On 17th November 2017, I was, like a moth, instantly attracted to the bright lights of the Bruce Nauman exhibition (Tate Modern). His work demanded the viewer to (literally) take a step back and consider the purpose and context of his work. Nauman's extensive and imaginative use of media transmits a multitude of different ideas simultaneously. It is clear that his previous studies in Mathematics and Physics informed his practice and are a domineering influence on his work. One piece which caught my attention was 'Violins, Violence, Silence' (1981).
Violins, Violence, Silence
The artwork itself was made of coloured neon tubing with a clear glass suspension frame. As the letters overlap, it is hard to initially distinguish what the piece is actually conveying, proving rather disorientating. Additionally, the buzzing noise which accompanies the piece (originating from the neon tubing) is somewhat distracting. However, it is ironic that while reading 'violins' evokes a pure and unpolluted noise, in reality you are faced with a low, droning buzz. I enjoy the irony of Nauman's work and the complex ideas which lie behind the lights. There is much more to this piece than is initially apparent and I hope that other visitors to the gallery take the time to consider its complexity.
Another piece in the exhibition which caught my attention was 'Raw Material Washing Hands'(1996). The video, which documents one individual washing their hands constantly for 55 minutes is difficult viewing. It is reminiscent of a person suffering from obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) in which the individual is performing a routine repeatedly, as though it were a ritual. The video becomes painful to watch as we see the individuals skin being overworked by the soap and water and I must admit that although the video runs for just under an hour, I watched it for no longer than 10 minutes.
Raw Material Washing Hands,
After seeing Nauman's work, it is clear that he questions and stretches the boundaries of what it is to make art. He has purposefully left behind traditional notions of 'fine art' and has distanced himself from paint as a medium.
Lawrence Akin Gallery
On 22nd February, I visited the Lawrence Akin Gallery, near Tottenham Court Road. Standing at the entrance way, I immediately felt apprehensive, as it appeared, from the outside, to be a rather ostentatious establishment. Having visited a similarly small gallery previously, I was fearful that the atmosphere would be similarly pressured, however, fortunately, my preconceptions proved inaccurate.
Having descended down the stairs, one print caught my eye, Grayson Perry’s, Reclining Artist. The figure in the painting has the genitalia of both sexes and appears to be transgender. Because Perry is noted for his cross-dressing, I was curious as to whether the figure in the print was a depiction of both himself and his female alter-ego, Claire. This suspicion was later confirmed when, after some post-visit research, I found Perry’s own description of the print, in which he states that the piece is ‘both an idealized fantasy and also the messy reality.’ He also toys with the idea that in the work he is, perhaps, expressing his own desire to be a 'sex object.’
Reclining Artist ties in with my current focus and aids my investigation into the transgender community. Perry’s work contributes to the argument that gender and sex are not intrinsically intertwined and opens up discussions that are critical, as without such conversations the subject matter would never be breached. His work draws a comparison with a recent interview featured in Transgender Kids, where one transgender boy states that he wants to experience being both a woman and a man, as he believes that is the only way he can fully embrace and encompass his true identity. It is of course possible that, although rare, some transgender men and women do choose to keep the sexual organs they are born with instead of physically transitioning.
Following my visit to the Lawrence Akin Gallery, I became aware that this year Grayson Perry has challenged the students at UAL to design his graduation robes. His outfit does not have to be in accordance with the colours or designs normally attributed to the male sex, but can be anything. This is particularly exciting, as it stands as an example to both cisgender and non-binary students, showing that fashion, like art, can stretch boundaries set by now outdated notions of gender stereotyping.