26 Jul 2011

Review of Live your questions now by Magdalen Chua

By Magdalen Chua

Live your questions now is a survey exhibition of artists over 60 years old at the Mackintosh Museum of The Glasgow School of Art. The title is taken from a quote by Rainer Maria Rilke, on responding to the uncertainties of life by living out one’s questions, opening the possibility of living one’s way into the answer. Within the exhibition, several artists reflect on the intersections between art and life through the way the body, metaphorically and physically, is experienced and located in space.

Sam Ainsley, (Left) Untitled, 2011, dimensions variable; (Right top) The darkened splinterecho brainstream tide..., 2011, acrylic paint and print on canvas, 102 x 102 x 7cm; (Right bottom) Where there are hopes, there will always be fear, 2011, acrylic paint and print on canvas, 102 x 102 x 7cm; courtesy of Mackintosh Museum

Sam Ainsley’s (b. 1950, lives and works in Glasgow) works convey the relationship of the body to larger spatial contexts, in ways that express the psychological state. Against the corner of the gallery, Untitled comprises two outlines of Scotland with a successive sequence of word associations, such as “insecurity, knowing, disbelief, belief, love…” written around the perimeter. Viewed from a distance, the outlines appear as lungs of the body with the words as capillaries, making the emotions expressed by the words as the lifeline that courses through the country.

Lygia Pape, Tteia 1.A, 2011, gold thread, copper nails, 314cm x 321cm; courtesy of Mackintosh Museum

In the other corner of the gallery, the viewer’s body becomes the medium of experience between material and space in Tteia, or web, by Lygia Pape (Brazil, b.1927, d.2004). Assembled from a set of instructions, gold thread is strung to form a fluid and seamless structure that wraps, compresses yet also enlivens the spaces within and around. Pape was part of the Concrete movement and its reaction, Neo-Concretism, that sought to integrate a work within space as a reflection of how art functions in life, in way that opened the role for the viewer’s physical interaction and interpretation.

Helena Almeida, (Left) BAÑADA EN LÁGRIMAS #14, 2009, framed black and white photograph, 175 X 114.4 X 4.7 cm, (Centre) BAÑADA EN LÁGRIMAS #13, 2009, framed black and white photograph, 175 X 114.4 X 4.7 cm, (Right) Untitled, 2010, video, b&w, sound, 18', edition of 5; courtesy of Mackintosh Museum

This Neo-Concretist approach towards art-making influenced Helena Almeida (Portugal, b.1934), whose photography and video works have experimented with means to extend elements, from colour or the body, out of a confined space. Two photographs from the series BAÑADA EN LÁGRIMAS, or bathed in tears, are of Almeida encountering her reflection in a pool of water on the ground. The photographed action enlarges the space and view above Almeida, as a window to the world beyond the physical limits of the frame.

Against the backdrop of a rising number of survey shows of young contemporary artists, Live your questions now presents artists whose lives, as seen through their practice across decades, bear out philosophical challenges through persistent inquiry. The exhibition runs till 1 October 2011, and also includes works by Alasdair Gray, Joan Jonas, Ana Jotta, Michael Kidner and Běla Kolářová.

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