Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Songs of Terror and Violence

Terrorism and violence seem to pervade our collective thoughts at the moment. Two exhibitions covering more disturbing aspects of modern life are currently running in Shoreditch.
At Flowers East on Kingsland Road you can see John Keane's paintings of the October 2002 siege at a Moscow theatre by Chechen terrorists/freedom fighters. Ultimately many hostages were killed and the issues of Chechen independence were brought forcefully to the wider Russian population. Keane’s paintings take documentary and newsreel footage and render them as muddy, distorted images invoking the experience of the detached viewer observing the events through a television screen.
Paint, varnish, pieces of collaged paper and lettering combine under Keane’s gritty touch to create a variety of images of the siege. The paintings are of varying scale from very large canvases to small wooden plaques, all of these are powerful images and are wonderful paintings. Titles such as ‘Then he said to me "Mum I really don’t want to die"’ and ‘I saw them weeping but they tried to hide their tears’ will leave you in no doubt of the power of the subject matter.

A short walk form Kingsland Road to Hoxton Square is the exhibition at White Cube by Liza Lou. Lou’s sculptures seem to cover more personal doubts and fears. Arresting and violent imagery is barely sweetened by applying a veneer of sparkly glass beads. In the downstairs gallery 2 figurative sculptures and ‘scaffold’, a tree branch protruding from the wall may well be powerful imagery. Unfortunately they detract from the visually arresting and magnetic quality of ‘security fence’, a large chain link cage topped with razor wire, Lou would have succeeded with this piece without the distracting effect of her other pieces.
Just outside the main gallery in a small alcove is the piece ‘stairway to heaven’, a noose is suspended above a bucket. Upstairs is another figurative sculpture but to your right is an opening in the wall, you poke your head through into a cell. Even the dirt that has dripped and collected on the cell’s floor and walls is appliqued glass beads. The horror and vulnerability in all these images is tempered by the twinkly surface rendering, I am sure I could hazard a guess as to why Lou has used this technique but to me the imagery is more important. The conflict between the real and the fictional hollywood horrors that these images may have come from are still bouncing around my head.

The film of the year so far is the wonderful but disturbing ‘Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada’. Tommy Lee Jones stars and directs. Pete Perkins (Jones) embarks on a journey to return his murdered friend, Melquiades, to his family back in Mexico. The film jumps from present to past and back again to show the story of Melquiades arrival in Texas, his friendship with Pete and the circumstances of his death. Perkins kidnaps the border guard responsible for his friends death and forces him to help him return his friend. The film neatly weaves the story of the main protaganists relationships with their partners, friends and neighbours to build a picture of their personalities and the landscape that shapes them.
Issues of Mexican/US immigration, migrant workers, US foreign policy and the more marginal territories of the US & the needs of their population subtly simmer under the main story. America hasn’t looked so beautiful and bleak for a while. This film is a must see and the echoes of ‘Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia’ shout loud.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home