Posts Tagged ‘Turner Prize’

mouth2mouth | Mark Thomson

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

mouth2mouth | exclusive interview
mark thomson | book designer extraordinaire

Mark Thomson is based in London and is responsible for the design of the catalogue for the Mel Bochner: If the Colour Changes exhibition, currently showing at the Whitechapel Gallery. Trained in fine art at Chelsea School of Art, for a period in the 90s Mark was art director of Taschen, based in Cologne, Germany, where he produced, among many other books, the definitive tome Starck (1996). Back in the UK, he began working on books directly with artists. More recently he has produced artist monographs, exhibition catalogues and text-based books with publishers Ridinghouse, as well as with the British Council and British Museum. Among other projects, Mark is currently involved in producing a monograph on the British artist and 2003 Turner Prize nominee Anya Gallaccio. Thomson, an authority on typography, occasionally writes on design-related subjects.

In a 2005 issue of Eye magazine, referring to an exhibition of Swiss books at the Design Museum, Thomson said: ‘An inescapable fact about exhibiting books is that the essential ingredient of a book – its engagement with time – is impossible to show. Sculpture you can walk around, a painting can be seen from left and right.’ The real experience of a book, he tells us, has more in common with music or architecture. Significantly, in the same article he talks about the exhibition and its catalogue, designed by Laurent Benner and Jonathan Hares, as being co-dependent and that, in this instance, ‘the catalogue itself is the star.’

When did you study at Chelsea?
1980 to 1985, studying fine art. Anthony Hill was my main tutor there. He’d corresponded with Marcel Duchamp and was a central figure in postwar British and European constructivism. He had an anarchic alter ego called Redo (as in play-doh). These things made him extremely interesting to me. His 1983 mid-career retrospective at the Hayward is still one of the best exhibitions I’ve ever seen: work that was totally uncompromising, industrial, practically colourless and apparently devoid of angst or expression of any kind. I loved it, and still do.

Why the crossover from fine art to design?
After Chelsea I started writing about art, mostly reviewing exhibitions and interviewing artists I was interested in, such as Hans Haacke and Dan Graham. I did a bit of lecturing, usually on these subjects. Meanwhile the work I was making had something to do with structure and language; it was really no step at all from that to design. I started doing flyers for concerts, and gradually realised that design held a deeper mystery for me. It was not clear at all how design worked – the language was far more subtle than the idea of problem-solving that was being put about. Typography in particular became my obsession, as well as the overall language of design. The first exhibition catalogue and print material I did was for New Contemporaries in 1993. For the first time I felt that all my interests came together in a meaningful way.

How did the Taschen job come about?
At about the same time I had been working on a book about chairs for Taschen, and went to Cologne to show them what I had done. While there I worked on another book with them for a day or two, returning a couple of weeks later to do some more. Then it snowballed – we got on well and after a few months I was given the job of art director. I had my studio in London and the studio in Cologne. I went between the two for a few years.

The main task was to introduce a more international design language – although the company sold books all over the world it was still quite German-looking. I gave the typography a new direction: Scala Sans had just been released and it was readable as well as fresh, it was both new and somehow traditional, and it was perfect for the coated papers that art books are mostly printed on. Scala and Quadraat became the baseline typefaces for the company.

You’re currently based in London but do you still do work for overseas clients?
When I stopped working with Taschen I wanted to focus on working with artists and working internationally – over the last few years I’ve worked in something like 20 languages. My clients are all over – we Skype a lot.

Could you explain something about some of the other things you’ve worked on?
The work has fallen into natural categories: monographs, exhibition catalogues, writings and other text-based books. I have made monographs on artists like Simon Patterson and Chris Burden, and catalogues for recent exhibitions by John Stezaker and Josiah McElheny at the Whitechapel, on German Romantic prints and drawings at the British Museum, Nick Danziger and Yuri Gagarin for the British Council (where I also designed the exhibition, with Nick Coombe Architecture).

I work a lot with Ridinghouse, who are doing some great publishing on and around art. Recently we’ve done a series of collected writings of Michael Bracewell, Georg Baselitz and Fred Wilson, as well as a book called Unconcealed – a brilliant, incredibly detailed study of the artist, dealer and museum network around conceptual art in Europe between 1967 and 1977. The most recent catalogue is for Mel Bochner at the Whitechapel Gallery (and in 2013 at Haus der Kunst, Munich, and Fundação de Serralves, Porto, Portugal).

Was it very different working with an artist’s work that is often strongly typographical, as opposed to say figurative or purely abstract? How did it affect your approach?
I am only trying to find a form through which the work can speak. In my view the designer’s role here is to place the work in space, as well as it can be done, and then to get out of the picture. This applies to every aspect of the design – the editorial structure, the structure of the page, the typography and the production. The moment of interaction between eye, paper and ink is the critical one where the work can be found or lost completely. I still believe that having some kind of understanding of the work makes all the difference to the final outcome. Mel Bochner’s father was a signwriter, so his understanding of typography and lettering is very grounded.

The exhibition title, If the Colour Changes, doesn’t appear on the cover of the catalogue: what was the thinking behind this?
Only that the catalogue is almost a monograph. There is much less out there on Mel Bochner than I thought, and the scope of the exhibition is basically the scope of his career, even if a guiding theme of the show is apparently colour. This particular catalogue includes five critical texts as well as a selection of Mel Bochner’s own texts, a very detailed biography and bibliography, and of course all the works from the exhibition. That’s a lot of content.

Images from the catalogue
Mel Bochner: If the Colour Changes

Published in 2012 on the occasion of the exhibition of the same title by Whitechapel Gallery and Ridinghouse in association with Haus der Kunst, Munich, and Fundação de Serralves, Porto; edited by Achim Borchardt-Hume and Doro Globus, with texts by Achim Borchardt-Hume, Briony Fer, João Fernandes, Mark Godfrey and Ulrich Wilmes

Front cover, showing:
Blah, Blah, Blah, 2011 (Detail)
Oil on velvet (ten panels)

Double page spread, showing:
Actual Size (Hand and Face), 1968/2002
Two gelatin silver prints

Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

Share this post
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Art | Mark Wallinger’s SITE at Baltic

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Mark Wallinger, SITE
Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art
Gateshead, UK
Until 14th October

An intriguing and enormous capital letter I, in black on a white ground, covers most of the north side of the art deco Baltic Flower Mills, renovated and converted in 2002 into the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month. The big I has the title: Self Portrait (Times New Roman), 2012 and is in the ubiquitous font that – according to artist Mark Wallinger – is today’s default mode of self representation. Except for the gigantic proportions, this is familiar Wallinger territory, whose Self (Times New Roman), 2010 – an I turned through 360º to form a slim columnar sculpture – was made from glass reinforced polyester, with a wooden base. He’s also produced other 2D typographic Is, Self Portrait (Tahoma), 2008, and in the same year Self Portrait (Kino MT), both in acrylic on canvas, as was Self Portrait (Sim Sum), 2007 and Self Portrait (Lucida Console Bold Minor), 2007. Self Portrait (Freehand 2), 2007 was again produced in acrylic on canvas but this time the artist allowed himself the freedom to paint the I by hand, in three strokes of the brush.

SITE is the Turner Prize-winner’s largest exhibition in the UK for over a decade. Still reeling from the epic scale of the I outside, the thing that hits you inside is the massive gallery space and how Wallinger’s installations enliven its surfaces without otherwise effecting its cavernous, white volume. Everything he has placed/constructed within it is almost entirely flat. His film Construction Site, 2011, having its UK premiére here, shows a strip of shingle beach, an almost flat expanse of blue sea and a uniformly blue sky. It records the activities of three professional scaffolders erecting and then dismantling a scaffold structure the top of which aligns exactly with the far horizon. Shot square on so that all the verticals are vertical and the horizontals, horizontal, it is an attempt at showing, how chance and order – the discipline of the workers, against the unpredictable, ever-changing, natural world – can collide without anyone really noticing – the meaningless of coincidence.

A giant chequerboard covers most of the vast, pale boarded floor; a single piece of shingle occupying each small black or white square. 10000000000000000, 2012 catalogues and compares 65,536 found stones. 10000000000000000 is, apparently, the binary form of the number 65,536 – in decimals, a superperfect number. The piece highlights the futility of attempting to systematise the randomness of nature.

The Other Wall, 2012, in contrast, sees randomness contained in the form of a monumental brick wall comprising, floor to ceiling, one complete side of the gallery. Each brick having been numbered sequentially by hand, prior to construction, then distributed in any old order. Perfect brickwork, meaningless numbering, each defeating the other.

Mark – who doesn’t come across as at all egotistical – in person, greets you from the giant video screen in the café on level 5. In a chatty, relaxed, to-camera film, he talks about the exhibits in the show, the thought processes that led up to them and how the final pieces were assembled. He describes how he was someone who, on his wanderings around central London and beyond, always carried a piece of white chalk with him and had a longstanding habit of chalking his name on walls. Mark, 2012, digital photographic images transferred to Blu-ray, which runs for 113 minutes 14 seconds on a video screen, is the smallest item in the show and documents an endless series of flat, exterior brick surfaces with Mark, almost but not quite identically scrawled in the middle of each. Once again, and this is merely an observation, not a criticism, he had covered similar ground in According to Mark, 2010, which again features Wallinger’s scrawled first name, but this time on the backs of 100 chairs of various design.

Wallinger’s new film Camera Running, commissioned by Great North Run Culture, filmed at the 2011 Great North Run from the perspective of an elite athlete at the front of the race, will premiére at the Baltic on 13th September. It will be open for public viewing on 15th and 16th September, the weekend of the Great North Run 2012.

Images from top
Mark Wallinger
(Stills from) Construction Site, 2011
Courtesy of Anthony Reynolds Gallery London
© The artist

Mark Wallinger
Study for 10000000000000000, 2012
© Copyright and courtesy the artist

Please leave a comment
Look out for The Blog’s regular Friday posts on art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that interests me and I think might interest you

Share this post
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

Exhibition | Fiona Rae in Leeds

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Fiona Rae: Maybe you can live on the moon in the next century
Leeds Art Gallery, Until 26 August, 2012
Catalogue published by Leeds Museum and Galleries,
in association with Ridinghouse

Make no mistake, should the spatial illusions Fiona Rae creates appear at times to reference Pollock and de Kooning, and her disparate and apparently random marks bring Kandinsky to mind, her work fizzes and buzzes with the frenetic energy and fast-paced lifestyle of the 21st century – her chosen subject matter. Unafraid to face the present head-on, Rae distills the essence of our era of mega-cities, phenomenal technological advancement, split-second global communication and mind-blowing virtual reality through the medium of acrylic, oil, and sometimes gouache paints –plus the odd bit of glitter – employing every imaginable technique, on canvas with a sure and highly original hand.

To the theme tune of an external hard drive processing fast – now pacing itself  – now rushing at breakneck speed – the group of seventeen paintings, produced between 2000 and 2011, each beautifully reproduced in the well-designed catalogue – featuring a sharp, in-depth and elegantly-written essay by Goldsmiths’ Gilda Williams – reflect the inner workings of a human brain constantly adjusting itself, adapting to each nuance of the ever-expanding, digital world while simultaneously filing, absorbing and recording the less serious, more random aspects – graffiti, toys, comic books, cartoon films – of modern times.

Born in Hong Kong and moving to the UK in 1970, by 1984 Fiona Rae was attending South London’s Goldsmiths College, where she came under the influence of Michael Craig-Martin and Richard Wentworth who were teaching there. In 1988, Rae was a member of the original group of fellow-students, including: Angela Bulloch, Gary Hume, Sarah Lucas, Richard Patterson and Damien Hirst who became known as the Young British Artists, who exhibited together and with others in six shows from 1992 to 1996 at the Saatchi Gallery, London. She was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1991 and in 2002, elected to the Royal Academy of Arts where, in 2011, she was appointed Professor of Painting for the Royal Academy Schools. Now 49, Rae lives and works in London. She has exhibited extensively in museums and galleries around the world and her work is held in prestigious international public and private collections.

In Rae’s work, where there is seemingly no time for judgmental consideration; the profound, the superficial and the mediocre are afforded indiscriminate treatment, blended together, tossed around, abstracted, their significance rendered ambiguous. With the spontaneity of a screen grab, each work captures and freezes just a fragment of what one instinctively senses is an infinitely greater whole, allowing the viewer a brief glimpse of the endless complexity of our existence, bringing us up short and forcing us to question and wonder who we are, where we fit in and where we are going. But look a little closer; there’s a teasing, girly playfulness, too.

From top
I really longed for this, 2010
© Fiona Rae; Collection the artist
Courtesy Buchmann Galerie, Berlin
& Timothy Taylor Gallery, London

Lovesexy, 2000
© Fiona Rae. Courtesy, Timothy
Taylor Gallery, London

We go in search of our Dream….., 2007
© Fiona Rae, Private Collection
Courtesy Timothy Taylor Gallery, London

Please leave a comment
Look out for The Blog’s posts on art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that interests me and I think might interest you

Share this post
Facebook Twitter Linkedin