• chierkute

Hidden Gem in Cambridge

Updated: Oct 26, 2018

Drawing inspired by the exhibition 'DO I HAVE TO DRAW TO A PICTURE?' setup. Original artwork created by artists Glenn Ligon and Jenny Holzer.

The first time I came to Cambridge, I googled all the art galleries, you know my interest. The Fitzwilliam museum and Kettle’s Yard were among mentioned most often. City’s independent galleries displaying contemporary art pieces from local and international artists were also on the top list. That is why I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed ‘Open Cambridge’ event in ‘The Heong Gallery’. Who could believe that Ai Weiwei’s Trees were shown in Cambridge? Check Trees installation time-lapse video yourself.

Small but with removable wall-sized windows, the gallery looks cosy and compact. Apparently, the Heong Gallery won a RIBA East Award 2017 (note: the gallery opened in 2016; RIBA is one of the most important architecture prizes).

The current exhibition ‘DO I HAVE TO DRAW YOU A PICTURE’ explodes in this small gallery. With around of 40 different works it is so dense, that different objects talk to each other and elevate one another. For this reason, my drawing inspired by the exhibition is not exactly the same as in the gallery – I made their dialogue noticeable. Both works and their artists I will describe later.

Just before the entrance to the main part of the exhibition, in the introduction you find McLuhan’s name. The father of the media theory coined the phrase “the medium is the message” and here this can be understood in practice. Every part of the artwork, including its size, colours, technique, etc., and especially the medium, is carefully chosen to transmit particular message and influent the viewer. However, often communication struggles, either it is between artwork and viewer, or simply between people, leaving confusion, misunderstanding, solitude.

Sometimes architecture features look like lonesome personalities in a territory. This is the feeling that occupies the mind looking at the parables of miscommunication by Louise Bourgeois (1911 – 2010). Naming the book under the title of ‘He Disappeared into Complete Silence’ (1947 – 2005) the artists left me wondering who is he she was talking about. Works look like different – extraordinary – type of diaries, personal and sad, with text from neutral to quirky and dark. Engraving and drypoint serve as the best techniques to stress the loneliness there.

Once a man was telling a story, it was a very good story too, and it made him very happy, but he told it so fast that nobody understood it.

Plate 3 of 9, from the illustrated book, He Disappeared into Complete Silence, Louise Bourgeois

I couldn't help myself and share some of these stories by Louise Bourgeois.

Once a man was waving to his friend from the elevator.  He was laughing so much that he stuck his head out and the ceiling cut it off.

Plate 5 of 9, from the illustrated book, He Disappeared into Complete Silence, Louise Bourgeois

To illustrate text so that it not only visualizes the initial idea, but also complements further thoughts on the matter, it is challenging. It is also interesting how, for example, a part of a book or some particular phrase starts to live separate life. An American artist Glenn Ligon took “negro sunshine” from a 1909 novella to speak of the history of African – Americans.

These days life changing/motivation slogans might be very useful in capturing attention quickly, though as quickly captured, rapidly disappears from anyone’s minds. Is this just a noise around you then? A lot of information distorts the perception and self-neglecting texts, sentence that disregard the previous one or is wearable as a mass production, do not raise questions in everyday life anymore. And still, Jenny Holzer manages to attract attention with ideas and words from brilliantly observed world. Hand painted signs, LED displays serve as a new way to make note and comments an implicit part of visual objects.

Pets can be chosen by their ability to express great excitement, affection, and gratitude. Reptiles don’t show much but are valued as exotica.

Jenny Holzer quote from Living (1980 – 1982) hand-painted enamel on metal sign.

To control all the visual/audio noise that is around you the art community suggests a modern solution. As isolated as Michael Craig-Martin headphones, everyone has the control of noise and possibility to reach the complete isolation of the world.

The exhibition raises controversial questions and leaves the viewer to work for the answers. Maybe the most trivia solution is to stop and think, listen to and look at each other. Thus, do I still have to draw you a picture?


The Heong Gallery

Downing College, Regent Street, Cambridge, CB2 1DQ

16 Jun 2018 - 7 Oct 2018

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© chierkute