"Utopias are sites with no real place. They are sites that have a general relation of direct or inverted analogy with the real space of Society. They present society itself in a perfected form, or else society turned upside down, but in any case these utopias are fundamentally unreal spaces."
- Michel Foucault 'Of Other Spaces' (1967)
GLAZE, curated by artist George Henry Longly, presents an orchestrated selection of objects which, when brought together, proposes to question the power of context, both implicit and constructed, as a filter for determining and influencing our way of looking.
The exhibition will include works by; Carl Andre, Dan Coopey, Edward Cotterill, Timothy Davies, Nicolas Deshayes, Tomas Downes, Ryan Gander, James Iveson, Kate Owens, Sara Mackillop, Helen Marten, Eddie Peake, David Renggli, Matthew Smith and Martin & Youle. Through their work, each confront the very physicality of the gallery space; walls will be directly drawn upon, objects will be placed in direct relation with one another and each spatial plane; floor, wall and ceiling will be employed.
Originally inspired by and furthering the ideals explored by the Minimalists of the 1960s, GLAZE will be conceptually anchored by a Carl Andre floor sculpture which, fabricated from industrially pressed iron and deliberately placed onto the ground - thus de-sanctified, rather than elevated on a plinth - brought about a significant shift in thinking of the hierarchal nature of art objects. This one simple gesture set a precedent for a specific way of thinking which has maintained today, and which all the artists included in GLAZE have explored in varying ways within their practice.
Located somewhere between Foucault's principles of Heterotopia and Minimalist thinking around the activation of space, GLAZE presents an opportunity for reflection on; private, public, social and cultural spheres of 'useful' space - when objects are negated of their original intent - interfered with by the hand of the artist.
Many of the artworks included in GLAZE exist as approximations - familiar objects which take upon unfamiliar roles - rendered dysfunctional or defunct of their intended purpose, just as the pressed iron of the Carl Andre, they become entirely formal - imbued with a new, recontextualised status within the space, grounded by both their aesthetic qualities and their relation to other objects within proximity.
Approximating everyday domestic environments, and even the gallery architecture itself; Eddie Peake, Helen Marten, Timothy Davies and Matthew Smith shall each employ the wall in some way, whether to merely hang, or indeed draw directly upon. Kate Owens' broken and painted vases achieve the status of artefact when placed upon the gallery furnishings of Ryan Gander's white plinths (alchemy box #7, 2008), whilst Tomas Downes minimalist steel structures appear somewhere between utilitarian apparatus and non-functional artwork. The ceiling of the gallery will see installed Edward Cotterill's ceiling fan, the same ceiling fan which was used in the house of Laura Palmer in the iconic TV programme, Twin Peaks.
All of these accoutrements of civility - objects which announce ones social standing within society - are further enhanced by the inclusion of a single Diptyque candle within the gallery space. This candle, a signifier of ubiquitous good taste, acts both as a curatorial device, as well as art object - working simultaneously with Cotterill's ceiling fan, its fragrance will fill the gallery space and surreptitiously appropriate and activate its entirety.
GLAZE presents a proposition to its audience; one without a single dominant prevailing theme or focus, but rather a series of interconnected questions and concerns - a precise selection of works which, whilst certainly retain their individuality, in juxtaposition with other works, become something new, and perhaps, unexpected.
George Henry Longly in conversation with Martyn Richard Coppell
Martyn Richard Coppell: I guess it makes sense to begin with asking, why GLAZE as a title?
George Henry Longly: Glaze works as a title because to glaze is to cover and appropriate the surface of an object - and a glaze can be tinted and have a sheen so can pitch an object in a certain direction; it can change the sentiment of an object. It is this that I want to achieve in the show - I hope that in some way we can address the gallery space and highlight the notion of gallery context, how and where we view art and matter. Also, how our experience of the work is shaped by this filter for looking. I initially thought of using very flat work like posters, rugs and wall hangings and of course a Carl Andre - which was a clear beginning point for me. And with the fragrance and the ceiling fan we are able to address the volume of the space too, in this instance the volume becomes the contemplative realm of the exhibition - the performative space.
MRC: I'm interested if there were or are specific things you were looking to, researching or reading at the time which have influenced the themes explored within GLAZE?
GHL: The show is very much concerned with issues that I deal with in my practice. How gallery context is a key factor in the concept of an artwork and how we are enabled and asked to question in a particular way when in this arena. Where does the framing of the work begin and end? And what is the relationship between art and the every day? Well it's not separate - it's totally linked and symbiotic.
MRC: There's a question of theatricality, or staged interior decoration that is raised within the exhibition, both in the choice of artist materials; faux candelabra, domestic vase, ceiling fan, mirrors et al and their placement…
GHL: Museology figures heavily in my research as does Design and Interior Design. I recently re-read the book 'A House in Space'1 about the NASA Skylab space missions, which documents the day-to-day experiences of living in space and how the environment impacts on their life. How they talk about local-vertical and how their bodies must be aligned to their environment - how the space station was built on earth with a logical up and down and how this still has influence on the astronauts in zero gravity. It still had the power to confuse if they're not the correct way around. This has been in my mind and I think it's a good analogy for how I think about the show.
MRC: I like this analogy…
GHL: Me too, I like the idea that these guys are living in space; showering, using the toilet, eating, working, fighting with ground control and existing in an environment in space, in this existential bubble orbiting four hundred kilometres above the Earth and travelling at a speed of 28,000 km/h. This environment enables them to perceive everything in a totally different way.
MRC: You consider 'materiality' within your own practice, clearly - but there's an obvious lust for and appreciation of 'surface' evident within GLAZE.
GHL: There is a church in Mayfair that comes to mind when thinking about the catalyst for this show. The Church Of The Immaculate Conception, just off Mount street is an incredibly opulent catholic church that uses a great deal of marble in it's design, it's one of the first to be built after the Catholic Emancipation in 1829 and uses marble to create this overtly emotive space for worship. I find it very exciting that the surface of the church and the fittings (the walls, altar, statues, font, flooring) are all covered in marble, precious materials and stained glass. I'm interested in the materiality of these types of reverential spaces.
MRC: This materiality of the reverential is interesting with regards to GLAZE's presentation within a 'White Cube' space - and an apparent attempt at the de-sanctification of this space, no?
GHL: I'm not sure that is the intention - the show relies on the white cube but it is more an analytical approach to the notion of gallery context. And if part of the gallery context is to do with how we question matter in a particular light, then the show is more about backing up the notion of the Heterotopic2 space, where we are allowed to question in a philosophical and existential manner.
And in terms of the architectural notion of the white cube - as a hermetic space free from influence - if you look at Bishoff/Weiss in detail it has lots of obtuse features that stick out, from flooring to the walls; there are lots of disruptions in the space. I hope this will lend itself to the show creating other sorts of rhythms and frequencies in the exhibition. As I have mentioned many of the works are applied directly to the wall becoming part of the fabric of the building itself, others cover or appropriate the space in different ways sitting somewhere between gallery furniture and artwork, utilitarian apparatus or sculpture. So in this sense I guess I'm attempting to de-sanctify or confuse the art arena.
MRC: How did you go about researching and selecting the artists for GLAZE?
GHL: I know all of the artists work apart from the work of Tomas Downes whose work I saw when I was visiting Eddie Peake at the Royal Academy. But mainly I've pulled in people that I know and whose work I like, those whose work fits somehow with the thematic of the show, people whose work I am interested in seeing in the same space. And I've asked people who I believe have similar interests. I have had discussions with everyone in the show and I have tried to meet everyone in the space and talk through my ideas in the gallery. There is a wide variety of work in the exhibition and this mix of agenda is one of the aims of GLAZE - no one vision or idea being dominant but more that the work is experienced through the configuration of the work itself - opening up the possibility and potentiality for many different types of work to exist in the same space at once. Content is sort of emancipated with more emphasis being placed on an experimental approach.
And next year the show will move to Paris where we will attempt to do it again on a bigger scale and with more historic works. So this is a testing ground for a larger show and an ongoing project.
MRC: Finally, George, how has GLAZE expanded on your working ideas as an artist.
GHL: I think it opens up the area of collaboration in my practice, which is something that I haven't wanted to do in the past but is something that I'm becoming increasingly interested in.