Sometimes the only reaction you have to a show is “hmmm…ok.” Not because the art is bad, or indeed because it is so spectacular that you are lost for words to describe it, but because the exhibition offers you nothing in the way of engagement. Georg Herold at Sadie Coles HQ is one of these: a selection of works arranged in a large, white space with no curatorial intervention whatsoever. Not bad, not wonderful.
Herold offers two themes in this show: monumental human figures constructed from found materials and canvasses spread with caviar. An unusual juxtaposition, there is seemingly no relation between the artist’s two streams of thought and as such there is little cohesion within the space. The figures are primarily constructed of wooden blocks that have been attached together and lacquered in bright colours. Despite their size, there is a dynamism to the pieces, and their sprawled poses suggest those of fallen angels. However, without titles or any form of explanation it is difficult to read anything other than an exploration of the human form and an Arte Povera interest in found materials into this series.
The caviar paintings are more interesting in that they pose questions to the viewer. Is caviar spread on canvas art? Does the use of a luxury foodstuff in the work add something to it, or indeed increase its value in our eyes because in its original form it was expensive? Would you have a different reaction to the works if they were spread with jam? I think the answer to the latter is yes, in much the same way that the reaction of many to Mark Quinn’s head full of blood was revulsion whereas viewers would most likely have been much more positive had the mould been filled with something pleasant. At the end of the day, our existing knowledge influences our reactions.
Aesthetically, the caviar paintings are strangely beautiful. The individual eggs swarm across the canvas in abstract, organic shapes and dry into tiny black lumps that could easily be drops of paint if not looked at too closely. The texture they create gives the pieces a tactile quality that makes you want to run your fingers over them, especially because you instinctively know that the caviar should be soft and granular but that should one touch the surface, the eggs in its present state would be unnaturally hard.
I wish that this exhibit had caused a better reaction in me. I was excited to attend and I wanted to be entranced, but it felt as though the gallery was holding back a crucial part of the viewing experience by not providing even the titles of the works. In series of pieces where there was clearly a detailed thought process, and indeed in a show where the intermingling of themes demanded an explanation, it was frustrating not to be given anywhere to start.
-- Alex Field, a writer living in London.
All images Copyright the artist, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London.