Conceptual Art: his concept or mine?
This exhibition is called Some Dimension of my Lunch: Conceptual Art in Britain. Tickled by the name, I was convinced the artist was not just an artist, but also a realist.
According to the gallery assistant, the title came from Ed Herring, a pioneering British conceptual artist. He had famously taken dimensions of his sandwich and exhibited them at the Tate.
The private viewing at the Richard Saltoun Gallery was the first of a 4 part series exhibiting celebrated conceptual artists of Britain. Roelof Louw, the artist featured in part 1 of the series is South African but is considered to be one of the most radical conceptual sculptors working in England during the 60s and 70s. Having studied at St Martins and exhibited across western Europe, USA, Canada, Cape Town and Tokyo, Louw is well known and respected. Still a novice to the art scene, I only became acquainted with him last week.
In preparation for my visit to the gallery, I researched Louw’s most sensational work, Soul City (Pyramid of Oranges). Consisting of 8,000 oranges, the press recently named it under ’10 most perplexing works of the twentieth century.’ Visitors were encouraged to help themselves to an orange as the supply was frequently replenished. I contemplated the construction of the piece; whether Louw chose oranges for their shape and whether the interactive element was genius or destructive to the concept. At a rate of £5 per orange, this artwork was easily one of the most expensive conceptual pieces at the Tate exhibition.
I entertained the possibility that the oranges represent individuals in society; the porous peel is synonymous to skin and the innards synonymous to flesh. These individuals are on display and susceptible to the will of others; the steady removal and replenishment of the oranges has an involuntary aspect to it. ‘Others’ include the malevolent and benevolent contributors.
Curious by nature, I did not hesitate to find myself in the middle of this interactive piece. Was this piece an invitation to get tangled- mentally and physically? It was possible the roping represented confinement of individuals where our movement is decided partly by agency, partly by fate. Does every conceptual artwork pertain to an individual’s relationship to society?
I was disappointed not to see a replica of Soul City at the private view, but was intrigued by what I did see that evening.
Although I was uncertain of the concepts behind the artworks, I revelled in my confusion and enjoyed making the assumptions that I did. I may not have gone home with an orange, but I most certainly enjoyed a glass of prosecco.