Cerith Wyn Evans: No Realm of Thought… No Field of Vision review

Art, Contemporary art Free
3 out of 5 stars
Cerith Wyn Evans: No Realm of Thought… No Field of Vision review
© Cerith Wyn Evans. Photo © White Cube (Ollie Hammick)

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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Cerith Wyn Evans’s work looks impressive. His big, sprawling, humming white neons are real eye-pleasers. Their splintered, chaotic composition sits somewhere between hectic randomness and studied composition. You search them for patterns as they thrum and vibrate and fill the room.

And they’re not just pretty shapes. Written into their lines and curves are early twentieth-century designs for helicopters by Paul Cornu and the shadows cast by Marcel Duchamp’s famous bicycle-wheel sculpture at MoMA. Movement and the play of light, all frozen in a discombobulating moment.

A neon curtain made of Japanese kanji is a translation of a Proust description of a fountain (another Duchamp nod); a series of glass panels scream with screeching improvised sounds opposite crystal flutes hanging from the ceiling that emit clashing but gentle notes.

There’s inspiration taken from experimental classical music and Japanese Noh theatre here, but it’s Marcel Duchamp who looms largest. He’s the inspiration for the room of shattered folding screens and windshields as well as those neons.

Don’t get me wrong, all of these works are nice, but Evans is dealing with the same concerns that artists were dealing with back in the 1950s and ’60s. It feels a little old hat. Movement, light, Duchamp, improvisation – this could’ve been made half a century ago. If you’re being generous, you’d say that these are eye-tingling works that play with shape and form. But if you’re being a bit harsher, you might say that with all of its palm trees and bare walls, walking into the exhibition feels like entering the world's worst stocked Habitat.

And don’t even bother with the works on paper. They’re so weak and inoffensive that they’ve come full circle and are now offensive.

But look, there’s a lot to like in Cerith Wyn Evans’s work. His neons play on the eyes, his sound works set your ears on edge, his installations are minimal, calm, conflicted. A lot of these are gorgeous works of art, they just promise a conceptual punch that never quite lands.

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