Three Pavilions. Three Artists.

 

British Pavilion. Sarah Lucas. I Scream DADDIO

Australian Pavilion. Fiona Hall. Wrong Way Time

Romanian Pavilion. Adrian Ghenie. Darwin’s Room

56th International Art Exhibition--La Biennale di Venezia 2015

 

By Floriana Piqué

Openly provocative and extremely exciting, Sarah Lucas’ new in-situ installation surprises the viewer from the Pavilion’s Portico with Gold Cup Maradona, 2015, a giant custard yellow sculpture of assembled body parts.

 

“My overall conception for the show is that it should have the appearance of a dessert. A confection.”

 

A similar sculpture, also in cast resin, Deep Cream Maradona, 2015, awaits us in Room 1, walls painted in a slightly different hue of yellow, the Deep Cream Yellow indeed.

 

Non-male, non-female, these resulting bodies seem to represent, at first approach, some gigantic totemic forms

“Since the first euphoric moment … when it occurred to me that the pavilion should be yellow throughout, I’ve been searching for the perfect one”.

 

All the Rooms of the Pavilion are painted in yellow, a colour that is here exalted by the Venetian light and helps to increase the effect of estrangement.

 

When the visitor enters the Rooms, the first impression is astonishment then, suddenly, quite in contrast, a group of works is revealed, works defined despite being undefined. Headless and armless, these are white casts of lower human bodies, of real people, whose identities as Lucas’ friends or muses are declared in the titles: Pauline, Sadie, Me, Edith, Patricia….

 

Slouching on a chair, climbing a piece of furniture or wrapped around a household appliance these limbs suggest an action frozen in time while retaining all the power of the paused act.

 

“I woke up with a thought about a piece of mine … It was a cast of the lower half of my body sitting on a table, one leg up and one dangling, the vagina sporting a cigarette”.

 

The human life as it is always intended by Sarah Lucas, the use of a part for the whole and the ironic, omnipresent cigarette butt – here poking out of various orifices – are all allusions and clues to where the path of her research is leading.

In the newest national Pavilion in Giardini, the Australian, the first built in this century, Fiona Hall creates a huge, mesmerizing, very ambitious installation. As in a Wunderkammer, the artist mixes and stratifies three themes: Global Politics, World Finances, Environment, becoming one of the few to directly participate and respond to the intentions and the title of this 56th edition of the Biennale – All The World’s Future – proposed by the director Okwui Enwezor.

 

The unifying measure of Hall’s vivid imagination is a long meditation on Time as extension of the Present, the Now.

 

Wrong Way Time, the installation title, refers to numerous clocks aligned along the walls, chiming the hours; some are painted over in white, some have texts, statements of protest.

 

The title extends to all the objects, a myriad, and with this Hall seems to implicitly convey to us the feeling that we are at the tipping point in our History.

 

Skulls painted in white are on different surfaces and objects, a memento mori, a presence of an absence also re-affirmed by knitted ghostly masks in motion, revolving their gaze to follow the viewer.

Small sculptures of imaginary creatures are the product of the collaborative project of Fiona Hall and the Tjanpi Desert Weavers, a community of Aboriginal women that together live, dance, sing, weave and sculpt grass and fibre.

 

The installation is completed by wide glass cabinets filled with different kinds of objects. 

Among these objects, series of banknotes selected and juxtaposed on the base of the images they represent: landscapes modified by man with industrial activities.

 

Hall’s interest in the medium of exchange – money- is evident also in the works she made with shredded dollar bills. Her most recent realization in this material, present here, are bird’s nests. 

 

The artist doesn’t want to give answers; on the contrary, recalling the impelling of Now, she wants to urge us to deal with these issues. 

 

The Romanian Pavilion is a celebration of painting, distilled in Darwin’s Room, by Adrian Ghenie, three Rooms restored to the original configuration of the pavilion built in 1938.

 

Ghenie, born in 1977 in Baia Mare, is one of the artists of what is known as the School of Cluj, an artistic community centred at the vibrant venue the Paintbrush Factory.

 

Three themes -The Tempest, The Portrait Gallery, The Dissonances of History – one for each Room, illustrate the direction and the inspiration of Ghenie’s work.

 

The most recent works, The Storm, 2015 and Black Flag, 2015, constitute a summa of the artist’s progress in his technique and at the same time in his philosophical speculation on the concept of evolution that runs through his entire oeuvre since the beginning.

From a very somber, darkish palette the artist developed a variety of colours and a complexity of composition that leads at present towards abstraction.

 

The distortion of The Portraits – the faces- is a combination of accumulation of images, stratification of books, catalogues in the artist’s mind waiting to be re-elaborated and released together with a technique that uses less brushstrokes more splatter, scraping, and dripping.

 

The presence of Darwin here is not because of the theory of evolution or its subsequent distortions for racial and political purposes, but is mainly to underline how the strength of ideas can contribute to change the World and Life.

 

© Floriana Piqué May 2015

 

Sarah Lucas’ British Council commission is at la Biennale di Venezia from

9 May until 22 November 2015.

www.britishcouncil.org/visualarts.

All images: Copyright the artist, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London.

 

 

Floriana Piqué is an art critic and independent curator. She lives and works in London.

 

Adrian Ghenie’s installation Darwin’s Room for the Romanian Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale

Photo by Mathias Schormann, courtesy the artist and the Romanian Pavilion

Installation view, Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, British Pavilion,

56th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale, 09 May – 22 November 2015

Installation view, Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, British Pavilion,

56th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale, 09 May – 22 November 2015

Installation view, Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, British Pavilion,

56th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale, 09 May – 22 November 2015

Installation view, Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, British Pavilion, 

56th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale, 09 May – 22 November 2015

Fiona Hall, Vaporised 2014, Australian pavilion, Venice Biennale 2015.

Photograph by Christian Corte. Image courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney. © The artist.

Fiona Hall, Wrong Way Time, Installation View, Australian pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2015. Photograph by Christian Corte.

Image courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.© The artist.

Fiona Hall, All the King's Men 2014-15 (detail), Australian pavilion, Venice Biennale 2015.

Photograph by Christian Corte. Image courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney. © The artist.

Adrian Ghenie’s installation Darwin’s Room for the Romanian Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale

Photo by Mathias Schormann, courtesy the artist and the Romanian Pavilion