'Soil Culture:Deep Roots' Falmouth art gallery Sept 9 to Nov 21 2015.
This exhibition is celebrating the UN year of soils and will be touring to Plymouth University Jan to March 2016.
An important subject, but does it make an enthralling exhibition?
It's unusual to see such world famous artists as Ana Mendieta in Falmouth and I was hoping maybe for too much as I entered the gallery.
Ana Mendieta's work stands out because she involved herself, specifically her own body in filmed performances in which her naked form is seen , here emerging from under stones and earth, or the space where it has been, set alight with bright flames, or left as an impression. A book available to read in the gallery is helpful in telling her story and explaining her wish to somehow enact personal rituals to be in touch with Mother Earth as if longing for a prehistoric awareness of it. It's intensely romantic to my mind, and as she died in a tragic accident at a young age the story of that incident and her husband, artist Carl Andre being accused of murder and acquitted, the vivid tragedy threatens to impede serious consideration of her art. However in this show it is the most attention grabbing and dramatic piece and nicely shown with a comfortable and beautifully crafted wooden seat opposite the three small screens. Also helpfully the time of the video is given so you know how long you might take to receive the images, which are only about three minutes and seen simultaneously.
Suzanne Williams also uses video and contributes a page of poetic explanation but it's all too 'magical' for my liking, and it's not clear how long the video is so I did not take the time to do it justice.
In another corner Daro Montag has a video of a circular agglomeration of writhing worms that he somehow attracted to a spot to film and I overheard a visitor saying they could watch it for hours. His work depends on getting nature to make it and he also shows a piece of film, buried in the earth and now illuminated to show how soil microbes ate away at it and produced coloured marks.
Elsewhere several artists use earth to make marks and they are all using grid form to present
them, rectangles by Herman de Vries, spots by Sandra Masterson, Richard Long's thumb prints, all
making repeat patterns. The colours are earth colours, the excuse for the work is the soil idea but
the results are pure abstract pattern making.
|Herman de Vries|
Some ideas I really warm to, clearing a field of contaminating chemicals, by Mel Chin, shown us via an ancient looking beautifully drawn diagram, and Paolo Barrile's sweet little bottles of soil are very attractive and linked to a long project also about pollution. The ideas are important and the carrying out of them but the chart and the tin bottles seem like charming souvenirs of that.
Adam White has an attractive watercolour map of geology of the British Isles but can't resist a whimsical jokey key of nonsense he has made up that infuriates me.
Claire Pentecost has a large collection of large earth ingots and drawings with all sorts of references that rather timidly hint at the evils of capitalism.
David Nash exchanged turf from Wales and Kensington to see what grew.
Andy Goldsworthy shows a lovely exuberant drawing for an earth work that he has made.
Matt Robinson piles up mud bricks from a building being made in Cornwall. They are being carefully maintained to not dry out which makes me wonder how they will fare in the inter faith Building, where I believe they will be indoors.
That's a brief whizz round it. It's unsatisfying somehow. Certainly it rises awareness of soil, makes us think about it, but it's mostly a bit dry, not watered by liveliness, it needs a lot of work reading the blurb. It shows how difficult it is to make vibrant art about soil or with it and how strong is the urge to organise in grids.
There's Ana Mendieta exhibiting her body and impressions she made with it and did things to, making a spectacle of herself, and Daro Montag, exhibiting ingenious images he induced natural living organisms to make, keeping his body out of it.
I imagine Mendieta in a sort of sensationalist tv series getting the worms to squirm on her naked body, why the nakedness, impulse to shock, the only way she could get attention? Carl Andre , her husband , getting attention by coolly arranging bricks in a grid- bricks, mud, earth, fire, would be interesting to see them also here.
Combine the body impression in the earth with the presumably used worm food to get worms all over the body impression? Then it's sort of Hamlet, death, transience? That's my concept, Mendieta plus Montag.
I did buy my first copy of 'Resurgence' ecology magazine to read later, and I am still turning 'Soil' over with my mental spade.
|anonymous experiments with materials provided|