of confinement, alienation, restraint, and as a place where justice and injustice are administered.

Ivan Navarro’s Dark Hole of Light (2003) appears to pierce the floor with a black bottomless hole that’s framed by a ladder of fluorescent light. Navarro views his work as reaching beyond the unresolved aspects of minimalism, engaging the perception of the viewer and revealing social and political content behind the misleadingly neutral veneer of formalism.

Above the Navarro piece, Graham Gussin seemingly punctures the room with Dark Corner (2003), a black hole that pulls the eye upward and through the gallery wall, into the unknown exterior space. This work uses a painterly trompe l’oeil effect similar to the Gavin Turk painting nearby (se below). It can be seen as a descriptive painting of a hole but also recalls Suprematist and Minimalist work.

Gavin Turk is known for his appropriation of art historical motifs, such as Warhol’s self-portraits and the iconic image of Che Guevara, remade using the artist’s face. His practice also subverts everyday objects such as bin bags, sleeping bags and skips, refashioning them using traditional sculpture techniques to make the works as true to their originals as possible. This oil on canvas entitled 5 o’clock shadow (2000) references the metaphysical paintings of artists like De Chirico; it is positioned so that it could be the nail and wall on which the painting should hang.

In the next gallery space is René Daniëls, Messebild (1985), one of a series of paintings in which the artist explores the motif of a bow tie decorated with a series of small rectangles, which are at the same time a perspectivally skewed view of the back and side walls of an interior space punctuated with windows or hung with pictures. Daniëls uses the word ‘fleece’ to describe the use of layering in his work, which means ‘membrane’ or ‘film’ and infers a kind of veil or screen interposed between the viewer, the audience, and the ‘real’ of the work, at once blocking and offering (partial) access, in the form of a radically simplified schema.

Yorgos Sapountzis’ Yeti-Lines (2005) quotes from Durs Grünbein’s poem ‘Yeti’. The film utilises a webcam installed at the corner of the Deutsches Historisches Museum in central Berlin. The camera’s shots of the space in front of the newly built Pei Exhibition Hall are constantly exposed on the internet and Sapountzis exploits this by using the webcam to record his frenetic activity in which he creates geometric drawings using black tape which he lays on the snow.

Rupert Norfolk’s Pixelweave (2004), is a tapestry specially commissioned from the Aubusson workshop in France, known for works made with artists such as Picasso, Albers and Ernst. The image of a multi-coloured check rug with trompe l’oeil folds has been woven into the very fabric of the tapestry. When laid out on the floor with fresh folds, disorientation occurs when the viewer tries to isolate what is ‘real’ and what is illusory.

Boo Ritson’s three photographic portraits Columbian, Girlfriend and Cop (2006) pose questions as to where art exists. The physical event of a person having paint applied to their head and clothes and this being recorded by a camera is not the event that we are looking at in the gallery. The subject seems to exist in a different (fictional) time and space; we do not see the sitter but the character that they have become.

Hurvin Anderson depicts places where people go to relax but beneath seductive and serene surfaces, his subjects ­- country clubs, parks, bars, shops – reveal subtle socio-cultural concerns. Developing each image from photographs and drawings, he builds up pictorial spaces in which echoes of history and personal memory are allowed to emerge through layers of paint.

Marlene’s Twin Sister (2006) examines the contradictions inherent in a venue for leisure that simultaneously ‘welcomes’ visitors and yet denies entry. This ambivalence is manifested in the grille's decorative quality: as abstract motif, its vibrant geometry unifies the work; as human artefact, it hints at undercurrents of social tension, of trouble in paradise.

Raphael Montañez Ortiz was born on New York in 1934. In the late 1950s, Ortiz was a central figure in the international art movement of Destructivism, producing significant ‘destroyed’ works in recycled cinema, performance, and sculpture. His nine-minute deconstructionist video What is This' (date unknown) appropriates and manipulates a brief passage from a Hollywood movie, corrupting the idyllic American family scene with jarring editing that delivers a stark and shocking conclusion.

In his 1969, nine-minute silent film, Mirror, Robert Morris walks in a winter landscape, holding a mirror to nature, and to the camera. The reflection captures the unstable image of the landscape as Morris walks away from the camera, occasionally reflecting the camera itself as well as the tops of trees and the ground between them.

The hard edges in Martin Kobe’s painting O.T. (2002) depict futuristic and streamlined buildings devoid of people, and take on an heroic and seemingly perfect status. However, between the lines and the precisely arranged colour fields, the looser more irrational under-painting and structure of the work seeps through.

Curated by David Risley

Chapter gratefully acknowledges the support of the following galleries: Lisson Gallery, London; Dicksmith Gallery, London; Sean Kelly, New York; Anthony Reynolds; Lux, London; Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London; David Risley Gallery, London; Gallery Gazonrouge, Athens; Saatchi Gallery, London; Galerie Paul Andriesse, Amsterdam; White Cube / Jay Jopling, London; Isabella Bortolozzi , Berlin; Thomas Dane, London and the artists and private collectors who have generously loaned works.


only in german

Crivellli's Nail
Kurator: David Risley

mit Boo Ritson, James Hyde, Rupert Norfolk, Graham Gussin, Martin Kobe, Michael Simpson, Mark Wallinger, René Daniëls, Ivan Navarro, Ed Ruscha, Yorgos Sapountzis, Hurvin Anderson, Raphael Moñtanez Ortiz, Robert Morris & Gavin Turk