Anne West Studio Visit – Mapping The Intelligence of Your Work
November 14, 2014, 4:12 am
Filed under: Essays, ziptie



Commitment to format.
The idea of the surface.

Dialing into a world.
Circuit around the periphery.

“I start to get lost.”

Alluring materiality.


Reading the surface of another matter not so recognizable that captures my imagination.

Compelling sense of (desire to) touch.

An idea of extended boundaries.


“I get the sense of a climate.”

“There is emotion in this space more so than the other pieces.”

Suspended, somewhere…

A threshold.

“In the circle, I leap into imagination (another trajectory), I get lodged into something else. Whereas in the curtain I am held in that suspended state.”


Conditions of relationships.

“The root of heaviness is lightness and that of lightness is heaviness.” Taoism

Riddle space.

Early and small piece:

Not precious.
It is a copy; it is not the thing itself; it is representative of the real.

Rich materiality.

Candy frame > Felix Gonzalez Torres – Conditions of longing.

A sense of declared innocence.

A desired space.

Paradox > The two co-exist in an awkward tension or in harmony.

Extended frame > I am thinking through the issue of the frame.

It is ok to be in the space of the question.

The circle constraints our vision to roundness.

How do I feel the pressure of ‘that’ roundness on the box (the room)?

Constructivism as a revolutionary art form.

Going back to the elemental when constructing.

“You are putting us in another world.”

What is the third element?
It has to do with the space.

What is the role of the frame? Maybe the frame is also our constraint. Trying to expand and consider the periphery.

What was El Lissitzky taking on with his work?

What does it mean to create this new order? It is a paradigm shift.

“Let the surprising element be that third element.”

Debris of our culture…….                                     Terrible beauty.

Jewel like quality.

Control and order of things is the way I work.
I set up certain systems that surprise me or disrupt the system.

Beautifully placed; resolution of the form.

“What rocks it?”

Is it set off kilter? Is it reframed? Is it penetrated? Do we reveal it?


Scale shifts.

Photograph and repeat the gesture.

Sustained inquiry.

Series of questions:

third element,
pursuit of the ugly,

Isolate some of these so that we can trace you…

Anne’s notes:

“Why for the wall? What is your relationship to the wall?”
The way we look at things. Facing something.
The wall – goes beyond space – relates to architecture.
The room as a container, a box.


Painting > more freedom.

Fictional environments. Where does the viewer enter?

Excess. More time? Suspended here…

Photocopy –fragile-; the idea of framing. Light frames…

The idea and the event are framed.

Candy and male body centered in the middle of the work.

What does a frame do? Demands attention. “Look at me”

A frame is proclamatory!

Eye vision is round.

The Third Element.

Tension vs. confusion

High relief.

Radical intervention. Doesn’t sit comfortably…

We expect certain things – predetermined aesthetic formulae; measured/ratio > dislike

S C A L E   is   b o r i n g


August 5, 2008, 9:17 am
Filed under: English, Essays

I visited the British Museum to look at famous examples of historical reliefs and recollect my thoughts. I hoped that a trip down `history` lane would shake things up and help me start afresh with my investigation into reliefs; that this trip would ground my hopeless interest in reliefs and provide me with a perspective to consolidate and validate my ideas on the matter.I knew I had to be around some of the `original` reliefs as if their presence would dictate the answers I was in search of.I was also looking for something personal; a link to my homeland, Turkey, a `local` primer, if you will, that would allow all to make sense.

As I walked by the Parthenon metopes[1] and the Ionic frieze[2] of the Parthenon I let my mind wander allowing my thoughts to explore the potential of these reliefs in relation to our time.An inventory of ideas and terms, already registered in my mind, gradually stuck with the imagery before me.Reliefs were ‘sculpture’, ‘painting’, ‘space’, ‘perspective’, ‘form’, ‘architecture’, ‘light’, ‘shadow’, ‘still’, ‘animation’, ‘deprivation’, ‘belonging’, ‘narrative’…

Standing opposite the Nereid Monument [3] in the British Museum, looking at the reliefs carved into the architecture of the temple I finally knew where to begin.


The Nereid Monument. When I stumbled upon the Nereid Monument, a temple-like structure raised on a high podium, I was immediately consumed by the wealth and beauty of the reliefs carved into it.The integrity of the structure before me had everything to do with the successful incorporation of the reliefs into its architecture, the skill with which the reliefs were carved and its size which reassured the viewer of its absolute presence.It was perhaps the wholeness of the monument that stood before me in dramatic lighting that struck me in the first place.Its presentation made it look more real than the other finds in the neighbouring halls and created the illusion that it was transported through time to where it now stood.The clarity of the monument’s details congealed my views on the imminence of reliefs and inspired my research.On the other hand, the origins of the monument in Lycian Turkey made my research more personal.

Jenkins argues that the Nereid Monument is the most important sculptured tomb of Lycia to survive.There are four sets of friezes on the Nereid Monument which describe historical events allegedly relating to the reign of the Lycian ruler Erbinna.It has been observed by scholars that many of these friezes are pictorially related to other known Greek architectural friezes and illustrate the extent to which such friezes were composed formulaically. As I circled the monument I noticed the detail in the figures carved in very high relief and admired the patience and care involved in their making.

Having embarked on a mission to experience ancient relief examples with an agenda that focuses on the currency of this art form for today’s artist, I decided not to limit my experience to the Nereid Monument.While I continued to navigate the galleries of the British Museum, I was reminded of a masterpiece on display at another renowned institution, the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

Great Altar of Zeus [4]. The Great Altar, one of the most impressive sculptural projects of Hellenistic times , was discovered in Bergama [5], near the Aegean coast of Turkey and taken to Berlin by 1886 to be exhibited in the museum built to hold it.It consists of a platform set on a massive podium with wings on both sides, between which a stairway leads up to an enclosed court.A complex frieze carved in very high relief known as the Gigantomachy [6], i.e., the battle of the Gods and giants, encircles the structure and is thought to be the raison d’etre of the Altar as the largest, most elaborate, and most expensive element of the whole. The Great Altar is also decorated by the Telephos Frieze [7] which differs from the Gigantomachy in its proximity to painting.

Together with the Great Altar, the Alexander Sarcophagus [8], on display at the Istanbul Archeological Museum, is considered to be one of the highlights of Hellenistic reliefs.

Alexander Sarcophagus. It is now believed that the sarcophagus belongs to Abdalonymos, the last king of Sidon (Saida). The sarcophagus is perhaps one of the most important examples of Hellenistic relief sculpture in existence, with exquisitely carved very high relief in Pentelicmarble. It has been noted by scholars that ‘the combination of shape, proportions and architectural ornament’ on the sarcophagus ‘conveys an impression…. almost of a temple in miniature.’, not unlike the Nereid monument. On display at the museum which was originally built for its exhibition, it is worth noting that the sarcophagus was found in the royal necropolis of Sidon in one of the two burial chambers.The high relief carvings of the sarcophagus were therefore, not intended for daylight.I find this observation to be a curious one, as the carved figures would have been reincarnated, metaphorically speaking, when they were unearthed and brought to daylight.In other words, one imagines the reliefs to have been animated with games of shadow under the sun.It has been noted by some that, most notable works of relief sculpture are to be found only on funeral monuments. One wonders whether those who built these sarcophagi had in mind, the day when they would be uncovered.


My examination of selected works of ancient reliefs lead me to a number of observations which I suspect may not have been possible through a more conservative approach.By a more conservative approach, I mean a one-sided review of reliefs as sculptures. It is true that the sculptural elements of reliefs in their making and form are obvious, however, to demonstrate the richness of this art form I will attempt to investigate its relationships with some other genres, ‘forms’ if you will, which I believe to be highly relevant to reliefs.I have identified these relevant forms to be ‘painting’, ‘documentation’, ‘narration’, and ‘animation’.By all means, I do not wish to suggest that the potential of reliefs is limited to these forms.On the contrary, I am certain that further examination will reveal other connections and possibilities.On a different level, my investigation made me see the relevance of reliefs to some important contemporary issues such as politics in art – which ties in with my discussion on narrative and documentation – and art as political, collaborations and finally de-territorialization.Reliefs’ connection to these issues lead me to believe that it could be a suitable forum to explore these issues further, again expanding the possibilities linked to reliefs.

What then triggered this investigation into ancient reliefs is an inherent quality of these reliefs, that is – the ability to entertain an extraordinary range of possibilities in one form and forum.I will now discuss some of these qualities in an attempt to establish relief as imminent, apparent and available thus relevant to today’s artist.To be clear, I will not attempt to identify those contemporary artists who use or used reliefs as part of their art-making to prove such relevance and focus on the availability and currency of relief-making as an art from.

My inquiry into the qualities of reliefs as extracted from my experience of ancient reliefs will then be two-fold: relief as form and forum.


Relief as decorative and architectural.

Relief’s relationship to architecture is undeniable.As seen in the few examples discussed above reliefs have often been incorporated into the architecture of ancient buildings as decorative elements.In fact, relief has generally been considered an architectural element and was often referred to as architectural decoration.Hellenistic temple-designers took this one step further by rationalizing the use of architectural figure carving, subordinating it to the role of decorating the building.This rationalization, I believe, was achieved through reliefs’ organic incorporation into the structure through function.

On a different note, it has been argued by scholars that the search for meanings is not restricted to figurative sculpture and that architecture too is concerned with meanings. Jenkins explains meaning in architecture in terms of pictorial language and gives examples of different styles of architecture (E.g., Ionic and Doric styles) as having ethno-cultural associations.Meaning, therefore, is another organic link between architecture and relief. There also seems to be always the question of how relief fits in with its framework.So there is limitation imposed upon it by the frame in which it is to be fitted.

It seems today the relationship between architecture and relief has been lost.I believe there are endless possibilities to be explored in this relationship which could lead to extraordinary sculptural, pictorial and architectural experiments.I therefore note the potential of reliefs to bring together architecture and art perhaps further than any other form in use today.

Reliefs’ relationship to painting.

Reliefs’ relationship to painting is perhaps the most exciting one.An interesting observation has been made by scholars in relation to the Telephos Frieze of the Great Altar.It was noted that the designers of the said frieze took a significantly different approach in setting to the normal format of a sculptured frieze through their innovations in the rendering of place, reminiscent of such renderings in paintings.R.R.R. Smith draws attention to the figures in the Telephos frieze which occupy only half to two-thirds of the frieze height leaving room for background setting or empty space which could be interpreted as ‘sky’ – most definitely a borrowing from painting – and allowing for the figures to inhabit real space rather than an abstract frieze space, as in the Gigantomachy.He also notes that trees, animals and objects are used in the frieze as signifiers of the outdoors or indoors, and varied levels of lower relief to emphasize setting and special depth. Empty space, therefore, appears to be a defining moment in the history of the making of reliefs.Often, when “relief merges almost imperceptively with the background, so that the ground no longer appears as a solid surface but assumes something of the transparency of empty space [….] we have an “illusionistic space”, a “new concept of pictorial space.”

Rosalind Krauss treats the ground of relief as a picture plane and notes that this ground “behaves like the illusionistic background of a painting, [opening] up a virtual space through which the figures can move.”To Krauss “the medium of relief depends upon [this] relationship between the sculpted figures and their ground.” One might then say the medium of relief operates between sculpture and painting.Krauss also notes the simultaneous perception, by the viewer of the evolution of the figure from within the virtual space of the relief ground and the figure’s capacity to signify an often-historical narrative.

It is, however, difficult to know how much influence paintings had on sculptors since nearly all-early wall painting from ancient Greek and Hellenistic times is lost.Still there is evidence in the case of Pheidias, the alleged designer of the Parthenon frieze, that he had a close familiarity with monumental painting.Since the art of wall painting was more developed at this time in terms of narrative, it is widely believed that painting acted as an important influence on the design of friezes.

Reliefs’ relationship with painting is perhaps most apparent in the use of colour.It is understood that more often then not reliefs were painted.The Alexander Sarcophagus is one, and maybe the most outstanding, example of such practice as the colours on the marble are unusually well preserved.The pristine condition in which the sarcophagus was unearthed has clues relating to the use of colour to add further depth and richness to the reliefs.It has been noted that skilled painters must have painted the reliefs and this is demonstrated to the viewer on painted models at the museum.Jenkins notes that “coloured paint and gilding were always a feature of ancient buildings, and those of the seventh and sixth centuries were especially colourful.The importance of colour in relief making therefore becomes evident and reconfirms relief’s relation to painting.Within the context of the above-discussed developments in creating an illusionistic space in the relief ground, colour finds new meaning as colour in pictorial space.

Relief as narrative and documentation.It has become apparent to me during my investigation of the subject matter of reliefs that narrative and documentation of historical events have always been an important quality of reliefs.These reliefs often had mythological narratives but there are examples of reliefs which account for important historical events which would have otherwise been forgotten.Reliefs’ function as important documents should therefore not be overlooked. As in the Parthenon frieze there is reason to believe that the Nereid frieze generally attempts to show the real event and not some idealized construct in documenting scenes from the reign of Erbinna.It has also been noted by scholars that the reliefs on the Alexander Sarcophagus and a small Gallic battle frieze from an unknown context at Ephesus were historical reliefs.

Documentation, therefore, that is inherent in the telling of historical events by reliefs holds currency.Many artists today make art that document current affairs which perhaps suggests exciting applications of relief as an art form in documenting today’s news at a time when media (as in fine art media) seems to fulfill this task almost exclusively.

At this juncture R.R.R. Smith’s analogy to Homer’s Odyssey when he talks about Telephos frieze is perhaps noteworthy.Smith points out the complexity of the narrative time of the frieze in its ability to jump back and forth in time and draws similarities with the Odyssey which “has the same variety of picturesque settings, the same abrupt changes of time and place, and the same rapid succession of events and concurrent narratives.” The ability to depict different timelines simultaneously then presents itself as a possibility inherent in relief-making.

I am also reminded a quote by Kutlug Ataman, whose work explores the boundary between documentation and fiction:

“All documentary is a narrative and all narrative is constructed.All narratives, hence all lives, are in the end created as art by the subject.”

What better way, then, is there, to re-construct a narrative then to actually make it into a construction?

Relief as animation.Many reliefs are displayed out of context in museum environments away from daylight.This is especially problematic as shadows cast on the background of a relief by the figures that stick out seem important.When in daylight, light on these reliefs is neither still nor constant.Because of the movement of the sun and the clouds the shadows cast on the relief constantly change.In other words, these reliefs in their natural habitats are animated.Metaphorically speaking, the figures carved into these stones do not only bring the stones to life but they ‘move’ under the ever-changing light of the sun.This element of animation adds, I should think, another level of sophistication and currency to the relief in today’s media environment.Jenkins explains the primary reason for the use of marble in the making of ancient reliefs to be the sharp and durable edge it takes in its carving that allows for a subtlety of plastic effect, especially in the play of light and shadow across the surface.So, it appears, the designers of these reliefs were aware of their potential to be animated in daylight and their choice of material was deliberate to this end. Animation, or an illusionistic version thereof, is then another possibility that could be explored in contemporary relief-making.


Relief and politics. This aspect of reliefs is two-fold. Reliefs have often been used as political vehicles.The carved imagery on ancient monuments, Greek, Hellenistic and Lycian, etc., often depicted struggles of power and honoured patrons of such monuments as victors.For example Jenkins notes the Athenian propaganda on The Parthenon Frieze.As well as having a likely political narrative, reliefs themselves are currently subjects of political debate as appropriated art objects on display at various institutions.(E.g., Elgin Marbles [9], The Great Altar and the Nereid Monument)

It is curious that most of these famous reliefs which, one way or the other, illustrate the politics of their times are now at the centre of ongoing debate between countries as to their propriety, making them the subject as well as a means of politics.

One could, therefore, be inspired by this historically political agenda of reliefs and build on their legacy to explore today’s political issues.

Relief as collaboration.Another quality I have come across in reliefs is that they have often been collaborations.This may have been due to restrains relating to time, labour or finances but this should not render this quality less significant for the currency of reliefs.In the case of the Gigantomachy, for example, it is believed that the frieze might have employed forty signing sculptors. Why should reliefs then be the preferred form of art for collaborative projects? I simply suggest that this tradition of collaboration in relief-making, what ever the reason maybe, could very well inspire future collaborative projects.I propose reliefs as a forum for collaboration.

Relief and de-territorialization.De-territorialization of these artifacts presents itself as an other problematic.This issue seems to have many layers and should probably be studied in a separate paper.However, some aspects of de-territorialization should be mentioned because they have been a part of my experience with some of the above-referenced reliefs.

One such issue is the preservation in confined places of these artifacts most of which were intended for the outdoors. This problem ties in with my views on potential in reliefs for animation.It also relates to the contested propriety of some of these artifacts which makes them political objects.

I believe de-territorialization could also be linked to the artist himself and his search for elements that is of his own geography, territory.Dialogue between the artist and the object removed from their own respective habitats is of interest to me and could lead to exciting equations.I am convinced these equations could inspire interesting debates and projects and make these artifacts vehicles for a possible forum for artistic exploration.


My experience of ancient reliefs which began at the British Museum, followed by my deliberation on varied qualities of these artifacts convinced me that there is much to be learnt about these complex and beautiful objects.In the end I was happy to have gone back in time a long way to rediscover, deconstruct and understand the potential of reliefs, and to see the possibilities inherent in relief-making.This exploration lead me to revalue ancient reliefs and to imagine them as artistic vehicles in contemporary artistic endeavors.I was fascinated by the evolution of relief-making and the range of issues encountered by the makers of reliefs.Perhaps most importantly I was surprised to find out how current some of theses issues are. Having understood the flexibility of these reliefs in absorbing and projecting many important artistic concerns at once, I propose relief as art form and forum available for today’s artist to be explored and exploited.

1. Charles Esche,
2. E. H. Gombrich, Art & Illusion, A study in the psychology of pictorial representation, The Phaidon Press Ltd. London, 2002
3. E. H. Gombrich, The Story of Art, The Phaidon Press Ltd., London, 2006
4. Henri Moore, Writings and Conversations, Edited by Alan Wilkinson, University of California Press, Berkley, Los Angeles, 2002
5. H. W. Janson, History of Art, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J. and Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 1962
6. Ian Jenkins, Greek Architecture And Its Sculpture In The British Museum, The British Museum Press, 2006
7. Jennifer Neils, The Parthenon Frieze, Cambridge University Press, 2001
8. Louise Campbell, Coventry Cathedral: Art and Architecture in Post-War Britain, Oxford, 1996
9. Lewis Johnson, Identity Theft: Contemporary Art and Cultural Colonization” (Liverpool University Press, 2007)
10. Rosalind E. Krauss, Passages in Modern Sculpture, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England, 1996
11. R Alpay Pasinli, The Book of Alexander Sarcophagus by Alpay Pasinli, A Turizm Yayinlari, Turkey, 2000
12. R.R.R. Smith, Hellenistic Sculpture, Thames & Hudson, London, 2005
Slade School of Fine Art Dissertation – 11.05.2007

August 4, 2008, 9:15 am
Filed under: English, Essays

“[…] There is very often less perfection in works composed of several portions, and carried out by the hands of various masters, than in those on which one individual alone has worked. Thus we see that buildings planned and carried out by one architect alone are usually more beautiful and better proportioned than those which many have tried to put in order and improve, making use of old walls which were built with other ends in view.”

So proclaimed Rene Descartes, regarded by most as the Modern philosopher par excellence, in his Discourse on the Method.

Yoshio Taniguchi, the Japanese architect who designed and carried out the recent renovation and expansion of the Museum of Modern Arts (MoMA) in New York, would disagree.It would seem from his ‘new’ design that Taniguchi is onto something.

Taniguchi’s architecture has been identified as ‘modern’, and perhaps more frequently as ‘high modern’, ‘refined modern’, ‘elegantly modern’ and so on in recent articles on the new and, in my humble opinion, significantly improved MoMA.As one columnist put it, through Taniguchi’s design “New York’s Museum of Modern Art finally [became] what it wanted to be all along.” I propose to an amendment to this statement: ‘MoMA becomes what it wants to be now’ to suggest its contemporary aspirations.

My own impressions of the new MoMA consist of a profound sense of awe before the dynamic and inspiring interplay of the myriad of rectilinear planes which lead to intrigue, a distinct feeling of lightness in spite of my awareness of the building’s unmistakable mass and the extensive art collection that surrounds me, and the subtle yet confident effect of the interaction of light, surface and material.It is true that my experience was perhaps augmented because I knew how MoMA used to be, but the dedication, skill and intellect alone that transformed the museum is truly admirable.Taniguchi is known to have stated that planning MoMA would be like solving a puzzle. It appears the puzzle has been solved.

This investigation into Taniguchi’s architecture within the context of the new MoMA is therefore an attempt to understand what really might be happening at the re-launched museum, and whether Taniguchi’s design and, perhaps more importantly, his selection by the board of trustee’s of MoMA as the project architect might be a sign of things to come.In my pursuit, I will take on a journey through modern philosophy, modern architecture and the postmodern to bring in the tools I deem to be relevant to this investigation into Taniguchi’s MoMA.

Philosophy and Modern

What makes modern philosophy ‘modern’ and why is this relevant?The common denominator in all that is ‘modern’ seems to be a “decisive break in an intellectual tradition, an inability to rely on assumptions and practices taken for granted in the past [, and] a revolution in human thought responsible for [….] a great discovery about method.”Tearing everything down and rebuilding from the foundations, for example, is at the very core ofDescartes’s philosophy.

In the realm of philosophy it has been suggested that “the revival of ancient scepticism [characterized by suspicion of change and innovation] and its application to the intellectual and religious problems of the time was crucial in the rise of modern philosophy.”Attempts to answer the challenge posed by this scepticism, or to live with it,and the struggle to persevere in the search of knowledge defined modern thought from Descartes to Kant.

Although most scholars appear to agree that modern philosophy started with an attempt to break away from tradition, views held by the philosophers usually classified as ‘modern’ vastly varied.

One scholar points out the ‘modern race to originality’ based on the priority dispute between the followers of Leibniz and Newton over the infinitesimal calculus and highlights ‘originality’ as and end in itself for the modern enterprise, and differentiates between such times from Descrates’s characterized by the suspicion of change and innovation.

On the other hand, Thomas Hobbes, a modern philosopher according to many, is said to have combined “existing [ancient] elements into a new pattern, clarifying and formalizing these elements in the process of constructing his theory.”

Francis Bacon, another philosopher who is by and large agreed to be ‘modern’, according to one scholar, is ‘modern’ because of his “intellectual boldness”, “his constant and impatient denigration of ancient authorities in philosophical matters”, his belief that “philosophical endeavor is to be directed not toward mere contemplation but to action and utility” and his proposal for a new method for the discovery of the laws of nature.Same scholar wonders whether modernity as an emotive term was, in Bacon’s case, a a studied pose to distinguish himself advantageously from his predecessors and to legitimize his intellectual productions in the eyes of a secular readership , hence doubting whether Bacon really is modern.This confusion as to who is modern and who is not seems to stem from the confirm the mystery that surrounds the term modern.In fact, the term ‘modern’ derives from the Latin adverb modo, meaning ‘recently’ or ‘of this time’, presenting an inherent paradox (as in, recent or present?), analogous to the ongoing debate regarding the term’s historical context.

Finally, Immanuel Kant, the foremost thoroughgoing ‘philosophical modernist’ for many, claimed that the founders of the modern enterprise failed to achieve full ‘maturity’.Kant observes the world and historical events from a position of rationality, detachment and objectivity.Kantianism, very simply put, is autonomous self-regulating reason.Therefore, from a Kantian perspective rationalism and the break from all that is not rational make the essence of modern philosophy.
It is by no means possible to cover the entire debate about modern philosophy within the confines of this paper; however, we could perhaps surgically remove and highlight some of the punch lines for the sake of my inquiry around the new MoMA.These would be ‘break’, ‘tradition’, ‘scepticisim’, ‘method’, ‘utility’, ‘reason’ and ‘originality’.
I will now argue that each such term finds its own place within the context of Taniguchi’s MoMA.At first this application may seem haphazard with a certain detachment of the terms from their historical meanings, and out of place for they are mainly philosophical finds.However, I am confident that there is some value in carrying over these ideas into the present to unearth their currency.
Does Taniguchi’s architecture attempt to ‘break’ from postmodern ‘tradition’ in architecture?Could there be a similarity between the sceptics of the 17th and 18th Centuries and the champions of the ‘postmodern’?Could it then be possible to overcome such scepticism through the introduction of ‘new methods’ to defend the ‘modern’?Does Taniguchi’s use of innovative or ‘original’ ways of lighting, layout, material and colour attempt to tackle certain shortcomings of the traditionally modern?Has Taniguchi reinstated the ‘utilitarian’ dimension of MoMA, the museum, in his museumgoer and art friendly new design?Is the ‘reason’ behind Taniguchi’s transformation to strip the museum of its outmoded and dysfunctional utopian heritage and to give the museum a sensible and sustainable new utopian edge, in other words to create an ideal environment for the viewers to experience the possibilities that the ‘future’ holds for the arts?

I realize some of these questions demand answers and I intend to further dwell on them during the course of my investigation.I do, however, hope that some of the answers are already apparent.

Let’s continue…
Architecture andModern

According to Kenneth Frampton, the roots of modernism in architecture dates back to the physician-architect Claude Perrault’s late 17th-century challenge to the universal validity of Vitruvian proportionsand the definitive split between engineering and architecture. Frampton builds his case for modernism on three historical events:cultural transformations which lead to the architecture of Neo-Classicism, territorial transformations which lead to urban developments, and technical transformations which lead to structural engineering.

William J. R. Curtis, in his book titled Modern Architecture Since 1900 claims we may be nearer the beginning of a modernist tradition than the end of one, dismissing postmodernism as a temporary and localized phenomenon. Richard Wenston, another scholar, describes modernism to be the “most remarkable outpouring of artistic creativity since the early Renaissance” admittedly out of sympathy and admiration. Like Frampton, Curtis links the birth and rise of modernism to major sociological and technological transformations such as the gradual shift from rural to urban existence in the industrializing world, and the emphasis on the idea of progress. Curtis, however, is not convinced that architects of the fin-de-siecle, who he claims had little to stand on except “facile revivalism and eclecticism”, were able to forge their intellectual resources into a new synthesis appropriate to modern conditions. Modernism, to Curtis, is “an incomplete cultural project; an evolving tradition of ideas, forms and actual buildings; an epic adventure, the dominant tradition of our time.” Curtis suggests that this modernist tradition can only be sustained if it can go on “transforming in time, achieving new connections of myth and meaning, new syntheses of ideas and forms.”Curtis concludes that the essence of modernism should be ‘authenticity’ which he goes on to define as genuineness and probity – the opposite of fake. This idea of ‘authenticity’ as discussed above is reminiscent of the importance of ‘originality’ in modern philosophy.

Modernism within the context of MoMA’s architectural history is most apparent in Philip Goodwin’s design of the 1939 building, defined by some as Utopian because of its function as a unifying element, “one that diminished or obscured the heterogeneity of the collections and diversity of experiences on offer.”Wallach calls the 1939 design “MoMA’s most representative artifact, not something it had collected but something it had deliberately created, the most potent signifier of its Utopian aspirations.”[1]

I believe it is imperative and relevant to my investigation to note that modern architecture has been criticized by some for being inhuman.Kunio Meyakawa in an essay titled Thoughts on Civilization in Architecture (1965) blames this on certain methods used in structural engineering, namely simplification and abstraction, and cautions that “modern architecture must recall its rudiments, its initial principles as a human architecture.”Meyakawa suggests “going back to the beginnings of the Western civilization [to] discover whether the power to bring [the requisite] ethical revolution can really be found in the inventory of Western civilization” and that perhaps the ultimate solution lies in the Orient, or perhaps in Japan. This is a noteworthy proposition at the wake of the new MoMA and its Japanese architect.Could modernism then be seeking its ‘cure’ in the Orient?This is interesting as Fumihiko Maki in his foreword to The Architecture of Yoshio Taniguchi notes certain traditional Japanese principles at play in Taniguchi’s architecture.Maki explains that “in situating a building on a given site, Taniguchi first determines to what extent that site can be converted into the new place he seeks to [create]” and “by means of [….] endless shifting of the center, [his] architecture [becomes] the aggregate of spatial, that is, visual experiences.”Maki suggests that Taniguchi’s ”attempt to establish a new place might be called an attempt to establish za [,] a concept, of Japanese/Oriental origin, created to relate, in actual fact or on a symbolic plane, diverse heterogeneous elements existing inside and outside a certain domain.” It should be noted that Japanese architects and urban planners resorted to the principle of za to relate disparate urban elements which haphazardly ended up together in the urban environment during the urbanization of Japan. Maki further acknowledges Taniguchi’s use of the za when he states that Taniguchi often takes architectural principles embraced by Mies as his starting point, “but that in the process of actualizing them in spatial compositions a traditional Japanese sensibility takes over.”I believe the principle of za must have come handy to Taniguchi in molding together different styles of architecture that coexisted within MoMA, and in creating so skillfully a sense of seamless harmony among the museum buildings which had become increasingly fragmented with the expansions through the years.[2]

To understand Taniguchi’s architectural style and his place in the realm of modern architecture better Maki suggests that we take a look at Mies van der Rohe’s architecture.

Frampton describes Mies’s architecture for the German State Pavilion at the Barcelona World Exhibition of 1929 [3], regarded by Frampton as the climax of Mies’s early career, as “Wright as interpreted through the sensibility of the G group [, a peculiar sensibility which seems to have combined a Constructivist objectivity with a Dadaist feeling for chance,] and the metaphysical space conceptions of De Stijl.” These principles, we are told, lead to horizontal centrifugal spatial arrangements subdivided and articulated by freestanding planes and columns.Curtis recaps Mies’s architecture as being symmetrical, frontal and axial for civic buildings and monuments, and asymmetrical, fluid and comprised of interlocking volumes for residences, both ‘modes’ having been combined in the Barcelona Pavilion. Maki points out Taniguchi’s affinity with Mies by quoting Taniguchi himself:

“When drawings of the main buildings I have designed in the last five years are juxtaposed, the fact that they all involve the pursuit of certain configurations is obvious to anyone.They are the result of combining simple but contradictory figures, namely centripetal and centrifugal forms, and space and mass.”

Taniguchi does not have a manifesto like many other contemporary architects discussing in print the philosophy and method behind his design.He does, however, allude to the importance of “responding to given site and design conditions [as] one of the most basic problems in architectural design [,] the most basic factor determining the composition of space [being] the decision made on such things as materials, lighting, colors and proportion…” This play in terms of texture and colour is also apparent in Mies’s design for the Barcelona Pavilion.

Mies regarded technology as the cultural manifestation of modern man.In Modern Architecture – A Critical Study, Frampton calls this period in Mies’s career the ‘monumentalization of technique.’During this period Mies concentrated on using new techniques in his design rendering technology central to his architecture. Similarly, Taniguchi, whose formal education was in engineering before studying architecture at Harvard, demonstrates particular attention to the engineering aspect of architecture, which is perhaps most evident in the ultra-thin curtain walls of glass, aluminum panels and granite, and tiny joints and “thinner-than-thin” mullions he used in the new MoMA.[4]

Taniguchi’s discernible commitment to modernism is reinforced when Maki informs us of Yoshiro Taniguchi’s ((1904-1979) the father of Yoshio Taniguchi) interest in early European modernism in his youth and wonders whether this “might have planted a seed that has borne fruit in the son.”

Finally, one event that is worth mentioning before I conclude my synopsis of modernism in architecture is the exhibition titled International Style: Architecture Since 1922, which to some was controversial due Frank Lloyd Wright’s omission , held in 1932 within the confines of the original building of MoMA.American architectural historian Henry-Russell Hitchcock and American architect Philip Johnson co-authored a catalogue to accompany this exhibition of architectural photographs and models, outlining what they saw as the characteristics of the ‘new’ architecture: “an emphasis on volume, not mass; on proportions and sleek, technical perfection rather than ornament; and a preference for elegant materials that included those of the machine age,” which later became an important reference book for modern architecture. Taniguchi’s seeming adherence to the rules set out in the said catalogue is I believe striking.


Before moving on to my analysis of the ‘new’ architecture of MoMA, which in my view sidesteps postmodern schemes and suggests a continuum in the modern project, I believe it is relevant to give a brief account of what has come to be known as the ‘postmodern’ period by those who believe the modern enterprise exhausted itself sometime after it reached its peak in the 1930s, and what it might mean to be postmodern.Given the breadth and somewhat embryonic and unresolved nature of the ongoing postmodern discourse I will not venture into the depths of these discussions and will attempt to identify some of its highlights.

By some ‘postmodern’ has been defined as an era of irrationalism and anxiety and lost hope.To others “Postmodernism is the Enlightenment gone mad.” (S. Rosen, The Ancients and the Moderns)

A “De-centralization” of the subject as opposed to the “subjective centre” of the modern experience, argues one scholar, is the essence of the postmodern phase.He further argues that such de-centralization manifested itself in postmodern architecture in the form of a rejection of formalism and aesthetic pretensions to purity and functionalist efficiency and as a challenge to basic modern ideas of a unified artistic vision and the modernist de-historicized insistence on originality.

Another scholar highlights modernism’s paradoxical aspects and argues that modern – as being what is current – can no longer be applied without qualification but rejects any proclamation of the end of modernity and the postulation of the postmodern condition.

“Post-Modern is the desire to live outside, beyond, after” proclaims Charles Jencks.Jencks claims that “modern architecture has [undoubtedly] ended as a serious body of theory – [that] no one believes in it after twenty years of attack – but [that] it continues, for want of an alternative, as actual practice” and suggests “a new way of thinking, a new paradigm based on broad theory, which enjoys large consensus.”According to Jencks “the disillusionment of modern architects and the dissatisfaction of the public with the architecture they produce have now become commonplace.” Although postmodern views and attacks on modernism vary greatly, Jencks’s take on postmodernism seems definitive.

In an essay on the history of MoMA’s architecture, following its 1980-1984 renovation and expansion by the architect Cesar Pelli, Wallach notes MoMA’s garden hall or atrium to be representative of “an increasingly familiar form of public space, a space that is once grandiose and overwhelming and yet barely legible [, offering] an experience that is once impersonal and fragmented, and yet tinged with a sense of euphoria” likening MoMA’s architecture to those of postmodern shopping malls.More importantly Wallach argues that MoMA’s history of mutation “inscribes itself on the body of Museum and the works of art it displays [, and that] such history cannot be undone – and any effort, at this late date, to mitigate its impact has, in all probability, not the slightest chance of success.”In his article Wallach declares the failure of Pelli’s expansion of the museum and voices a lack of faith in any future renovation and expansion. Again, Taniguchi would disagree.


The new MoMA “presents itself confidently as a supremely refined, neutral space for showing art, and its moments of cool elegance and transcending clarity can astonish” reports one writer. “[….] I keep feeling that it brings us to the brink of discovering something about the Modern as an institution and about modernism itself that we haven’t quite known before or experienced fully – something that’s remained hidden just beneath the surface, something marvelous” writes another.Silver uses an “ocean” metaphor in his article when giving the reader his account of the new MoMA as he navigates through the hallways, staircases and atriums of the museum alluding to the lightness and fluidity of the new design. “Urbanistic success” of Taniguchi’s architecture through unexpected glimpses of Midtown Manhattan from inside the museum and the “brilliant” use of technology by the architect is the topic of another article. In short, Taniguchi’s new design is good news for many.

Having covered new MoMA’s ‘traditionally’ modern characteristics we should see if and how this new architecture parts from such tradition.First and foremost quality of Taniguchi’s MoMA is that it is not inhuman.This is apparent from the moment we enter the renovated museum.Taniguchi’s use of materials and light and his far from monotonous corridors, atriums, staircases and mezzanines make the new museum an exciting and hospitable place.His vistas onto Midtown Manhattan too are a welcome addition to the architecture of MoMA.Last but not least the building’s ability to prioritize the collection it holds frees the museum from its architectural baggage and simulates a sense of timelessness.Taniguchi used 1-inch reveals between the walls and the floor and ceiling of the galleries to turn the gallery walls into planes that seemingly float. [5]Foster notes that this effect is reminiscent of the De Stijl aesthetic which prescribes a planarity determined by the architect that unites the arts.Taniguchi’s levitating walls that highlight the art effortlessly go hand in hand with curatorial efforts to make the presentation of the museum’s collection more contemporary.This dual endeavor to make the modern and its modern collection more contemporary is noteworthy.It appears MoMA’s new curators too are working to embrace the fluidity that the new architecture advocates through their curatorial decisions by laying down the law about modernism in a substantially more mild mannered (i.e., less categorical) fashion.

On that note, it seems curious that an exhibition titled ‘ModernStarts’ was held at MoMA right before it shut down for its renovation. ‘ModernStarts’ also “signaled a welcome decision to commingle MoMA’s separate departments” rather than creating new curatorial departments for each new category of art. Here I would also like to draw attention to the title and to think of it as precursor to the museum’s current architecture.

Technically speaking Taniguchi’s intricate design reinforced by high technology and cutting edge engineeringis impressive is a success.The new architecture of MoMA is successful from an aesthetical viewpoint.I believe there is more than meets the eye.I profess that Taniguchi’s architecture offers solutions to some important deadlocks in the modern discourse.

It has been suggested that to regard Spinoza as a modern philosopher would be to overlook an ‘ancient’ strand in his thoughts, namely Stoicism .So, therefore, what really makes ‘modern’ if ‘modern’ philosophers and allegedly ‘modernist’ architects borrow from or at least contemplate ancient thought systems?In the case of Taniguchi, for example, could his use of the za principle as discussed above signal a project to engineer the next generation of modern architecture through the reworking of so called ‘ancient’ principles into the ‘modern’?In defiance of categorical divisions originating from the history of philosophy, art and architecture, I will then propose to substitute the most important characteristic of modernism, namely the passion to break from the traditional, with ‘continuity’ that appropriates from what is ‘traditional’ and integrates into what is ‘modern’ all that is necessary or vital to achieve ‘sustainable’ modernism.

“Architecture is the will of the age conceived in spatial terms.Living, changing, new”had pronounced Mies van der Rohe.Perhaps the will of the age is to open the door to the Orient and the principles and values it has on offer. It is perhaps time to embrace such values and make way for a genuine, authentic synthesis to finally come up with what is truly modern, in other words the supermodern.


1. Crowther, Paul, Philosophy After Postmodernism, London, Routledge, 2003
2. Curtis, William J.R., Modern Architecture Since 1900, London, Phaidon Press Limited, 1996
3. Discourse on the Method, Part II, Rene Descartes, 1637.Retrieved from’%20Discourse%20on%20the%20Method.htm on February 9, 2006
4. Foster, Hal, ‘It’s Modern But Is It Contemporary?’.Retrieved on February 11, 2006
5. Frampton, Kenneth, Modern Architecture – A Critical History, London, Thames & Hudson Ltd, 1992
6. Francisca, Francis and Harris, Jonathan (eds.), Art in Modern Culture: An Anthology of Critical Texts, London, Phaidon Press Limited, 1992
7. Ghirardo, Diane, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., Professor, University of Southern California, School of Architecture, (IX.) The International Style, Modern Architecture, Microsoft, Encarta, Online Encyclopedia 2005.Retrieved on February 12, 2006 from
8. Heynen, Hilde, Architecture and Modernity, Boston, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 1999
9. Jencks, Charles and Kropf, Karl (eds.), Theories and Manifestoes of Contemporary Architecture, Chichester, West Sussex, Wiley-Academy, a division of John Wiley & Sons Limited, 2006
10. Maki, Fumihiko, ‘Stillness and Plenitude – The Architecture of Yoshio Taniguchi’, The Architecture of Yoshio Taniguchi, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, New York, 1996
11.  ‘ModernStarts’Retrieved from on February 11, 2006.
12. Pippin, Robert B., Modernism As a Philosophical Problem, Balckwell Publishers, Oxford, 1991, p. 10
13. Saltz, Jerry, ‘A Modest Proposal’, The Village Voice, January 21, 2005.Retrieved on February 11, 2006,saltz,60376,13.html
14. Shultz, Franz, ‘Taniguchi’s MoMA: An Architectural Close-Up’, in Art in America, March, 2005
15. Silver, E. Kenneth in Art in America, March, 2005
16. Sorrell, Tom (ed.), The Rise of Modern Philosophy, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1993
17. Stephens, Suzanne, ‘With Yoshio Taniguchi’s design, New York’s Museum of Modern Art finally becomes what it wanted to be all along’, Architectural Record, January 2005
18. Stuckey, Charles, ‘”Modern Starts”: Raising the Barr?’, Art In America, May, 2000.Retrieved on February 11, 2006 from
19.  ‘Vitruvius, Marcus’Retrieved on February 12, 2006 from
20. Weston, Richard, Modernism, London, Phaidon Press Limited, 1996
Bartlett School of Architecture, Term Paper – 01.04.2006

August 3, 2008, 9:13 am
Filed under: English, Essays

I unfold.

The Fold: Creases and pleats in Gilles Deleuze’s[1] take on the Baroque, in the specific figure of the fold, will help me navigate through a six-fold discourse I attempt to undertake henceforth. My interest in The Fold, however, stems not only from the ideas presented by Deleuze in his study but also from the actual title, “The Fold” and the act of folding in its literal sense which I begin to understand resonate throughout my work. This is, therefore, also an introspection, an attempt to understand why I do what I do when I make art.

Deleuze investigates Baroque art and architecture, among other things, in The Fold and draws references relevant to contemporary design. In doing so he renders an apt visual of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s[2] Monadology, this visual, of course, a courtesy of Deleuze’s clever use of the fold imagery. In The Monadology Leibniz defines a monad as a simple substance that cannot be divided into parts. A compound substance may be formed by an aggregation of monads, which a compound substance may then be divided into simple parts.[3] “These monads are the real atoms of nature, and in a word, the elements of things.”[4] Monads are readymades.

“By way of Leibniz’s logic, Deleuze is able to conceive of artworks composed of units that are neither logical nor organic, that is, neither based upon pieces as a long unity or a fragmented totality; nor formed or prefigured by those units in the course of a logical development or of an organic evolution.”[5]

Folding clearly is a fundamental element in both the natural, manufactured worlds, and as Deleuze creatively explores, in the realm of concepts. It seems impossible to conceive of a universe without the phenomena of folding, at all scales from the molecular through the geological to the astronomical.[6] According to Deleuze the world is made up of “divergent” series, and thus resembles an infinity of pleats and creases of unified and dispersed matter.[7]

“[….] a flexible or an elastic body still has cohering parts form a fold, such that they are not separated into parts of parts but are rather divided to infinity in smaller and smaller folds that always retain a certain cohesion. [….] Unfolding is thus not the contrary of folding, but follows the fold up to the following fold.”[8]

To Deleuze folding-unfolding means enveloping-developing, involution-evolution.[9] This development does not go from smaller to greater things through growth or augmentation, but from the general to the special, through differentiations of an initially undifferentiated.[10] Deleuze defines the new status of the object as inseparable from the different layers that dilate, like so many occasions for meanders and detours and concludes that matter, in relation to many folds that is capable of becoming, becomes a matter of expression. Deleuze calls this the “theatre of matter”. To the extent a material can be grasped, hardened in its distortion or its hysteresis[11], this theatre of matter is apt to express within itself the folds of another material,[12] or another narrative.

Also “deterritorialization, and its obverse, reterritorialization, implicitly tie monadic thinking to the art of displacement and transformation. ‘A stick is, in its turn, a deterritorialized branch’”[13] and this too is relevant to my next folding.

I fold.

Shedboatshed: The Turner Prize 2005 has been awarded to Simon Starling, an artist who engages with processes involved in “transforming one object or substance into another”, exploring ideas about nature, technology and economics[14] and collapsing, or folding, different narrative strains one onto the other. Starling is contemporary.

Starling’s work deals with existing structures, in other words “readymades”, despite his adamant resistance to the Duchampian idea of an industrially manufactured object and rarefying it, and unravels the potentiality embedded in his readymades by subjecting them to different narratives, and vice versa. To Starling, in his own words, “the idea of taking the long road is absolutely central [….] it is the journey that’s important”[15], a journey that is both literal and conceptual which somewhere along the way displaces objects and ideas. So I unfold: Deterritorialization is relevant.

Starling is involved in a convoluted form of mapping, a kind of interconnectedness. This mapping involves a constructivist act and yields a new reality as he “projects” different narratives onto the same surface to illustrate the simultaneity of the non-simultaneous. He stages a new reality, or rather a fiction for the viewer. There is drama. There is the theatre of matter. “Starling presents elements of culture by means of rhetoric; he treats “real” things [, readymades] as elements of artistic montage, which take shape in a form (a combination) that has no correspondence in reality [….] pointing out the adjacency of logically unrelated things.”[16] Leipniz’s logic unfolds. According to one essay “[in] defying historical linearity in favor of the more complex, non-linear web of intervention, [….] each [Starling] project encloses its own system, creating a cycle, and yet these systems ripple round each other like an unfolding, ever expanding universe.”[17]

The overlapping of an assortment of narratives in Starling’s work evokes a sense of coincidental encounter. Or, perhaps, not quite a chance encounter as the artist intends for them to meet. Starling always has a rendezvous with the ideas, objects and their offsprings he scatters.

“You find an object, take it apart, and you build something else with it, a means of transport: you make a journey with it and then put it back together in a new location. A shed becomes a boat becomes a shed [1].”[18]

I fold.

Readymade – Next generation: These famous quotes[19] should account for some of the more important corner stones of an otherwise lengthy discourse on the readymade:

“The curious thing about the readymade is that I’ve never been able to arrive at a definition or explanation that fully satisfies me.” Marcel Duchamp

“[Readymade are] manufactured objects promoted to the dignity of objects of art through the choice of the artist.” Andre Breton

“[Readymade is] half poetry and half plastic.” Marcel Duchamp[20]

There is in fact no one clear definition of the readymade, and perhaps there is not meant to be any definition thereof at all. To this end Marcel Duchamp described the readymade in an interview as a form of “denying the possibility of defining art,” suggesting that the readymade is the physical manifestation of the refusal of defining itself.[21]

Another debate about the readymade focuses on Duchamp’s aim to steer away from “retinal” art and “put art at the service of the mind” suggesting that the readymades are more about the concept than object, perhaps overlooking the fact that the readymade is not just a “gesture”, and that many continue to exist as undeniably physical objects around the world.

And then there is a rejection of the “skill”, the “deskilled” automatism of the readymade[22], and Duchamp’s shattering of subjectivity in his readymades, arguably his most radical act.[23]

Finally, another critic reminds us of the tradition of the readymade, from Marcel Duchamp to Damien Hirst, which often mocks high art or mass culture or both, and in Thomas Hirschhorn’s work global capitalism, thus recognizing the element of humour and irony in these works.[24]

Starling’s engagement with the readymade, in this instance a satirical one, is perhaps best seen in his project Work, Made-Ready (note the play on words by way of inversion) where he “interchanged” an aluminum Charles Eames chair, an icon of modern design, with a Marin bicycle when he used parts of the chair to hand build a bicycle and the bicycle to reconstruct an Eames chair, resulting in a sculptural installation that played on Marcel Duchamp’s idea of the ready-made, and on the relationship between the unique and the mass-produced.[25]

Now why is The Fold material to my investigation of Starling’s “readymade”? Could it be because Starling’s work adds an all-new aspect of the readymade, as readymade folds onto itself and unfolds within the realm of potentially infinite number of possible scenarios? Does the “Next” in “Readymade – Next Generation” allude to the potentiality that seems to be inherent in the new readymade? Does this re-recovery of the readymade signal a mysterious and exciting regeneration of the use thereof, enriched by conveniently readymade, readily available and uncharted philosophies amidst claims that the readymade is no longer valid, simply exhausted?

I fold.

The Chair [2]: And then there is my “chair”, a utilitarian object I crafted in my studio at the Slade by polishing, cutting, nailing and screwing from found scrap wood, seemingly week, therefore transient, nomadic, monadic….

then taken apart, unfolded, and each and every part drawn on a single piece of paper, images then cut out, paper made into a template through which I spray paint, a perhaps unconscious choice of red as the colour, without much deliberation onto the pseudo-canvas made up of the very same parts, this time reconfigured and reassembled, folded, to create a “flattened” chair to be hung on the wall, like a painting….

only to be photographed with the use of a macro-lens to capture close-up images of the red marks sprayed on the flat chair, photos printed and randomly juxtaposed one next to the other to create a collage, a wrapping paper to enfold parts of the chair yet again taken apart, unfolded, and neatly arranged in the form of a block…..

then mailed to Istanbul, sent on a journey, displaced, deterritorialized….

the photos of the red marks rearranged, this time with the very intention to come up with a figure, any figure, a figure which finally looks like something, a “red man”, a true offspring of the chair, another identity alien to its origin, removed, a stamp, a logo, a sign, which then travels on paper, on fabric, on cardboard, sticking back on its long forgotten originator, creator, representing him, the journey, the transformation, the “fold-mania”….

a business card.

In an attempt to understand the chair I fold onto my chair the discourse embodied in this paper, creating a conceptual wrap or fold which touches the surface of the chair, covering it in all its forms, theatrical appearances, its possibilities and potentialities. I wait and observe the results of this experiment as the chair continues on its course to “becoming” creating “were”s along the way which crisscross and overlap to generate from its folds the next surprise that will hold within it a mystery naturally giving birth to the next transformation. The theatre of chair…. Actors double, quadruple and disseminate around me as I become along side the chair an actor too, sometimes one and the same with the chair. Tangent stories fold onto each other and coexist face to face, surface to surface, and meet again and again, as the folds unfold and the unfolded folds.

I, myself, fold.

Contemporary Design, a BC: I unfold: Foster’s assertion that readymade as a model for the artist is played out[26] is outmoded.

Foster suggests a void in the double wake of post/modernism and the neo/avant-garde and seems to blame the poet-critic, i.e. today’s artist for creating a pop-libertarian aesthetic allegedly perfect for market rule.[27] According to Foster, this “void” appears to underline the exclusion of the art critic, and the replacement thereof by the curator and the artist, and calls for an urgent correction of the current status quo in the art world by inviting the art historian back into the “game”. The discussion, therefore, raises questions regarding the current role of the art critic/art historian and seeks a label for today’s trend in the arts.

Could it perhaps be that Foster’s dismissal of, or his attempt to “liberate” today’s artist from the readymade is the very dismissal by the readymade of any possibility of novelty for the artwork thereby negating the art historian’s relevance?[28] Whatever his motives may be, I simply disagree and choose to celebrate the readymade as a contemporary building block in making art.

Again, Starling is contemporary. Readymade is very much alive and folding.

I fold.

Origami: So therefore I fold my print out of Foster’s article, fold again and again, using origami and thinking it is relevant, symbolic, yet casual, with a certain playfulness, lightheartedness and mockery much in contrast with the seriousness of what the text claims, The Fold on my mind and the printed text as my material, simultaneously creating literal and conceptual folds as the text folds onto itself, words, phrases, paragraphs and pages touching each other, crisscrossing, suggesting closure. [3]

And I fold.



1.            Daniel Kurjakovic, ‘Hide and Seek in Simon Starling’s Scenarios’, Simon Starling, Cuttings, Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2005
2.            Gilles Deleuze, The Fold, Leibniz and the Baroque, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1993
3. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.  Retrieved on January 8, 2006 from
4.            Hal Foster, ‘The ABCs of Contemporary Design’, OCTOBER 100, Spring 2002
5.            Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, Art Since 1900, Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism, London, Thames & Hudson, 2004
6.            Hysteresis. Retrieved on January 7, 2006
7.            Juliana Engberg, ‘Simon Starling:  Apprentice of the Sun’, Simon Starling and Heather Galbraith (eds.), back to front, Camden Arts Centre and John Hansgard Gallery, Leipzig, 2000
8.            Kristina Seekamp, III. The Readymade and the Museum, ‘Unmaking the Museum: Marcel Duchamp’s Readymades in Context’, A senior honors project.  Retrieved on January 7, 2006 from
9.            Leibniz’s Monadology.  Retrieved on January 7, 2006 from
10.            Paul Jackson, ‘The Concept of “the Fold”’, in Hangar-7, Salzburg (ed.), Masters of Origami at Hangar-7, The Art of Paperfolding, Germany, Hatje Cantz Verlang, 2005
11.            Philipp Kaiser, ‘Interview with Simon Starling’, Simon Starling, Cuttings, Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2005
12.            Quotes, Readymade in Literature.  Retrieved on January 7, 2006 from
13.            Remko Scha, ‘On Art History’, Hein Eberson (ed.), Artificial, Amsterdam, 1993
14.            ‘Simon Starling’s artistic endeavors’, BBC News, Monday, 5 December 2005.  Retrieved on January 7, 2006 from
15.            Translated by Robert Latta, The Monadology by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.  Retrieved on January 7, 2006 from
16.            Virginia Button, ‘Simon Starling’, The Turner Prize, Tate Publishing, London, The revised and updated edition published in 2005
[1] Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995) was professor of philosophy at the University of Paris, Vincennes-St. Denis.  With Felix Guattari, he coauthored Anti-Oedipus, A Thousand Plateaus, and Kafka.  He was also the author of Kant’s Critical Philosophy, Cinema 1, Cinema 2, and Essays Critical and Clinical. Gilles Deleuze, The Fold, Leibniz and the Baroque, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1993, back cover
[2] Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) is a German philosopher, mathematician, and political adviser, important both as a metaphysician and as a logician and distinguished also for his independent invention of the differential and integral calculus.  Retrieved on January 8, 2006 from
[3] Leibniz’s Monadology.  Retrieved on January 7, 2006 from
[4] The Monadology by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, translated by Robert Latta.  Retrieved on January 7, 2006 from
[5] Gilles Deleuze, The Fold, Leibniz and the Baroque, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1993, xiv
[6] Paul Jackson, ‘The Concept of “the Fold”’, in Hangar-7, Salzburg (ed.), Masters of Origami at Hangar-7, The Art of Paperfolding, Germany, Hatje Cantz Verlang, 2005, p. 40
[7] Deleuze, The Fold, Leibniz and the Baroque, p. xv
[8] Deleuze, The Fold, Leibniz and the Baroque, p. 6
[9] Deleuze, The Fold, Leibniz and the Baroque, pp. 8,9
[10] Deleuze, The Fold, Leibniz and the Baroque, p. 10
[11] Hysteresis represents the history dependence of physical systems. If you push on something, it will yield: when you release, does it spring back completely? If it doesn’t, it is exhibiting hysteresis, in some broad sense. The term is most commonly applied, as Webster implies, to magnetic materials: as the external field with the signal from the microphone is turned off, the little magnetic domains in the tape don’t return to their original configuration (by design, otherwise your record of the music would disappear!) Hysteresis happens in lots of other systems: if you place a large force on your fork while cutting a tough piece of meat, it doesn’t always return to its original shape: the shape of the fork depends on its history.
[12] Deleuze, The Fold, Leibniz and the Baroque, p. 37
[13] Deleuze, The Fold, Leibniz and the Baroque, p. 66
[14] ‘Simon Starling’s artistic endeavors’, BBC News, Monday, 5 December 2005.  Retrieved on January 7, 2006 from
[15] Philipp Kaiser, ‘Interview with Simon Starling’, Simon Starling, Cuttings, Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2005, pp. E
[16] Daniel Kurjakovic, ‘Hide and Seek in Simon Starling’s Scenarios’, Simon Starling, Cuttings, Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2005, pp. E
[17] Juliana Engberg, ‘Simon Starling:  Apprentice of the Sun’, Simon Starling and Heather Galbraith (eds.), back to front, Camden Arts Centre and John Hansgard Gallery, Leipzig, 2000, p. 55
[18] Philip Kaiser, ‘Interview with Simon Starling’, pp. E
[19] Quotes, Readymade in Literature.  Retrieved on January 7, 2006 from
[20] Kristina Seekamp, III. The Readymade and the Museum, ‘Unmaking the Museum: Marcel Duchamp’s Readymades in Context’, A senior honors project.  Retrieved on January 7, 2006 from
[21] Kristina Seekamp, I. Towards a Definition
[22] [22] Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, Art Since 1900, Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism, London, Thames & Hudson, 2004, p.497
[23] Foster, Krauss, Bois, Buchloh, Art Since 1900, Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism, p.159
[24] Foster, Krauss, Bois, Buchloh, Art Since 1900, Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism, p. 666
[25] Virginia Button, ‘Simon Starling’, The Turner Prize, Tate Publishing, London, The revised and updated edition published in 2005, p. 216
[26] Hal Foster, ‘The ABCs of Contemporary Design’, OCTOBER 100, Spring 2002, p. 198
[27] Hal Foster, The ABCs of Contemporary Design,, pp. 198, 199
[28] Remko Scha, ‘On Art History’, Hein Eberson (ed.), Artificial, Amsterdam, 1993, pp. 50, 51
Slade School of Fine Art, Term Paper – Spring 2006


August 2, 2008, 9:09 am
Filed under: English, Essays

Toby Paterson, the winner of the Beck`s Futures 2002, continues to walk the fine line between architecture and art in his latest work After the Rain commissioned by the Barbicanand exhibited at The Curve Gallery[1].For this new commission, Paterson has responded to the distinctive architecture of The Curve Gallery bringing together large-scale wall paintings, sculptural assemblages and paintings on Perspex in a complex and daringly ambiguous installation.Inspired by his ongoing interest in urban landscapes, After the Rain emerges from Paterson`s current attraction to a trio of cities extensively damaged during the Second World War – Coventry, Rotterdam and Hamburg. Along the tradition of his previous work, Paterson utilizes an inventive language of architectural drawing techniques, city topographies and isolated fragments of buildings, playing on the shift between abstraction and representation together with the manipulation of scale.

My account of ‘After the Rain’ leads to a two-tier investigation. The more visual layer of my inquiry folds and unfolds as I attempt to understand the dynamics of the gallery space, the edifice which holds and rises above the gallery, and the viewers place in relation to space and building within the context of Paterson’s latest work.

After the Rain is set up by Paterson at the Curve Gallery, clearly named after its shape, a hallway or a corridor “tracing” a curve. In tune with his previous exhibitions, Paterson takes the gallery space, highlights its varied character and discovers its potential.[1] Much like New Façade [2] presented at the Glass Box in Paris in 2004 as part of the Entente Mondiale season, After the Rain too is a walk-through experience[2] as the viewer enters the gallery from one side, walks through the curving gallery utill the end and exits from the other side. Like the wall paintings of Paterson the transient viewer himself is temporal as well. Temporality of the otherwise seemingly solid and permanent mural paintings are perhaps best described by this critic:

“In Toby Paterson’s work there are some apposite connections of source and artwork to questions of temporality and permanence. The wall works stand as solidly as the walls in galleries in which the work is housed. The schemes depicted can be taken from models, drawings, plans, photographs or the experiences of buildings visited. The fate of the schemes is not always apparent: some were built, others have been destroyed and some stand in various states of (dis)repair. […..] The viewer is looking at a condemned work with a date of destruction already set, an artwork that will relinquish its space and form. Although the wall works are made up of layers of paint, they cannot be removed just by painting over them. The painted forms need to be sanded back. The artist leaves layers of unexpected traces, the documentation of an exhibition past. [….] These traces are the details missed, archeological traces, lines of an earlier occupation written into the surface of the wall. The theme of temporality and permanence is important not just for the state of Toby Paterson’s work as a whole. It also consistently recurs as a theme for the source material.”[3]

The curving shape of the exhibition space seems to evoke emotions other than temporality as well. There is the unknown. The viewer cannot see what is behind the curve, things to come, which seems to suggest the uncertainty of the fate of most buildings represented in Paterson’s work. The paintings (on Perspex[4] and paper), which look like architectural renderings of the modernist buildings of a certain utopia, are presented behind Perspex. Perspex was used extensively in war supplies (e.g., aircraft cockpit manufacture and in other protective screens) during WWII, around the time when cities like Coventry were heavily bombed. It, therefore, seems unfair to disregard a certain symbolism in Paterson’s use of the material. The irony is there. The very buildings which were bombed by air raids are shielded in this re-enactment of a failed utopia. Perspex as a symbol of mass production could also be another reference the artist aims to make, as in the mass production of construction materials which changed architecture as we know it today.

Paterson uses pure, bright colours. He paints in light.

“The feeling of his compositions is that of a shutter releasing on a perfect sunny day. The image is [….] focused: the background falls away. This is what he will make memorable: idealized depictions of modernist architecture, precisely rendered.”[5]

The use of a flat, un-modulated style of painting was a decision the artist made during his studies in Chicago where he worked with axonometric drawings – a technique of showing perspective that emphasizes the plan of a building and its verticals to allow a ‘truer’ reading of its physical form than a drawing done empirically. Paterson believed that a more graphic style as opposed to a gestural one was less likely to have unwanted connotations, and would do aesthetic and intellectual justice to the buildings he depicted.[6]

Large wall paintings like smaller paintings in acrylic on Perspex and paper sometimes seem ornamental. Paterson spreads abstract shapes on the gallery walls at times reminiscent of the Suprematist paintings of Malevich or of the abstract painter Victor Pasmore [3], as in Paterson’s earlier engagement with the British artist in his installation titled New Façade first shown at the Contemporary Art Center in Glasgow (and at Glass Box in Paris a year later.)

“To the Suprematist, the appropriate means of representation would always be the one which gives fullest possible expression to feeling as such and which ignores the familiar appearance of objects. Feeling would be the determining factor thus art would arrive at non-objective representation at Suprematism, and [….] nothing could be perceived but feeling.”[7]

Like Mondrian, Paterson seems in tune with the ‘soul’ of the environment he depicts.[8] The practical approaches of the Constructivists can also be seen in Paterson’s work, like Pasmore’s progression from flat painting, to relief and simultaneously to architecture.[9] His paintings are accompanied by sculptural assemblages, free-standing cubic modular frames, constructs, modernist stands which represent buildings, or like his abstract shapes, just forms, adding yet another set of ‘ornaments’ to the installation, and are perhaps reminiscent of El Lissitzky’s Proun Room [4]. The combination of acrylic, Perspex and aluminum that are used in Paterson’s installation seem to refer to the use of new materials within the context of Modernism.

One may argue that influences of the De Stijl painters who conceived their art as a Trojan horse entering architectural space in order to destroy its anatomical structure visually seem evident in Paterson’s approach to architecture. As such, Mondrian retained a lifelong interest in the possibility of the “abstract interior” (the hybrid form invented by De Stijl members as a result of their collective analysis), transforming space into paintings that deploy their planar elements throughout the real space of the room.[10]

Artistic references in Paterson’s work are one too many to fully unravel in this investigation and perhaps a complete deciphering of such references is not required to understand the artist’s mission. A walk through the gallery should suffice. Paterson in any event does not seem to ask for more from his viewer.

As the viewer journeys through the Curve he is consumed in the artist’s complex world of imagery and is further removed from the subject matter. He gradually becomes aware of a grander scheme present in the space he is navigating beyond layers of visible stimuli. The artist requires his consciousness. And he becomes aware of the building.

Paterson’s choice of space for his investigation into the lost grandeur of modernist architecture ought to have some significance. In fact, it is pointed out in one review, quite rightfully, that the piece titled ‘Station Stairs’ looks uncannily like an interior view of the Barbican Centre itself, with its balconies, wide open staircases and the multi-leveled visibility, bringing into sharp focus the very building in which we are standing. In his account of the exhibition, the critic recalls the sound of the drilling from the refurbishment of the Barbican resonating throughout the gallery, serving as a visceral reminder of the relevance and urgency of the reappraisal of the recent British modernist past.[11]

The Barbican, the biggest building in Britain, both tall and broad-shouldered, constructed throughout of bush-hammered aggregate concrete, and now a listed building as a concentration of concrete monuments, was designed in the 1950s by Chamberlin Powell and Bon, young British disciples of the most distinguished representative of the “International Style” during the 1920s, the Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier (Charles Edouard Jeanneret, 1886-1965.)[12] [5] De Stijl’s austerely geometric designs, based on Mondrian’s principle of an equilibrium achieved through the balance of unequal but equivalent oppositions,[13] in other words a certain balance that cannot be measured but felt,[14] and its focus on modernism as a utopian integration of art into the space of living had a decisive influence on so many architects abroad (hence the “International Style”), including Le Corbusier, one of the forerunners of ferro-concrete architecture. It was Le Corbusier and his generation of architects who in the course of their long careers coined the language of the twentieth-century architecture. It is suggested by an art historian that their successors continue to use it, adapting its vocabulary to new building types and materials but not questioning its fundamental logic.[15] Perhaps this is exactly what Paterson is trying to make up for in his art.

The Barbican was long despised by those who made no attempt to understand it or who had never stepped inside the building. Like many modernist architecture embracing the International Style, it was long despised by those who made no attempt to understand it or who had never stepped inside, but unlike those buildings represented throughout Paterson’s work stand firm at the heart of urban London with such functionality that puts those who claim the failure of modernist utopia in architecture to shame. The Barbican is a monument of and to concrete, a reminder of the modernist ideals and perhaps even a wake up call. Built at the heart the British Capitol, and “kapital”, could the Barbican be more than the Don Quixote of our times? Ultimately, what does it mean for the viewer to be inside the Barbican as he simultaneously wanders through Paterson’s work at the Curve. This is exactly when Paterson asks the viewer to step up to a higher level of consciousness where intellect and emotion reconcile.

Consequently the second and final layer of my investigation is based on the dissolution of Paterson’s subject matter in the Suprematist tradition where objects give way to an overall feeling of the world the artist created for us.

In his adventure into the world of modernist architecture Paterson leads his viewer into un-chartered waters of a “middle-earth” inhabited by colour, form, structure, wit and memory. In our journey through the gallery we discover that colour and form become memory, the walls become the building and the building becomes the very material Paterson works with. We recognize where we are when we start to feel that the space we navigate is no less than the collective memory of modernism revived. The proud and ever dominant mass of the Barbican is now host to the forgotten beauty of modernist architecture. The viewer is asked to feel and then rediscover the refined and graceful splendor of this recklessly consumed style of architecture as he walks the Curve.

Concrete, as in the walls of The Curve gallery and on the insides of The Barbican seizes to be merely a ‘canvas’ but the very substance with which Paterson works. Paterson consciously appropriates the walls of the exhibition space and by inverting the building, if you like, re-invents the building that hosts the gallery as an object of art about itself, a subject of architecture. Paterson’s inquiry into architecture in his work with such intensity leads to the natural fusion of the subject matter and the object, in other words, architecture and artwork. The two become inseparable and indistinguishable. Architecture is Paterson’s way into things, into learning how the world works,[16] but not an end in itself. It is his palette, template, magic wand. After the Rain is the inevitable result of Paterson’s natural progress to an ever more complex universe that continues to expand around architecture. The traffic of ideas, games and feelings create an atmosphere so thick that it takes over the actual physicality of the matter that is on display and becomes the work itself. In other words, Paterson’s work is more than just a conceptual work. The concept is the work in that it becomes the material with which Paterson works. The already fine line between the subject matter and the material evaporates and the subject becomes the object.

“It is important to note that the art works are not about architecture, although they often contain architectural objects or images. When buildings are referenced, you do not need to have seen the building – that is not what the work is about. The building works as a cipher for a range of other emotions that relate to contemporary experience. [….] The artist forms a form of completion, a re-direction of the narrative, a re-writing. [….] It is the treatment of this originating impulse that complicates the surface forms, adding depth through imagined spatial content. The artist engages in an art of fiction, an essential fiction of everyday life. [….] The artist becomes author of a fictionalized state – not a utopia, but a state in which architecture becomes object. Architecture no longer has to present the conditions of use. It does not have to be imagined as an inhabited kind of space, it is a space somewhere in-between real and ideal. The artist, there, provides the necessary fictionalization of an architectural present – it is a fiction that seems to emerge out of the details of fascination.”[17]

It is perhaps worthwhile mentioning another passion of the artist, skateboarding, where Paterson’s persona comes into play and connects with various aspects of his work within the context of contemporary urban culture.[18] Paterson who designed a skateboard park (Molendinar Park) to help turn on of Glasgow’s most deprived districts into a centre of public art seems to reconcile without any effort his concern for the social consequences of the failure of modernist architecture, his subject matter as the artist and his fondness of skateboarding. His interest in skateboarding proves his dedication to the subject matter and the honesty of his work on another level when one realizes that the urban landscape he depicts in his art is a skateboarder’s natural habitat. In an interview with the artist, he told the reporter that he developed a very close relationship with the architecture as he was constantly banging off it and slamming onto it, learned to respect brutal modernist structures and began to question everything he had been taught.[19] As a skateboarder he made use of urban environments that had been abandoned or forgotten which had different potentials because of the way skateboarding made him look at them.[20] As suggested by an art critic “the space of [Paterson’s] work is the meeting between the Platonic images of his painting and the way real buildings everywhere are trafficked and used (by skateboarders, housewives or war veterans.)”[21] On the other hand, a skateboard as an object of fun and mobility on wheels suggests surface, of the very floors and walls Paterson represents so cleverly in his work, and journey, a journey through the derelict remnants of such modernist architecture repeatedly visited by the artist in his art. I cannot help but see a playful, yet undeniable, similarity between Paterson’s approach to architecture as an artist and as a skate-boarder. This may indeed be yet another knot in the fabric Paterson’s continues to weave.[22]

Finally, the subject matter, the space, the material, Paterson and, perhaps, this paper as my account of it all become one in this complex yet beautiful riddle Paterson created.



[1] Henry McKeown, ‘Wake-up call’, The Architect’s Journal, 22/5/2003
[2] Ian Gale, ‘Darkness in the City of Light’, The Scotsman, November 2004
[3] Steven Gartside, ‘Tracing Urban Fascination’, in Toby Paterson, Centre for Contemporary Arts, 2003, pp. 52, 53
[4] Trade name for a clear, lightweight, tough plastic first produced in 1930.  First produced commercially in Britain, Perspex quickly became a consumer’s favorite.
[5] Toby Paterson, ‘Static Utopia’, Toby Paterson leaflet, The Modern Institute, 2001
[6] Blaise Drummond and Toby Paterson, ‘Architecture into Paint’, Art and Architecture, Autumn 2001
[7] Malevich, The Non-Objective World, pp. 67-100 passim. in Herschel B. Chipp, Theories of Modern Art, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, University of California Press, 1984, pp. 341-346
[8] Ian Gale, ‘Posing a challenge to the brave new world’, The Scotsman, 12/11/2003
[9] Caroline Woodley, ‘The New Architecture’, in Toby Paterson, Centre for Contemporary Arts, 2003, p.11
[10] Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, Art Since 1900, Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism, London, Thames & Hudson, 2004, p.153
[11] Dave Ball, ‘Toby Paterson: After the Rain’, – art – Issue 20 – an online magazine covering science, global news/politics, art, music and much more.  Retrieved on April 24, 2005 from
[12] Jonathan Glancey, ‘A great place to live’, The Guardian, 7/9/2001
[13] H.W. Janson, A History of Art, London, Thames and Hudson, 1982, pp. 707-711
[14] 222 Modern Architecture, Prof. Dr. Frances Neiderer, Hollins College, Virgina, U.S.A., 1965, Spring Semestre Class Notes of Prof. Dr. F. Pinar Canevi.
[15] Janson, A History of Art, London, pp. 707-711
[16] Moira Jeffrey, ‘A high roller who’s streets ahead’, The Herald, 8/3/2002
[17] Steven Gartside, ‘Tracing Urban Fascination’, in Toby Paterson, Centre for Contemporary Arts, 2003, pp. 52, 53
[18] Rachel Devine, ‘If you go down to the park today…’, Sunday Times, 23/06/2002
[19] Susan Mansfield, ‘Brush with a skateboarder’, The Scotsman, 18/12/2001
[20] Tim Abrahams, ‘Boarded Up’, Sunday Herald, 5/5/2002  Paterson seems to refrain from “playing” the card of the artist’s persona in this interview, perhaps in an attempt to clarify his position in the debate on the significance of the artist’s persona.  Once could, however, argue what consists of the artist’s persona and whether it is always there, because it is of interest to the art historian or the viewer, without any conscious effort to manufacture one around one’s self.
[21] Lars Bang Larsen, ‘Platon And The Skateboard, Toby Paterson’s Style’, in Toby Paterson, Centre for Contemporary Arts, 2003, pp. 59
[22] One wonders why Paterson does not make any “floor” paintings to share his experience as a skateboarder with his viewer.
[1] After the Rain was on show until April 17, 2005.
[2] “The Curve is a temporary exhibition space at the heart of the Barbican.  The aim of The Curve is to present new and recently produced work through a programme of contemporary exhibitions that suit the dynamics of this unique space.” Retrieved on April 14, 2005 from
[3] Toby Paterson, After the Rain, The Curve Gallery, The Barbican Centre, 10/02/2005 – 17/04/2005Retrieved on April 14, 2005 from
Slade School of Fine Art, Term Paper – April 24, 2005

August 1, 2008, 9:00 am
Filed under: English, Essays

David Thorpe`s recent installation titled The Colonist at Tate Britian and the exhibition of Zaha Hadid`s `paintings` at the Gilbert Collection, Sommerset House both consist of works depicting imaginary landscapes.I choose these two `artists` (although Hadid, laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004 , is an architect by profession) because I am intrigued by their landscapes, designs and compositions, and certain similarities between Thorpe`s and Hadid`s works.

David Thorpe, well-known for his relief like collages, uses material that are inherent to their subjects, such as bark, pressed flowers, leather, fabric, etc. in his collages in The Colonist [1] to suggest a narration of romantic landscapes and futuristic buildings, symbolizing a certain Utopia, a vision that is to be defended.[1] Thorpe’s Utopia made up of delicate collages of dreamy landscapes sheltering, upholding or simply hiding eccentric buildings, and his intricate ‘sculptures’ resembling shields, tools or weapons seem to suggest a poetic undertone to it. As the viewer wonders through Thorpe’s installation The Colonist, emotions come forward much stronger than the image as one feels paranoia, fragility, curiosity and a certain feeling of escape into imagination from the real world. Indeed, romantics Caspar David Friedrich and Albert Bierstadt are often cited as referents for Thorpe’s work.[2]

Landscape pictures of Friedrich, recognized as one of Germany’s leading painters, reflect the mood of the Romantic lyrical poetry of his time.[3] His infinitely lonely painting titled The Polar Sea [2], for example, is a haunting reflection of the artist’s own melancholy[4] echoing Thorpe’s apparent solitude and paranoia. Similarly, Bierstadt, born in Germany in 1830, and recognized as the foremost painter of the American frontier during the nineteenth-century, seems to explore the defeat of mankind against the might of nature in his painting titled The Shore of the Turqoise Sea [3]. With the Romantics emotion became an end in itself and Romantics like Friedrich and Bierstadt, who saw it as their purpose in life to raise landscape painting to new dignity[5], felt free to put their private visions on paper as up till the ‘Enlightenment’ only the poets had done.[6] Another painting by Bierstadt titled Mountain Brook, on the other hand, has been seen as an imagined ‘retreat’ from hard times (i.e., the American Civil War)[7][4]. The same ideas of security and distress resonate in Thorpe’s ‘insecure’ buildings hidden in the wilderness and his ‘war-conscious’ sculptures. “Many critics [also] viewed [Bierstadt’s] depictions an almost ‘religious’ experience, associating his mountain spires with majestic cathedrals, his luminous skies with the awesome power of God”[8] much like Friedrich’s landscapes.

Zaha Hadid, my second ‘artist’, burst into the architectural scene in the early 1980s with a series of spectacular designs embodied in even more spectacular drawings and paintings. In the brochure to her ‘painting’ exhibition, however, it is clearly stated that she prefers to see these large coloured canvases in the category of design drawings rather than as paintings, that she has no desire to be seen as a visual artist and that her paintings have never represented an attempt to escape from the discipline of architecture.[9] “[Still] most people recognize Hadid’s hand through the striking drawings and paintings that represent her work [5], [and] the beauty of her illustrations has obscured the fact that she is an architect who builds.”[10]

Despite Hadid’s understandable approach to her illustrations as an architect, I believe it is impossible not to see her fascinating large-scale illustrations as full-fledged paintings. Through solid shapes and colours that are impacted vertically and horizontally in a seemingly random fashion Hadid created landscapes which lead the viewer to the outskirts of their imagination and force them to perceive the landscape as we know it with a perspective not suited for the conventional eye. She experiments with the landscape and ‘scatters’ her structures on her canvases “exploring [it is said] the three-dimensional qualities of Malevich’s tektonik.”[11]

The Iraqi-born, English educated architect Zaha Hadid’s has been inspired by the revolutionary ideas of the Russian avant-garde, in particular the works of the Constructivist artist Vladimir Evgrafovic Tatlin and the Suprematist artist Kasimir Malevich.[12] A thorough account of Hadid’s conscious take on the Russian avant-garde is given in her exhibition pamphlet:

”One of the most significant features of the architectural avant-garde over the last twenty years has been the proliferation of representational media and design processes. [….] Hadid’s early large paintings were open fields where formal structures took shape through a process of gradual accumulation, fields that were worked and reworked for many weeks and even months, sometimes by whole teams of ‘painters’. Modern architecture thus depends upon the revolution within the visual arts that finally shook off the burden of representation. It was able to build upon the legacy of modern abstract art to conquer the previously unimaginable realm of constructive freedom. [….] The canvas became the field for original construction: a monumental breakthrough with enormous consequences for the whole of modern civilization.”][13]

In his own words Malevich described Suprematism to be the supremacy of pure feeling in creative art. To the Suprematist, the appropriate means of representation would always be the one which gives fullest possible expression to feeling as such and which ignores the familiar appearance of objects (e.g., Black Square [6], Amsterdam [7]). Feeling would be the determining factor and thus art would arrive at non-objective representation – at Suprematism, and would reach “desert” in which nothing could be perceived but feeling. According to Malevich, the Suprematists deliberately gave up the objective representation of their surroundings in order to view life through the prism of pure artistic feeling.[14]

Constructivists too did not see themselves as artists in the conventional sense, and the objects they produced were not to be construed as art.[15] Faktura, or the material aspect of the surface, was seen as the basic element of construction, in other words the peculiar property of the art work, while the external world was ‘perceived as a series of hints, a series of algebraic signs, as a collection of objects possessing volume, but not a material aspect, a factura.’[16] Tatlin, the other referent of Hadid and the founder of Russian Constructivist Art, best known for his tower design for the Monument to the Third International [8], conceived his sculptures in order to question the traditional idea of painting.

Thorpe seems to have been influenced by the ideas and tools of Constructivism as well, particularly in the conception of his sculptures in The Colonist [9]. Interestingly enough Thorpe’s latest exhibition connects with Hadid’s work not only through the influence of Modernism but also through Thorpe’s very interest in architectural references. Thorpe states that he has recently become interested in fringe architects like Bruce Goff who make organic architecture.[17]

In my exploration of the work by the aforementioned artists I feel that I have consolidated and put into better perspective some of the more important questions and interests I have about my art. I also believe that I have unearthed a number of topics which fascinate me and require further in depth research. Due to the limits of this assignment I reserve these topics for future investigation.

[1] David Thorpe, The Colonist, Meyer Riegger Galerie, 04/04/2004 – 05/15/2004.  Retrieved on January 8, 2005 from =en&cat=exib&exhib_id=57
[2] Catherine Wood (n.d.). David Thorpe. Frieze Reviews.  Retrieved January 3, 2005 from
[3] Gombrich, The Story of Art, pp. 375-376
[4] H.W. Janson and Anthony F. Janson, A Basic History of Art, New York, Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, 1987, p. 310
[5] E. H. Gombrich, The Story of Art, London, The Phaidon Press Ltd, 1966, p. 373
[6] Gombrich, The Story of Art, pp. 366
[7] Joseph Manca, Terrain of Freedom: American Art and the Civil War (Book Review), Journal of Southern History; 8/1/2003.  Retrieved on January 3, 2005 from
[8] Albert Bierstadt, Bigraphical Information.  Retrieved on January 9, 2005 from
[9] Patrick Schumacher, ‘The Graphic Space of Zaha Hadid’s Paintings’, in Gilbert Collection, Sommerset House, London, Zaha Hadid’s Paintings, 2004
[10] Essay by Aaron Betsky, Zaha Hadid, The Complete Buildings and Projects, Thames & Hudson Limited, 2002
[11] Zaha Hadid, The Complete Buildings and Projects, 2002
[12] Zaha Hadid’s ‘Paintings’, Gilbert Collection, 18 November 2004 – 16 January 2005.  Retrieved on January 4, 2005 from Zaha_hadid/index.html
[13] Patrick Schumacher, ‘The Graphic Space of Zaha Hadid’s Paintings’, in Gilbert Collection, Sommerset House, London, Zaha Hadid’s Paintings, 2004
[14] Malevich, The Non-Objective World, pp. 67-100 passim. in Herschel B. Chipp, Theories of Modern Art, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, University of California Press, 1984, pp. 341-346
[15] Fer, Batchelor, Wood, Realism, Rationalism, Surrealism, Art between the Wars, p. 108-109
[16] Shklovsky, ‘On faktura and counter-reliefs’, p. 341 in Fer, Batchelor, Wood, Realism, Rationalism, Surrealism, Art between the Wars, p. 100
[17] Artworks of the Week #1, David Thorpe @ Interim Art, Mark Sladen (a curator to the Barbican) talks to artist David Thorpe about his recent work Good People, retrieved on December 15, 2004 from
Slade School of Fine Art, Term Paper – January 10, 2005
1.            Artworks of the Week #1, David Thorpe @ Interim Art, Mark Sladen (a curator to the Barbican) talks to artist David Thorpe about his recent work Good People, retrieved on December 15, 2004 from /priview.html
2.            Bierstadt, Albert, Bigraphical Information.  Retrieved on January 9, 2005 from
3.            Fer, Batchelor, Wood, Realism, Rationalism, Surrealism, Art between the Wars
4.            Gombrich, E.H., The Story of Art, London, The Phaidon Press Ltd, 1966
5.            Hadid, Zaha, Istanbul, Garanti Galeri, Son Projeler, Recent Projects, November 30, 2004 – January 15, 2005
6.            Hadid, Zaha, The Complete Buildings and Projects,  Essay by Aaron Betsky, Thames & Hudson Limited, 2002
7.            Janson, H.W. and Janson, Anthony F., A Basic History of Art, New York, Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, 1987
8.            Malevich, The Non-Objective World, pp. 67-100 passim. in Herschel B. Chipp, Theories of Modern Art, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, University of California Press, 1984
9.            Manca, Joseph, Terrain of Freedom: American Art and the Civil War (Book Review), Journal of Southern History; 8/1/2003.  Retrieved on January 3, 2005 from
10.            Schumacher, Patrick, ‘The Graphic Space of Zaha Hadid’s Paintings’, in Gilbert Collection, Sommerset House, London, Zaha Hadid’s Paintings, 2004
11.            Thorpe, David, The Colonist, Meyer Riegger Galerie, 04/04/2004 – 05/15/2004.  Retrieved on January 8, 2005 from =en&cat=exib&exhib_id=57
12.            Wood, Catherine (n.d.). David Thorpe. Frieze Reviews.  Retrieved January 3, 2005 from
13.            Zaha Hadid’s ‘Paintings’, Gilbert Collection, 18 November 2004 – 16 January 2005.  Retrieved on January 4, 2005 from Zaha_hadid/index.html