William Kentridge: Tango For Page Turning, 2012-2013. Single Chanel HD video. Picture courtesy of Galleria Lia Rumma Milan/Naples.
Whenever we come across a line, what we see might well be some kind of barrier or boundary dividing one space from one or more others. However, if we think beyond it as that enough to breach it, a whole world of possibilities opens up before us. When we walk the line, the boundaries disappear and another unexplored, unexpected path opens up.
Walk The Line: drawing through in contemporary art is a stroll through a collection of artworks dedicated to the delineation of a segment, its texture and its trail. If a line indeed symbolizes the most primitive of artistic expressions, the suite of works exhibited here takes up that original remit: drawing as the essential principal of artwork. This principle is neither its only means nor its end, though; the artists here employing various supplementary media such as video, collage, photography and photogravure.
Namely: Irma Blank, Tatiana Blass, Tacita Dean, William Kentridge, Idris Khan, Matt Mullican, Óscar Muñoz, Hans Op de Beeck, Nancy Spero and José Antonio Suárez Londoño are a select group who made a visit to the always interesting exhibition calendar at the Bernal Espacio gallery in Madrid unmissable in February 2016.
The line is the basis of all the pieces included in this exhibition and, as the inhabitants of Flatland, A Romance of Many Dimensions (Edwin Abbott Abbott's 1884 novella) seem, at first glance, to exist simply on one single line apparently trapped within one single plane. However, if we use our senses as differentiation tools, the lines can be seen to create shapes that take on unsuspected dimensions. And, if we hone them further, we can even notice how those shapes expand to reveal and relate ever more complex universes.
Irma Blank. Radical Writings, Vademecum VI, 1994. Ballpoint pen on paper. Courtesy of: Gregor Podnar, Berlin / P420, Bolonia.
This intermediate state between the exact and the diffuse, between the real and the utopic, is perhaps best appreciated in the large format drawings of the Belgian artist Hans Op de Beck. Composed especially for this exhibition and, as is habitual in his work, Op de Beck references routines, the places, the scenes and the scenery that exist, only to transport us to a different dimension in which time and space are altered and rendered absurd.
A drawing is understood to be the most intimate of artforms and a perfect technique both to express the deepest of feelings and to allow deep introspection. Both of these can be seen in the constant reflection and writing down of each and every detail in José Antonio Suárez Londoño's diary under the heading "Not one day without a line"; or Nancy Spero focusing on injustice and vindicating the role of woman in her intimate but still intense works.
José Antonio Suárez Londoño. Untitled (1), 2015. Mixed media on paper. Courtesy of Bernal Espacio Gallery, Madrid.
This intimate aspect to drawing is combined with the force of video in William Kentridge's flipbook film “Tango for page turning”. The piece came about from a series of conversations about the history of how time has been controlled throughout the world, relativity, black holes and string theory that, with a fluid stroke, are drawn into an essay on the pages of time with accompanying images that jump from the page in an ungrammatical language that opens up way beyond the meaning of words.
Then there is Irma Blank's non-verbal graphicism that defies human codification and her exploration of the relationship between written and visual languages, a theme also examined by Tatiana Blass, while Matt Mullican and Idris Khan's pencils trace the language of emotion.
Idris Khan. Disappearing Line. 2015. Digital bromide mounted on aluminium. Courtesy of Thomas Schulte, Berlin.
The gesture of writing as a way of life is reflected also in British artist Tacita Dean's “More or less”, a title referencing Cy Twombly who, in response to a question about whether painting made him happy, replied with those same three words. Time, lines and existence lace through the work of Óscar Muñoz who depicts for us the passage of time and the ephemerality of human existence.
The work of the featured artists can be seen here thanks to a collaboration between Bernal Espacio and 10 international galleries. This partnering within the gallery sector emphasizes and reinforces the success of the whole artworld network in introducing lesser-know or little-known artists to Spain's exhibition scene and thereby to collectors and the general public alike.
However, the beauty of this exhibition is not just down to the calibre of the nine artists involved. It is also due to delicacy and astute skill in selecting the exhibition pieces, each one of which demonstrates the complexity of a technique and its possibilities. As the author says in his essay compilation “Berger On Drawing”, Walk The Line is a reflection on the difficulties entailed in the mastery of drawing, where the nod towards art becomes entangled with one's own lived experiences. I would highly recommend that you, too, take a walk on the line.
Galeria Bernal Espacio. 10 - 29 de February 2016.
(Translated from the Spanish by Shauna Devlin)
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