'Poems are like sentences that have taken their clothes off.' Marlene Dumas' poetic and sensual refrain accompanies her figurative watercolours on view in Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life, the fourth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) in the southern state of Kerala, India (12 December 2018–29 March 2019).Dumas' new series...
The paintings of Ellen Altfest are ethereal in their detail. Fields of minutiae come together as pulsating images; small brushstrokes of oil paint accumulate over a series of months to single out seemingly innocuous subjects, such as a hand resting atop patterned fabric (The Hand, 2011) or a deep green cactus reaching upwards from beneath a bed of...
On the rooftop of the former Rio Hotel complex in Colombo, it was hard to ignore the high-rise buildings, still under construction, blocking all but a sliver of what used to be an open view over Slave Island, once an island on Beira Lake that housed slaves in the 19th century, and now a downtown suburb. The hotel was set alight during the...
So works with ceramic and wool, creating sculptural and knitted portraits that suggest a multiplicity of lineages and styles. Barbuto, So’s first exhibition in New Zealand, includes three new ceramic sculptures and two large textile works.
So’s ceramic busts are built piecemeal from the base upward, borrowing conceits from military and aristocratic portraiture, theatre costuming, and ritual masks of ancient civilizations. Often crowned by curled wigs that seamlessly descend into honeycomb beards, So’s faces are structured by browlines reminiscent of gladiator helmets and facial features scoured into the clay surface like primitive artifacts. The trio of busts in Barbuto are characteristic of So’s recent sculpture – larger, more abstract, and black in colour, with doubled and rotated faces that echo the graphic logic of playing card royals.
The origins of the characters in So’s intarsia knitting are similarly elusive. Elements of their garb remember European Orientalism – especially the stark geometric reductions of avant-garde costume design – while their ornamental beards and headwear are those of turn-of-the-century dandies.
Created to near life-size scale with an economy of colour, So’s work has been described as both ‘totemic and universal’ and simultaneously of the past and the future. Her familiar forms, drawn from a range of sources and deftly combined, have the tendency to collapse into something far less stable, ultimately suggesting a more slippery, transitional relationship between culture and representation.
Renee So (b. 1974, Hong Kong) lives and works in London. Over the past few years, as well as making solo shows at Kate MacGarry, London (2012, 2009); Hopkinson Mossman (2011); and Uplands Gallery, Melbourne (2008, 2010), So’s work has been included in group exhibitions such as: One Day, Something Happens: Paintings Of People (curated by Jennifer Higgie), The Arts Council Collection, Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds (2015); Selected By (curated by Michael Marriott and Jesse Wine), Limoncello, London (2014); A Conspiracy of Detail, Mackintosh Museum, Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow (2013); Newspeak: British Art Now, Saatchi Gallery, London, and The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia (2010/2011); The Keno Twins 4, Villa Merkel und Bahnwärterhaus, Esslingen (2011); Opera Rock, Musee de Art Contemporain de Bordeaux, Bordeaux (2008); and SV07, Studio Voltaire, London (2007).
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