Thursday, March 01, 2007

Insignificance

Entering the Seventeen gallery for their current exhibition of Susan Collis’ work you might assume that the work never arrived. In a gallery space seemingly devoid of art Collis’ gives us an insight into our ideas of value, both artistic and otherwise. At various points around the walls and across the floors sit evidence of installation, it appears the art is either ready to be placed or has just been removed, we expect the gallery to be filled with objects ready to receive our judgements but in this particular case we can only see the insignificant marks and signals of what is to be or has just been. Take a close look at these insignificant splatters of paint, rawl plugs and screws imbedded in the walls and you will find that for once these insignificant markers and carriers of the art object are in fact the significant objects themselves.

Crafted from gemstones or precious metals are tiny facsimiles of the mundane by-products of gallery activity, they make you reflect on the nature of value, these precious materials are made precious by the value of the material from which they are crafted not by the object they are crafted into and as such carry an honesty and integrity. Is Collis’ playing with us?, all that space left essentially unfilled except for these disingenuous tiny fakes, are white silver screws, mother of pearl paint residues, rawl plugs from a variety of gemstones essentially the same as their poorer cousins in the DIY shop only more espensively dressed?, or perhaps as I felt whilst staring at these precious metal screws that they are tiny crafted objects of beauty and their poorer cousin objects just as beautiful too.

As a child I used to play with the bits and pieces littered around my Fathers tool cupboard. Collis’ reminds me of that small child sat on a dusty floor staring intently at every tiny reflection, shiny flaw and imperfection and minute detail of the collection of screws and nails that sat in boxes in this cupboard. I can only imagine the wonderment etched on my face as I turned that threaded piece of metal around my five year old fingers, perhaps this evening I had a similar look on my face as I peered at the tiny objects stuck in the walls of the Seventeen gallery.

There would have been a completely different expression on my face on leaving the Foundry some time later after seeing Russell Thoburn’s ‘A Fakes Progress’, I can barely describe the bafflement I feel. It is difficult to put into words an adequate description of Thoburn’s artwork, in fact is difficult to determine where Thoburn the person ends and the artwork starts, especially as I get the feeling that he doesn’t actually know himself. On face value Thoburn seems to have received a small amount of noteriety by turning a by-product of an event attended by Charles Saatchi into a sculpture, in this case a kart engine driven by Saatchi that was removed by Thoburn and displayed as a sculpture, covered by the tabloid press this event ten years ago meant that the then art student Thoburn brushed shoulders with a part of the artworld that he has desperately pursued ever since. At The Foundry Thoburn is showing a series of private view cards, scraps of paper and envelopes which detail correspondence between himself and a number of art world figures. Considering himself an outsider he attempts to elevate himself into the upper echelons of the art world. He appears to have faked letters and emails from more established artists in order to encourage dealers and gallerists to visit his studio, he has blagged entry to various art related events and gallery openings. Now you might ask why this is the case as it is generally fairly easy to blag entry to these things anyway but that may not be enough for Russell, passing himself off as Alex James (Blur) and others in written correspondence with the likes of Victoria Miro and Jay Jopling to gain entry to gallery openings, after parties and the like. Even for this evenings opening in his press release he likens himself to Ryan Gander and uses a quote from Matthew Higgs about Gander’s work to explain his own. In Thoburn’s world he name drops, Saatchi, Gary Hume, Damien Hirst, Jay Jopling, Abigail Lane, Matthew Higgs and Victoria Miro.

Whether this is an elaborate hoax deliberately created by Thoburn to fool us or a real campaign to navigate his way to the upper tier of the art world is unclear but two things are clear. Fake, rake or genuine outsider Thoburn has become a stalker not of people but of a misguided concept and he has turned his life into a documentary, unfortunately he appears to have forgotten to invite the camera crew.

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