It's all in the Stroke
This particular gallery experience was not what I expected. It was not that the gallery was inferior- Hauser & Wirth is an internationally recognised gallery located across several major cities- but that I had confused the dates of exhibiting artists! Expecting to see a gallery filled with Martin Creed and his balloons, puzzles and photography, I instead entered into the world of Guillermo Kuitca’s minimalist cubism. I stayed anyway.
I felt ill prepared and not certain how to interpret the works in front of me- they were all Untitled with only their positioning, dimensions and brushstrokes differentiating them. My hands were already occupied with my phone, oil prints and drink; I could not possibly read through the artwork guide as well. Relying on my observations, I left this gallery experience to chance.
The artworks were very minimal and I did not want to spend too much time deciding which ones were aesthetically pleasing so I leaned in close and tried to guess how many layers of paint was used and the spaces each work depicted. Did you know that oil paintings take over two days to dry? I also tried to imagine how the artist held the brush, how much pressure he applied and the manner in which he created the brushstrokes. Admittedly, brushstrokes are a peculiar aspect for a non-painter to be fascinated with.
I later read that Kuitca is known for shifting from gestural mark-making to linear precision and incorporating diverse motifs which were mostly fragmented architectural plans and cartographies. The works exhibited were redolent of earlier works from 80s and 90s with architectural components. Supposedly, they also depicted the human figure.
I did not see this ‘human figure’ last Thursday evening and began to wonder if I had completely missed the point of the exhibition. I was relieved to discover that the ‘human figure’ aspect was not an obvious one but was developed in the artist’s cubistoid style in my research. Kuitca’s segmented forms and angular patterns were constructed by human movement where he marked the canvases with short diagonal strokes as he paced to and fro. For Kuitca, the human form was represented in each brushstroke and for me- I was triumphant that I paid attention to one of the aspects that made his work arguably so unique.
The beauty of art is its subjectivity and its invitation to have a personal experience different to that of the person standing in front of you. I wonder what these people were thinking? Did they manage to read the artwork guide or were they relying on their observations as well?
The gallery filled quite quickly with what seemed to be potential buyers and there was no longer room for my speculations and me. Maybe the lack of prosecco dulled the experience, but the oil samples were a good memento of the evening and permanently gained a place in my room.