Helen Marten

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Helen Marten
Photo by Andy Keate. Commissioned by Chisenhale Gallery.
Helen Marten, Plank Salad, exhibition view, Chisenhale Gallery, 2012

Helen Marten is well versed in the visual languages of the digital age. A sculptor working in the wake of great drifts of unruly digital material, her assemblages and installations are striated with the endless debris of stock photography and repeated designs typical of our super-networked times. In this outstanding show Marten's humorous artworks, all from 2012, represent an attempt to make sense of this discombobulating matter.

The list of materials collaged together for the sculpture 'Peanuts' includes 'greasy orange Valchromat', (a form of fibre board), sanded Formica, doughnuts and the titular nuts. This harmonised, glossy crossbreed of synthetic materials and perishables sits against 'Alive at Five', an installation of digitally printed wallpaper featuring olives. This foodie backdrop introduces a web of gastro metaphors navigated by Marten's sculptures, where the meanings of digital images are likened to being fatty or starchy or, as if dieting, as showing bones.

Perhaps the most arresting work is 'Geologic Amounts of Sober Time (Mozart Drunks)', in which the artist has screenprinted cartoon-like images of the composer's head on to great panels of leather and ostrich-skin fabric. From the base of each panel hang bottles of spirits, like the boozy fallout from a bout of creative hysteria.

With Marten's sculptures it's worth spending time with the details, pouring over the surfaces, their titles, their ill-fitting resonances and revelling in the frank unmanageability of all this matter.

THE BOTTOM LINE Sculptural mash-up of mixed metaphors that's proving a hit with the critics.


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