On a recent visit to Cluj, Romania’s hippest art scene, I was charmed by an indulgent visit to Fabrica de Pensule (the Paintbrush Factory). Overall I was struck by the brave, clean and minimal presentation – matching that of any hip gallery in NY, Paris, London or Berlin – of the show at Plan B gallery. It was curated by Ciprian Mureșan and titled Domino Dancing. The selection of artists including Mureșan (b.1977), were Tom Chamberlain (b. 1973), Cătălin Ilie (b. 1982), Esra Œzen (b.1986), and Lucía Simón (b.1987).
The piece that was familiar to my own sensibilities was Simón’s Sin titulo (the table). A simple wooden table, with a collection of (Quercus Rubra L) leaves dangling along its edge, and scattered naturally around the surrounding floor (thanks to the slightest breeze of visitors’ movements nudging them off, or perhaps, a gusty entrance).
The rest of the exhibition seemed to fall quite heavily around this playful centrepiece. The other works (including more of Simóns) were carefully lined up and positioned together, they all seemed a little too heavy and square, and neat, and categorized, and grid-like, and Domino-y, more reminiscent of Carl André or a blog, than a tree.
And because I hate International Art English, because it is everywhere and that bores me, this is simply an authentic opinion piece, which will hopefully stick out. And what stuck out for me amongst all the lines and squares was the naturalness of the table.
At first I found the piece witty, almost a pun. Now puns as a language joke (verbal or written) are usually pretty simple and a little deflating. However, since Duchamp, Magritte and even Sarah Lucas, I have found the odd visual version of combining two or more meanings, possesses a more effective comic relief than the ‘joke’ equivalent. And the innuendo in Simón’s work seemed to be layered with more levels and combinations of meanings than I initially thought. For example: nature and the seasonal process plus art and the artistic process.
The table could fit into multiple histories of artistic movements and mediums – sculpture, ready-made, natural, landscape, minimal, conceptual, interactive, and kinetic art, and perhaps a few others. But also, perhaps most importantly, the pre-historic, and preparation of art, meaning: drawing.
The connection here is due to the natural process of trees and their alternate final outcome, paper. Plus the natural process of the creation of art and the artist, and since we have touched on puns I trust you will allow the cliché.
Artist sitting at his table and staring in contemplation at the falling autumn leaves, having a break from some the unsatisfying struggle so far. The open window welcomes the autumn wind, gently nudging some paper off the edge of the table. The Artist stands to close the window and whilst viewing the falling leaves makes a connection with the falling paper and has his Newtonian Epiphany! A quick new sketch – the big idea: capturing the subtle suggestion from nature for a new work. Followed by the gathering of material and playing around in studio and discovering failures and potentials. Finally, when satisfied all wrapped up in a neat package and exhibited in gallery.
Or is it just a simple pun? Clean and brave, matching the surrounding minimalism.
As it was time for me to take my leave, after our viewing, I re-read the press release and noticed the final (punch) line for the show …
The game ends when the leaves have fallen.
Domino Dancing was at Plan B Gallery Cluj between 28 November, 2014 – 17 January, 2015.
David M Gibson, born 1982, is a retired illustrator, recent Visual Communication MA graduate from the Royal College of Art and wants to be a writer....