Monday, March 12, 2018

The Degree Show

Just like breathing in and out, my most recent work is both large and small; it is taken from experiences in real space, large space, and condensed into a small, intimate memory. This is why I painted this series in a miniature format but choose to exhibit on an intense, coloured, large wall. If I showed them on a white wall they would have been swallowed up by it. I wanted them to have a striking visual impact both from far away and up close.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Oil Pastel on Monoprint Series

The technique used for the series emerged out of a time when I was experimenting with various techniques of how to present my work. I wanted to frame my drawings without the traditional Passe Partout, so I learned how to monoprint solid layers of ink, sometimes with gradients, to use as backdrops for my drawings and paintings on paper. I had a lot of these monoprinted papers left over, so I took them along with some oil pastels that I had since I was six years old to a party, to see what sort of drawings would emerge out of these materials and the social atmosphere.

These are the drawings I made that night.


This drawing is of a person whose name I forgot whom I met briefly at this party and asked to pose for a couple of minutes for me. In a way, I don't mind not knowing their name anymore, because for me they are the most perfect embodiment of my favourite type of nose, the aquiline. I delight in the jump of the line of such a nose when I draw it, it makes my heart skip a beat when I see it. 

These two drawings were followed by many more. 


This is one of the countless drawings I have been making this year of my fellow artist and best friend, Tess Glen. Following is an excerpt of a text she wrote about the Modern Woman, which we both identify as. 

In the bedsit, the decoration is fiendish. Velveteen beige walls and mint skirting boards. But there is a way in which everything is here in this room – pinned to the wall like colour swatches, all of her experiences, encounters, relationships. Her modest room has become regal to her. Adorned with a dried opulence.

In front of this backdrop, The Modern Woman isn't sure how to be idle. She sponges the floor where the dirt has been scribbled in. Once finished, she will lay herself down on the tiles and look up at the light fittings, imagining love. To make these thoughts more interesting she has been reading romantic novels and in one passage she has found a perfect companion, a sensitive young American called Chandler, who she sometimes picnices with before bedtime. Spread out there, she laughts like a drain when he tells her about his truly 'mad whack' boss at the department store where he works. 

The weather brings on fits of neglect. The Modern Woman stands naked in the kitchen in front of drapes, smoking at the window, or embroidering. In these spells she imagines herself as a woman in a painting. This bothers her. She feels naivety rise up in her, then to the patterns reverberating around the room. Her world is really quite padded.

At night the bedsit is lit up in a fog. A fridge of pastel drapes; ghosts of old colour schemes hang in the air. The Modern Woman looks at the phone ... most of her friends, she's decided, could use a two year break from her. Shes's hungry though, and so, in an uncharacteristic decisive impulse, she decides to visit the corner shop downstairs.

Defending her title as a Modern Woman, she steps out the door, without a glance in the mirror. 

Drawing of a doll by Louise Bourgeois at the Tate Modern

This is one of the also countless drawings I made this year of my fellow artist Eoin McEvoy. It shows him sitting in one of Edinburgh's more bohemian pubs called Paradise Palms, replying to a question he was asked by another friend of ours about what his perfect day would be like. He says that he never had a perfect day and can't even imagine what it would be like. 

 Soft White 

I have been keeping a written diary since I was ten, but have switched to making my drawings be my way of keeping a diary. This transition was completed when I decided to burn my last written diary because it lacked the positivity of my drawings. I did this because I aim to portray life as when I saw the most beautiful sight I ever saw – A sunset out of my studio window in Gothenburg years ago that was like a pink and orange zebra, all over the sky. Recently I found out that more pollution in the atmosphere correlates with more orange sunsets, which made this experience even more intense for me because its beauty contained that terrible truth.

The phrase in this drawing is a response and promise to my mother, who told me I have to stop feeling guilty about things I did, that I ought to stop eating my heart. It is a vibrant drawing with this thought behind it, and therefore rings true. 

This was drawn at a dinner party at the house of two artist friends of mine. We all just graduated this year from art school and most of us are still figuring out what to do next, and so this picture shows two of my friends sitting about and smoking thoughtfully. One of their projects is to make the large cupboard room next door into a Death Room. It is based on their research into a victorian man who had a room in his mansion that he used solely to contemplate death in. 


Now I am working on continuing this series with my new set of green monoprint paper.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Rounded marble forms remain,

the silken turn of the obliques,

the glutes,

a thigh,

the graspable circumference of the neck,

an unsmiling cheek,

and half-hidden spheres of eyeballs without colour

as if turned inward;

huddling up in every way to brave the passing of millennia

to outlive the passionate maker’s hand
with a dull life

seen and loved

but remaining cool
to the touch.

Hips tilting in a contrapposto,

yet there is no buoyancy in the flesh

and any abuse breaks you.

What force of nature found offence in the straightness of your nose?

Such a hit would render mine bent,
but you would rather abandon all than bear imperfection.

Yet I see that in this absence there is still the presence of completeness.

Like a beautiful noseless skull

I try to reconstruct who you were and regret

how I will never know all of you

and you cannot know me.


Tess Glen and I have an exhibition up at Edinburgh University's Coffee Shop Baristo. The show goes on till the end of August, so if you are around during the Fringe festival have a look.

Just dozing a little ...

Saturday, August 1, 2015


The Eavesdrop -

In conversation with
Bog Polanco 
an actor and a poet
over Skype
interview conducted and illustrations by Lana Svirejeva  

Lana- It’s really good to have this opportunity to talk to you again. We should be really happy about the digital age, shouldn’t we?

Bog- Definitely.

L- The first thing I was curious about was your name. It’s so unusual. Would you care to tell us where it comes from and whether it has a meaning? 

B- I’d love to tell you what Bog Polanco means. I guess it’s a personal name but not the one that my mum gave me. It’s almost a sign of creating something I love, it’s a name of two stages of adulthood really. The two years that changed my life, 2003 and 2013. I was born on the 3rd of October. I’m a very numbers-based person, so my name is based on numbers and one thing that happened in 2003 and one thing in 2013. They’re names from those years pulled together, smashed together. I like being Bog Polanco because of those years. 

L- Good reasons surely. Your Russian viewers will be intrigued by your name since Bog is their word for God. And you are blessed with looking a lot like Jesus, how curiously fitting! 

B- I do often dream of the black sea and see frothy waves. And religion in other countries is something I always think of. I like the idea of waking up early and worshipping like England in the olden days. 

L- So are you more of a nostalgic kind of person who believes in universal beauty or are you more into being a progress-oriented person of today? 

B- I’m definitely the first kind of person that you mentioned, naturally. Someone that trusts so much in the past and trusts so much in what has been paved for us. I don’t overly respect the ground that I work on but I’m forever curious about where it’s coming from. Like where these colours come from, where this paper comes from, where the little thing that you tear off to open bags. And doors and hinges and everything like that. I really think about all that stuff naturally. But to be modern and to be someone of the future is something that I really had to force on myself. I really want to be trusting of the future and things that are moving forward but it’s something that I really have to think about because it’s not natural for me. I guess I get cosy in older thoughts and ideals and it’s exciting to bring myself onto this planet we live in today which is modern. 

L - Yes, it’s a bit overwhelming nowadays. Ever since Modernism happened there’s a bit of a pressure of having to be modern. I think one shouldn’t try to be original and unique because one is naturally - Because you are alive today and anything you make with sincerity would probably turn out to be what it means to be alive today. 

B- Yeah. But maybe in a rare case not. Whatever happens you can’t change what time you’re in. 

L- It’s a shame we don't have recordings of actors from thousands of years ago like we have art from ancient Egypt and whatnot through which we can get the vibe of the culture. Are you excited about our age where one can film how you’re acting on stage and that people in a hundred years will be able to see it? 

B- That’s a beautiful question to ask because I always think about the history books and it will be interesting how it will be with more communication and more recording that you’ll be able to understand everyone right down to how fast their fingernails grow. And whether that is necessary, does that kill a lot of the mystery you have for people? You put people in photo frames made out of hearts but really you know nothing about them and that’s quite fabulous because you can turn them into something they don’t want to be. You create a mystery about someone because they’re outside of your life, they’re outside of your family, your bricks and mortar, it’s on the outside, a creative expression out there rather than in your house. So you get to create things about that. But then you see something so modern and you seem to have an understanding of it by experience of over-defining of a heroine in your mind - it’s telling you something homely, into your house, into your bed and it’s the way you see them in your dreams. 

L- That’s one of the feats of internet, that you have all of this information and this art practically in your house and you can connect with it as if it was your own. What are some of the things you enjoy exploring on the internet? 

B- Haha, did you write this question down? 

L- No. 

(both chuckle)

B- That’s a great question, I feel weird answering it! I like a lot of stuff but the one thing that I like that my mate showed me recently is Deviant Art. Oh my God, she showed me the freaks on that. It was at her house and we were on our sofa and she had her laptop out and was like ‘oh, I’ll show you some of my poems and some photographs that I took as well’ and then we went on this freaky old website full of like, I don’t know, like pixies, that’s what I imagine the people in the Deviant Art community are, little pixies and really brightly coloured things and it’s like a little world, the internet in a forest! It’s not a computer world it’s nature connecting and the people there are kind of out of this worldy, it feels like the countryside of the internet. Digital expression, that’s what I really enjoy looking at at the moment. I see things and maybe I think of Asia in some sort of way as well and maybe people almost hiding themselves in their internet identity and I think that’s beautiful. 

L- Are you researching a lot of Asian culture since you’re moving to Vietnam soon?

B- I wouldn’t say researching out of my way but Asia is always on my mind because I guess since I’m such a open person I explain everything to my best friends too much, I get inspired by how many asian people there are and the culture of it. And I kind of imagine their world to be horizontal, noble, and balanced. It’s like balancing a plate on my head and I want to balance myself out more with some nobleness and stuff like that. 

L- That’s curious what you said about horizontals because you’re living in Edinburgh now and there’s a lot of Gothic architecture and spires everywhere going upwards because the religious culture was reaching for the heavenly. In art if you have many horizontals it creates a feeling of calm in a painting. Do you expect to find inner peace in Asia then?

B- That’s a beautiful, beautiful thing to say, wow. Yeah, well I think Edinburgh is as vertical as you can be you know, it’s cold, there’s always the sky that looks better than the ground. It’s really narrow, you’re right, it’s the ultimate vertical place. And am I searching for inner peace? I guess I’m looking for a change of pace in the horizontalness. Going sideways. And I guess that’s reflective in some sort of uncertainties that I have. I guess most people have some horizontal bar, but I want some horizontal restlessness. 

L- I suppose you’ll be able to find it, whizzing around on a moped among the crowds, no one really knowing what they’re doing but doing it anyway.

B- Yeah, it’s scary.

L- How did you decide to just go there, did you have a moment or was it a gradual decision? How did you come up with it, how does that happen? 

B- I’ve always, for a long time definitely, since I was a child, felt the urge to be in Asia but always thought it would be in Japan. With the really wet seasons, really big raindrops is what I imagined. Just being in Japan and maybe seeing modern stuff, everything being really clean. I guess as I got older, I don’t know if I did it to myself, but I think naturally I’m quite a scrappy person and all over the place - While I dream of being among pristine stuff I am quite all over the place. I’m attempting to be it now through that and how it excites me through how it’s growing. To feel in love with my generation I have to be in something that’s growing, and I think Vietnam will offer that to me more. So that’s going to be a move I am going to have to force upon myself like I was saying earlier that I have to force modern stuff on me, so I guess that’s an aspect of that as well. 

L- Since you mention growing, where do you expect yourself as an actor to grow, what’s a dream of the direction you want to go into as an individual? 

B- As an individual or an actor? 

L- Oh, is there a difference then? 

B- Yeah, oh right, I mean wow, now you’re making me think. Yeah, definitely. 

L- I suppose that’s because if you’re an actor you’re not really yourself then? 

B- To be an actor, to really improve upon it, you ought to be on form, as an actor you really have to be thinking about being outside of yourself a lot. If I wanted to be overly-reflective all the time then I never would be in much of an acting mood. But I guess I’d be in a reflective mode and that would be quite interesting. I wouldn’t be against it. At the moment I want to be sliced up, be in the next slice because I want to be doing so many wee things that I love, be someone else in all the poems that I write, and the characters I create that aren’t me, and I guess I’m still learning who that is really.  I’m not comfortable enough to talk about me being Tim you know? I was born in 1991 in Poole, in an expression that I’m not ready for. 

L- Has Poole shaped you in some way then? 

B- I guess so in the sense that I still can’t understand the identity I have from it. Something I need to love more. It’s always been a rather funny place for me growing up. Something to mock. 

L- What about it did you mock? 

B- It just didn’t suit my thoughts. My thoughts wouldn’t rest there. If I went there today it would be weird. And comfortable at the same time. I know exactly what I’d do. I’d go to Wilkinson’s and would come out with some stationary and a Lucozade or something like that and then I’d go visit the Clipper Cafe and I would just get an old person’s meal and a really scrappy cup of coffee and a big dessert. Then I’d go to the cassette shop because they’ve really good posters and cassettes there and then I’d go to the record shop and then I’d go to the arcade. And then I’d go and pick up my mum from work and drive home. 

L- Would that be a perfect day? 

B- I have learned to have the perfect day in Poole. I had always thought that there would be another place that it would be better elsewhere but I have to understand that that is the place that raised me as a young person. I always thought that you can create your home and identity anywhere but I think I’ve denied the fact that I am a person of Poole for such a long time. 

L- Now that you’re moving around the world do you think you’ll move elsewhere after Vietnam or will you settle there? 

B- (long silence) No, I don’t think I’ll settle. How about you? 

L- Me? I definitely want to settle someday because I want to live in a place I love and know every single street and corner of and have a huge home where everyone is always welcome and can stay in whenever they want, however long they want, like at the my teacher’s, the master painter Odd Nerdrum’s, home and studio. Also, I need a lot of wall space for my art. My room now has not a single free spot on the wall. I want every painting to have it’s own little space where it’s easy to look at. In Stockholm there is this place called Millesgarden that was built by a sculptor and his painter wife. This home of theirs is filled with antique sculptures along with their art with a garden they designed full of his sculptures and fountains. You go there and you feel the spirit of their art because that’s where they made it. It’s their little microcosmos of art. I want to create something like that. 

B- Like a swimming pool of your own stuff. 

L- Like a museum almost too. Just opening another place for people to go and become inspired in. Because museums are heavenly, don’t you think so too? 

B- I do, I love museums because it’s a great place to be on your own and to stand up and be away from the wind and to see things. And you’re a customer as well. My favourite thing about it is that it seems that they’re thankful to have you there, it’s almost as if the paintings love you and it’s really nice. It’s like being thanked by eyes inspiring you. It’s not just a place you should just go to occasionally like a top up or whatever, it’s a constant thing to see things, being inside museums and walls and to see things in a familiar home where you’re respected as well. It’s important. 

L- Personally when I go to a museum it feels like all these people, the pieces on the wall, the artists who made them are reaching out to you, to the future. They want to be friends with you and they want you to feel what it was like to be them living their lives. When you’re friends with people you talk to them and exchange thoughts about how you feel about life. Something similar happens in the museum. Who are your best friends in the museum?

B- I’ve made some great friends. Like the honourable Mrs. Graham, a great friend of mine. 

L- What have you talked to her about? 

B- I’ve talked to her about how much I’ve walked around Edinburgh in my shoes that look like Cornish pasties. 

L- She has very different shoes from you doesn’t she? 

B- Yeah exactly, her shoes are more like a wedding cake. And I think she is fabulous because her grey hair shows her wisdom, like she’s making a great decision in getting married and she’s very sure about that and I guess she has a lot of hope for the future and this is like in seventeen, seventy - what or something like that. She also understands what it’s like being in a windy cold place as well because the clouds above her are so dark grey. She knows what it’s like just walking about all the time and trying to please people and stuff, it’s quite restless. 

L- Is that what you’re doing?

B- I guess I am always walking about and always pleasing people. 

L- I’m sure you’ll please the people who will see your show at the Fringe Festival.

B- Do you think so? I’m excited to have people in a room and read my poems to them. And I guess it’s going to be that I’m almost going to be reading them with them as well because I don’t know them off by heart and that’s part conscious choice, part what my life has brought me recently. I’m going to be reading the poems off a piece of paper and remembering when I wrote them in the gallery, like the journey that I went through, the first time I really looked at things and taking them in and read the first thing that I do aloud to myself to write as someone else and just be spilled out onto the page like a really quick flash of something that I was really proud of in two minutes. Usually my creative process is slower than I’ve ever done with poetry. It’s a splash and I’m really proud of it, and to be honest with you it’s quite easy! 

L- That means you’re talented, and talent needs work and never giving up. So you keep on performing, but people don’t go to the theatre every day or even as much as they used to - What do you think is the role of live performance today? 

B- I think the role is there for the taking. It’s a role that is completely unique. What happens in front of you is so, so important, there’s no denying it. My friend’s sister is a Minecraft person. Her life is on Minecraft. She is a teenage girl and that’s her life. I think it’s fabulous that she has this cool new universe. A lot of people in her house, her friends, or in her school don’t understand that. But that’s in the screen world, but at the end of the day she still is someone from that house and that place and that country. And she does live a live life, she’s a tactile person. That’s what live performance offers you, is that extra sense of something that you cannot deny. Live performance happens right in front of you and there’s nothing hidden right there and the future is absolutely bright for it. 

L- It’s also a lot more vulnerable than other ways of performing. In film there can be retakes. This vulnerability is also what makes it beautiful. 

B- It’s more human and much more interactive as well. 

L- Do you think that people who are always in front of the computer seek the human but they think they can find it in the screen, or are they separate realms?

B- I understand that there’s definitely cases of people seeking out humans on the computer. I think it would be easier to hide in books than computers. 

L- In Virginia Woolfe’s Orlando, which I am reading now, the protagonist does exactly that, he hides in books because he’s disappointed in life. Of course the different ways to use computers stand for the different motives people have for using them. 

B- It’s a great way to meet people. 

L- Yes, but it’s good that we met in real life. One can find out much about someone without words, even at the first glance.

B- That does matter to me, that we met in real life. 

L- And now we’re talking over the computer, switching between the worlds. But those were my questions really …

B- I really enjoyed answering them. I hope I wasn’t too vague. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Abject Object

Fernanda Gomes, Sem titulo (Untitled) 2013. Wood, paint; 12 x 12 x 12 cm 

Discourse on the Fruitmarket Gallery’s exhibit “Possibilities of the Object”, Curated by Paulo Venancio Filho with artists: Artur Barrio, Waltércio Caldas, Sergio Camargo, Aluísio Carvão, Amílcar de Castro, Willys de Castro, Lygia Clark, Antonio Dias, Fernanda Gomes, Jac Leirner, Antonio Manuel, Cildo Meireles, Ernesto Neto, Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Pape, Mira Schendel, Tunga, Franz Weissmann and Carlos Zilio.

On display from the 6th of March until the 25th of May

With thanks to Anthony Haynes for his help and support. 


The Abject Object

The Postmodern Creation of the Object as a Category in Art


It’s Relation to Space

             What makes a window useful? Certainly not the frame, but what is missing, letting light illuminate the room. Similarly, in art the object and subject of a painting often differ—the object is exhibited, but the subject is also the surrounding space. This is the case with many works in the postmodern art category of the object—it activates both the space and the mind. Through the following discourse about the Fruitmarket Gallery’s show “Possibilities of the Object” the postmodern invention of what is known as the non-object, specific object, relational object, active object, poem object, book object, graphic object, anxious object, pluri-object, trans-object, as well as un-object (Filho, 2015: 56) will be explored. How it came about, what it is, and what it means will be explained.

Painting by Hammershoi (19th century) Not in the exhibit, but shown here to support the intention of the Neo-Concretists to make the viewer relate their work to other art objects they know.


The exhibit consists of two floors with objects from over 3 generations of artists. The objects are distributed in the most varying fashions; a long braid with a bow tie by Tunga is
snaking it’s way along the floor, discs are hypnotically suspended in air by nearly invisible strings, panels are protruding from the wall into the viewer’s space, and cubes are calmly standing on a tabletop. The intention of the object seems to be accessible, exemplified by a plate with rubber bands stretched across it by Caldes (1975) from the collection of the artist, which makes one wonder whether he normally uses it at home as a plate or displays it at all times as an artwork. Another uncanny experience was seeing Neto’s “Particula Passo" (1988), a nylon stocking filled with lead balls, tempting the viewers to plunge their hands in. Alas, one is only allowed to touch the things with one’s eyes, despite physical contact being the intention of the artists. This created a tension because of the desire of both the viewer and the object to touch and be touched. (Lehmann, 2014) That the work can still hold up despite this shows its strength. 

Waltércio CaldasPrato comum com elásticos ( Ordinary plate with rubber bands), 1978; plate, rubber bands; 30 x 30 x 30 cm

Ernesto Neto, Particula Passo (Step Particle). 1988. Nylon Stockings and lead balls; 4 x 50 x 20 cm
Particula Peso (Weight Particle), 1988. Nylon Stockings and lead balls; 20 x 20 x 6 cm 

How it Happened

"Modern art is usually measured ... in terms of how unlike the object depicted it actually is. For example, cubism is very little like its object, and abstract art, not at all. Before the modern period artists were praised for their attention to detail and the lifelikeness of their work: ... the notion of good practise can be summed up in the tale of the Greek painter (Zeuxis) who painted on a wall grapes that looked so ‘real’ that birds actually pecked at them. The modern period is marked by redefinition of art’s function in depicting as ‘real’ a representation of the world of appearances. Fountain (1917) by Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) is more than lifelike: indeed, it was actually ‘real’—a ready-made urinal ...” (Meecham. 2000; 3) 

Marcel DuchampFountain, 1917; porcelain; 360 x 480 x 610 mm; Tate Britain.

The use of the real in art converged sculpture and painting to a common point with the abandonment of plinth and frame, removing barriers between viewer and object, creating a participant - object relationship insteadThe Non-Object, a new category in art, resulted from the crisis in painting and sculpture and reflected the expansion of consumer culture after the Military regime in Brazil from 1964-69. Initially, the death of painting began when the object and subject started to diverge with the impressionists painting colour as it hits the retina onto a flat surface, the object here still being the things depicted but the subject actually being the scientific discovery about the nature of sight. This is also when paintings began being exhibited without frames, which were the threshold between our world and the world in the painting, rather like a window.

As Asbury says “ ... when painting radically abandons representation ... the frame loses its meaning. The erection of a metaphorical space within a well-protected corner of the world no longer being necessary, it is now the case of establishing the work of art within the space of reality, lending to this space, through the apparition of the work – this special object – significance and transcendence.”

With illusion of a separate reality within the painting dissolved, painting began its trajectory into objecthood. Soon the use of things from the real world such as newspaper clippings for collage and sand by the Dadaists emerged, signalling a wish to substitute illusion with reality. The flat picture plane predominated until Duchamp exhibited his urinal, taken from the world of material things, away from its usual function, into a gallery space. “Things become art in a space where powerful ideas about art focus on them. As modernism gets older, context becomes content.” (O’Doherty)

Antonio Manuel, Urna Quente (Hot Ballot Box), 1975. Wood, sealing wax, tape; 20 x 60 x 33 cm 

The socio-political atmosphere in Brazil at the time can be explained with Debord’s words that the avant-garde can only be “an art of change and a pure expression of the impossibility of change” (Heiser. 2008; 181). The use of the cube shape in art was avant-garde, but at the same time it is a stolid shape suggesting imprisonment. The apparent stability of such a shape in the form of say, a briefcase, the quintessential icon of the successful entrepreneur then, when it is opened, is discovered to have a different reality—with nails like teeth inside a beast’s mouth (Zilio, 1974). Work like this began to be made because modernist, uptopia-aspiring Brazil, after the resignation of elected president Quadros in 1961, fell into economic instability and a subsequent military regime of torture and censorship. (Asbury. 2005; 184) After the regime, Modernist abstract geometry was exchanged with Duchampian Pop Culture because of the widened access to world culture.

What is it exactly?

While painting is conventionally flat, sculpture and the object are three-dimensional, which is the only thing they have in common. Conventional sculpture is distant and static on its’ pedestal, whereas the object demands contact and is portable. It could even be mistaken for an ordinary object of the ‘Lebenswelt’ because oftentimes it is composed by the artist but produced in a factory, thus also challenging single authorship. Drawn from the everyday, yet conceptualising its surrounding space anew because it can be found anywhere within it, and it is consequently anxious in nature. (Rosenberg. 1964; 275) Despite often being geometrical in form, it is neither objective nor cold, because the viewer is turned into a participant by being invited to handle it, “critiquing the technophile rigidity through a new corporeality” (Filho. 2015; 53) Simultaneously, it does not demand much of the space around it, perfectly reflected in the work consisting of panels stacked away shyly in a corner (see cover image). 

Lygia Clark, Bicho Pássaro do Espaco (Creature Passing Through Space, 1960; aluminium; 24.3 x 24.1 x 0.9 cm. (Note that it has hinges, enabling the viewer/participant to change its shape) 

What does it do? 

What it does is what all true art does—creating experiences. Instead of being focused on concepts, the object is focused on it’s relation to the viewer’s body. The tension between the two bodies in space, one waiting to be grabbed by the other, is the subject, while the object is, in a phenomenological sense, open to be perceived by the world within time and space as it appears.

“ ... the apparent impiety of contemporary art is only ever the inverted image of sacred art, the reversal of the creator's initial question: why is there something instead of nothing?” (Virillio. 2008; 45)

The space which is part of the artwork is not a thing, and all it takes to see the invisible piety is some mental participation to understand that “absence allows presence to be full” (Taylore, Winquist. 2003; 2) Many struggle with this because nothingness is an unnerving concept, even Heidegger stating that it is hard to understand and define what nothingness is because nothingness simply is not any-thing. Subverting the traditionally purely visual art experience, the Neo-Concretist “ ... artist plays with space—what is the figure, what is the ground? And what is the individual, what is society? What is in and what is out? What is sensibility, and what is sense?” (Pape, p. 8) In truth, I myself did feel like a very active part in the exhibit, determined to understand and make sense of the objects. The Acoluthistic Reason, “the summons of
the other that can activate my own free will and enable me to become what I already am potentially” (Taylore, Winquist. 2003; 1) explains how the objects lure the viewer to unveil their Being through participation, which is reflective of life; if one is active, things become clear and exciting. Duchamp said that all objects have a desire to be touched. The exhibit was problematic in this respect because it was forbidden to touch the pieces and the ones that were hanging from the ceiling actually had plinths beneath them, their only function being to blatantly tell the viewer to distance themselves. The braid snaking its way along the floor produced an interesting effect within me because I imagined the dynamic movement it would produce if I kicked it. One can only begin to imagine the experience one of those people in a nice neighbourhood in Brazil whom Barrio subjected to finding a mysterious, scary bundle he made from trash, excrement, blood, and dirt collected from slums. It must have been shocking for people who were far away from that world to see these objects out of context, the bundle looking even more bloody by contrast with a clean pavement or lush grass in a nicely tended garden. So in essence, objects propose “a multiplicity of relationships, ambiguities and contradictions that lead spectators to complete the work, removing them from their passive role.” (Doctors. 1990; 73) 

Tunga, Tranca (Braid), 1984. Lead, satin; 240 x 5.5 cm 

Into the Deep ...

This art principally emerged out of culture and philosophy. Firstly, there is the Brazilian mentality behind the word ‘Bichos’, or ‘Creature’, which Lygia Clark’s work is named after. The translation of this word is not entirely descriptive of the implications behind it, Bichos being a type of animal that humans can manipulate and be close to, domestic animals for one but also wild ones that are accessible such as ants. This mentality of physical proximity is where the participatory nature of Brazilian Neo-Concretism comes from (Conversely, the Americans at the time were wary of making their works intimate and therefore chose a scale between the monumental and the human). They created a phenomenological approach, making one feel the object and have an internalised experience. Feeling with objects is linked to consumerism in that we prize and fetishise our possessions because everything in Western society is material, and one could say that there is a new religion of the senses—the things we own are our companions in life and everyone has faith in their existence, unlike God’s. The artist therefore creates the thing itself instead of a representation. The participatory nature of the art object makes it more consumable than art of yore too; while you can buy a painting, it always will have a life of its own within the frame, a life you can observe but never interact with. 

“Modernism in art seemed to be implicated in a kind of crisis about its own objects of desire, which is to say that artists fetishised objects perceived to fall outside of the traditional remit of art. At the same time, there was a requirement to self-consciously interrogate art’s own internal, usually formal, functions.” (Meecham. 2000; 3)

This interrogation that the Neo-Concretists subjected art to was grounded in phenomenology, the study of consciousness and things as we experience them. Therefore the textures and colours used aren’t symbolic, and neither is the cube shape. The thought is that each angle you see an object from and the varying light situations make it look completely different, yet you still recognise it for itself. This defines ‘man’ as a being in the world. (Brito. 1976; 6) Morris elaborates on this as follows: 

“While the work must be autonomous in the sense of being a self-contained unit for the formation of the Gestalt, the indivisible and undissolvable whole, the major aesthetic terms are not in but dependent upon this autonomous object and exist as unfixed variables that find their specific definition in the particular space and light and physical viewpoint of the spectator.” 

Art has always been linked to religion, even now in times of relative atheism, and today it is still about the things we believe in and care about, which are science (relating to phenomenology through things we can perceive) and consumer culture. Art made is about what it means to be human in a given society. In our Postmodern society, it revolves around the object, but also increasingly around the naked concept. First Kant said that the Art lies not within the craft, which has led to an increasingly subtractive approach to art—“Remember what Friedrich Nietzsche advised: 'Simplify your life: die!' This extremist simplification in which 'ornament is a crime’ (Loos. 1908; 1), has stayed with us throughout the history of the twentieth century” (Virilio. 2008; 31) The illusion of an object in a picture on a wall proved to be too decorative, so the artefact was planted right before the viewer. The next step was Sol le Witt’s “Buried Cube Containing an Object of Importance but Little Value”; The Cube, which is the quintessential Art Object, was buried like a corpse and the ‘soul of art’, remained. Thus conceptual art was born. 


1 - 
Filho, P. V., 2015. Possibilities of the Object. 1st ed. Edinburgh: The Fruitmarket Gallery.
(All photographs in this essay taken from this publication)

2 - Asbury, Michael. 2005. University of the Arts, London. [ONLINE] Available at: http:// [Accessed 26 March 15]. p.186

3 - Lehmann, Maria-Rosa. 2014. [ONLINE] Available at: 7632548/UCLA_French_and_Francophone_Studies_Touch_Conference. [Accessed 26 March 15].

4 - Meecham, P., Sheldon, J., 2000. Modern Art: A Critical Introduction. “What is and when was Modernism?”. 1st ed. Routledge.

5 - O'Doherty, Brian. Society of Control. [ONLINE] Available at: http:// [Accessed 26 March 15].

6 - Heiser, J, 2008. All of a Sudden: Things that Matter in Contemporary Art. “The Spectacle: Guy Debord’s Nightmare”. Berlin and New York: Sternberg Press.

7 - Virilio, P, 2008. Art and Fear. 4th ed. London and New York: Continuum.

8 - Taylor, V. E, Winquist, C. E, 2003. Encyclopedia of Postmodernism (Routledge World Reference). 1st ed. Psychology Press.
9 - Heidegger, M. What Is Metaphysics? 1929. [ONLINE] Available at: http:// GROTH.pdf. [Accessed 30 March 15].

10 - PINTO, R. C. Quatro olhares à procura de um leitor, mulheres importantes, arte e identidade (Four Views in Search of a Reader, Important Women, Art and Identity). Rio de Janeiro, 1994. Tese (Pós Graduação em Artes visuais, Mestrado em História da Arte, área de Antropologia da Arte ) - Escola de Belas Artes, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro.

11 -DOCTORS, M. Lygia Pape, A Radicalidade do Real. Galeria. São Paulo, Área Editorial Ltda, 21: 68-75, 1990, p. 73.
12 - BRITO, R. Neoconcretismo. Malasartes. Rio de Janeiro: (3): 9-13, Apr./ Jun. 1976.
13 - Morris, R. ‘Notes on Sculpture 1–3’, in Artforum, vol. 4, no. 6, February 1966, 42–44; vol. 5, no. 2, October 1966, 20–23; vol. 5, no. 10, Summer 1967. Reprinted in edited version in C. Harrison and P. Wood eds, Art in Theory: 1900–1990, op. cit., 818.
14 - Loos, Adolf. 1908. Ornament and Crime. [ONLINE] Available at: Temporary_SL/177/pdfs/Loos.pdf. [Accessed 26 March 15].
15 -Rosenberg, H, 1964. The Anxious Object: Art Today and Its Audience. 1st ed. New York: Horizon Press.