Tim Shaw at Anima Mundi – Corrections from the curator
Highlighted in red are Anima Mundi’s factual correctios and criticisms from the original review:
Tim Shaw’s exhibition Fag An Beach in Irish means ‘Clear The Way’. He is a sculptor who has shown in San Diego, California and had a year long residency in Bonn, Germany, which is probably why the Breakdown Clown, an animatronic large figure which one encounters here, speaks some words in German.
It’s quite a scary experience to meet this large personage, described in the gallery notes as androgynous but appearing to me as male, deep voiced and with moving eyes (does voice or eye movement expose gender specificity? Perhaps more nuance is required and expected in this day and age at a time where gender issues are so combustible and divisive?). Would he (is this not a provocative and presumptuous pronoun in light of the androgynous specification of the work?) suddenly strike out with his (again pronoun) arms or lurch forward more than the few inches that he (pronoun) does as he (again) addresses the room with a melancholy and menacing impact, intoning about the purpose of life, about being a shape-shifter and inviting a response?
I was told at the preview this figure reacted to visitors but it was not working as well by the second day (How so?). It’s made of some probably ecologically unsound polystyrene-like material (it is not polystyrene, your points are that this material is probably ecologically unsound as opposed to oil or acrylic paint for example? What materials are ecologically ethical? Is this comment made to question the artists or galleries ethical or ecological credentials?) and unattractively naked, except instead of genitals it has a curious curved crescent appendage (I refer you to the history of art, in terms of prior representation of the human form which is ubiquitous, questions of ‘attractiveness’ are obviously purely subjective if indeed relevant in terms of aesthetic credibility). It calls itself a clown and strangely says that we never left the garden of Eden. It’s a menacing figure: the machine workings are partly visible and yet it still seems lonely and grim (despite the visible workings it still seems lonely and grim? The sentence doesn’t seem to make much sense?). The meaning is ambiguous. (If this is intended as criticism is art / poetry not an ambiguous artform requiring a little unpacking?)
On the next floor up are two smooth blue (green) bronze heads – the same but one small facing one larger (therefor they are not the same, they are formed by hand, as you say they are different scales, so are inherently different). They are accordingly priced by size at £6,500 and £50,000 (curious and unusual for a critic to mention prices?). There are also figures based on Northern. Irish Mummers that the artist has seen perform, now in safer times than when as a child Tim Shaw experienced a bomb going off in a cafe.
He later made Mother The Air Is Blue; The Air Is Dangerous – an installation shown at The Exchange, Penzance, a few years ago which was very powerful as the viewer was plunged into the experience using moving images (it was a multimedia sculptural installation that incorporated projection). That piece had a reality and impact not matched by this show, in which Tim Shaw uses mythic figures and refers to shamanic ritual, which must mean a lot to him but is not part of most folks’ way of dealing with the modern world (so bafflingly vague and utter unfounded conjecture?). In Cornwall we do have continuing traditions such as Montol (Montol is a recently founded ceremony, based on paganesque ritual, it isnt an old festival it was founded in 2007), the meaning of which was once part of society; though today our reconstructions are more enthusiastic gestures to a mysterious past set of beliefs than rituals used to deal with present crises (again inaccurate as Tim eludes to in his email).
On the top floor another large figure stands in the middle of a circle of charred wood which on its own would resemble a Richard Long. This piece is this artist’s way of responding to Gilbert and George’s recent cursing of the Royal Academy, of which Tim Shaw is a member, when their latest work was rejected (not true, that isnt why they cursed it). Plans are to burn Shaw’s wooden construction at the end of the show – at an outdoor location. Tim Shaw lives in Cornwall and here we get a rare opportunity to see premiered the work of a local internationally known artist.
I respect his intention to deal with serious contemporary issues but I find the results, although memorable and thought provoking, rather sidetracked by his love of archetypal symbols that are outrageously out of tune with contemporary life and that I find are ultimately taking refuge in grotesque imaginings. (Ditto in response to Tim’s response)