'The state of things'
Johan makes things. He writes things out of paper. It all begins with an empty page.
If you want to write, you have to be able to fold. Things subsequently fall out of the folds, which is how they become words. Johan folds words out of material letters and reassembles them, so that they say something.
Not spoken words and texts, but visual texts, which are far more pliant. Not to mention friendlier, as well as more beautiful and generous. Because there's always an issue with those spoken words. Used and abused on a massive scale, they are employed to attack and deceive. Restoring their softness and refutability is a huge endeavour, rebuttal work, a waste of time.
Johan's texts look broken, which feels reassuring. They are also very hard. Layer upon layer of resins and secret powders. And continual sanding! To become self-portraits, dented bags. Boxes, tubes, and finally big things and little things, cones and pyramids and balls and spheres, sometimes with handles and bulges, overflowing layers, just to be sure there's enough!
Comforting stash. Take another one. The entire reserves of art history are online. The beauty of yesteryear is undiminished and is still understood. Only the world is a bit more dented now, although Claus Sluter's Pleurantsare as sovereign and exalted as ever in their acceptance and sorrow.
Submission in the past, anger today, fury and sorrow at stupidity and for fleeing in ignorance. Giant stocks of this have also accumulated, and little has changed since Goya. Time is running out, which drives eternity crazy. There are no more still lifes, not like there used to be.
 There are exceptions.
 Nothing mysterious, it depends on the production process.
Anterior Verdure is an exhibition of new paintings by Simon Degroot exploring interactions between botanical forms and the built environment. Abstracted plant details are applied in translucent layers over graphic forms to create complex imaginary landscapes.
Sabrina Amrani is pleased to present XOXO, comet boy, the third solo exhibition of Timothy Hyunsoo Lee in the gallery.
The character of the comet boy was born out of Timothy’s frustration with his realisation that he, as an artist, was merely a vessel for production; life is short, everyone is meant to die; and ultimately, as a human he could not even breach the essence of spirituality–why we find wonder, emotions, beauty, and pain in this world. The comet boy emerges from this anxiety as a spiritual messiah that is autobiographical in nature but also universally relatable.
The works presented in XOXO, comet boy use the imagery of masks, and the process of masking and revealing, to narrate a story about the power structures that form an individual’s identity–that of sexuality, religion, and racial politics. As such, the concept of borders pervades the works. Literal borders, and borders of the mind, of the body, and of one’s comfort–all confine an individual to an identity they must either claim as their own or reject.
Ultimately, the comet boy is revealed to be a mask of the artist himself; bestowing personal and cultural traumas to a fictional character as a way of reinventing and re-narrating memories, lived experiences, and his own sense of identity. The comet boy is an investigator and instigator; he confronts the paradoxes of Lee’s life and, removed from having lived those experiences, objectively reassembles memories in an attempt to resolve the many conflicting hemispheres of thought contained within.
The character confronts the artist’s human anxieties–love, dreams, desires, and fears- from a more universal perspective: what do all these mortal concerns mean in the context of death? Once the inevitable and unidirectional trajectory of a life is realised, then borders cease to exist: borders on religion, identity, sexuality, borders of skin, of life, of migration. The comet boy is an ideal vehicle for the artist to explore and address these universal anxieties in this exhibition.
From 23rd to 26th February, Timothy Hyunsoo Lee will participate in the Open Studio festival, opening his studio to the public, professionals and collectors. Sabrina Amrani will also present works by Timothy Hyunsoo Lee at her booth in ARCOmadrid, and will offer an ARCOgallery Brunch Friday 1st March with the presence of the artist.
Watch Before You Fall is a statement directed at women as they enter the public sphere in Saudi Arabia today. These words carry a prediction that anticipates an act before it happens; a prophecy based on the inference of having no control over the fate of our next step—where women are asked to 'watch' as they fall.
In this collection of artworks AlDowayan examines the imagery and titles used on the covers of books written by men for women: books that claim to help guide women as they exit their private spaces and enter a public sphere that, according to the authors, belongs to men. On these book covers, women are often portrayed as translucent mute silhouettes and men represented as predator animals. The images are cloaked with fabric in the form of curtains eternally floating in the breeze, dense wood Mashrabiyas or a single flower standing delicately poised, waiting to wither away.
These books are slowly disappearing from shops and bookstands across the country. New laws in Saudi Arabia have banned rhetoric against women in an attempt to create a safer space for both genders to engage. Today women are entering the public space with enthusiasm and courage. Have they reconciled with their past? Are they allowed to forget? In Watch Before You Fall the artist investigates the symbols on the covers of these books and their relationship to fear and control: their fragility and their power.
The show opens with the work Watch Before You Fall (2019), a fabric sculpture that represents a desert rose with printed text—taken from a religious book instructing women how to behave when going shopping—on it. The text is filled with sentences like beware of the wolves (demonising the male), watch before you fall (referring to sin) and many exclamation marks, symbolising a lecturing and almost shouting voice. The artist has created this sculpture with flaps and folds that can resemble the female genitals, enlarging the whole structure to empower the symbolic shape over the words spoken to women: the texts are thus consumed, hidden by the shape of the flaps of the suspended sculpture.
Inspired by works of many female artists who used textile and stuffed fabric structures in the past as a mean to heal their past and address very intimate narratives -like Louse Bourgeois, Dorothea Tanning or Magdalena Abakanowicz- Manal AlDowayan has created by weaving, sewing, and stuffing herself a series of soft sculptures and fabric Totems (2019) that constantly need to be moved and adjusted; destroyed and reconstructed. They are delicate and susceptible to collapse at any moment, but their resilience is in their softness and agility. All of the artwork surfaces are printed with statements and images from religious books and address stories that have been fragmented, broken into multiple shapes. Re-arranging them the images become invisible and purely aesthetical forms, allowing the artist to take power and control over the message. In their reconstruction AlDowayan attempts to create a new narrative that reconciles what is, what has been, what can be, and what will be.
These soft sculptures are sometimes topped with delicate porcelain paper and the archeologically ephemeral desert rose, as spiritual offerings to these totems. This offering is full of questions and symbols too, in both their medium and their shape.
The artist decided to work with the desert rose because it is an archeological wonder that has existed for centuries but really has no scientific documentation because of its ephemeral existence. In the works I Wonder Do You See Me? (2019) and I am here (2019), Manal uses the rose as a symbol of the relationship between visible and the invisible, creating a permanent image of a continuously disappearing object while addressing the wilting rose used on the religious books covers and replacing it with a new type of rose. The sand roses are engraved by the artist hand using a question and an answer—as is usual in the artist’s practice—as a strategy to involve the viewer and make them participant of the artwork.
The porcelain papers are reproductions of the content of the mentioned religious books, printed on porcelain to give them a permanent but delicate existence. Titled Just Paper (2018), these works show the fragility of the words they hold, and also make an appearance in the series of works Suspended Palms (2019), a series of woven strips suspended from a golden palm tree which has been partially covered with black string. Here, as in the totems, AlDowayan plays again with the fragmentation of the story and the spiritual offering for a healing process.
In cue with her previous works, AlDowayan uses the representation of human limbs in the sculpture installation The Emerging (2018), a group of 11 women legs that appear to emerge from the floor. This work follows the idea of women exiting and entering a sphere, a space, a new environment. This legs have not fully emerged, just slightly, but they seem ready to kick out to jump through. Finally, the show closes with several paintings on canvas, titled also The Emerging (2019), with the same idea represented bi-dimensionally.
With a clear and strong message, the whole show and what it addresses is relatable to a current worldwide phenomena where women rights are being revisited and re-debated after discovering that questions we thought were sorted out, specially in the West, are far from being resolved.