Woven; Frieze’s different bodies

By Sophie Field

In the wake of Frieze art week in London, we look back at some of the highlights.

In three beautiful installations, Cent looks at new and innovative ways of thinking about humanity- with deconstructed and reassembled visions of different ‘bodies’ -at the very core of their work.

ETRO and Patrick Tresset

Etro marks its’ 50th Anniversary this year. And to celebrate they have collaborated with artist Patrick Tresset to provide us with the most fascinating installation, “Absent Minded”, where art meets robotics.

Beginning in 1968, when Gerolamo “Gimmo” Etro established the Italian textile design company, translating his love for travel, culture and pattern into his clothes, the brand developed to produce leather goods, homeware and clothing lines becoming the Global Fashion House as we now know it. The Paisley Print which Etro has become synonymous with, is the result of an exquisite blend of textiles from around the globe, originally found in Mesopotamian, Indian and Celtic prints, with the creative process, design and research woven intricately and sensorily into their clothing.

To mark its 50th Birthday, ETRO exhibits a pair of robotic installations, titled ‘Absent Minded’, at their London Boutique on Bond Street, capable of artistry and portraiture. One robot found in the stores’ window continuously draws elements of still life of the artist and Etro’s accessories, whilst the other, found in the heart of the store, draws guests’ portraits, in a 7-minute performance.

image006 (1)Patrick Tresset “Absent Minded”, Portrait of man, 2018

Jacopo Etro, Creative Director of the ETRO accessories, leather, home and textiles collections, describes his criterion for Etro’s yearly collaboration (now running for its’ 5th year) with a chosen artist as wanting something “a little out of the ordinary”. Etro is inherently concerned with design and craftsmanship, but also in the use of technology to take and pull it in new and interesting directions. When sat with Jacopo Etro, he explained his fascination with Patrick Tresset and his work:

 “to tell you the truth I have a very bad relationship with technology. I have been wearing my watch, the same watch, Swatch, for the past 25 years. (…)  Now it has gone out of production. So, I had to switch to a new watch. (points to wrist- an Apple watch). I am trying to cope with technology. So, the idea that an artist can somehow use a means of technology is for me, not a shock, but totally unexpected. And I got totally fascinated by all of this and I started to study him{Patrick Tresset}. (…) It’s a new way to approach art. The future is very unexpected. The human species is developing so much.”

Composed of body (school desk), artists hand (robotic arm bolted to the table), and creative eye (camera); Patrick Tresset’s robot can seemingly see, interpret and create. The machine appears to first scan and assemble physical and visual information about their subject as would an artist before beginning their piece of work. An artistic ‘step-back’ if you will. It then begins to draw, in a series of seemingly obsessive and repetitive gestures, similar to the personal and learned strokes of any individual artist.

But perhaps there is more than meets the human eye.

In fact, these robotic installations are actors. They mimic, pretend, act out the human process of creation, programmed by Patrick Tresset to convince their audience of their ‘realness’, in a brief and wonderful suspension of disbelief. For that is, after all, what we do as humans; project meaning, drawing on nostalgia and personal experience, onto that which we see before us.

IMG 1Patrick Tresset “Absent Minded”, Portrait of woman, 2018

Patrick Tresset describes drawings as “things that are made over time from the result of decisions, intentions; from the artist that leaves their memory on the paper”. In this case, the purposeful nervous quality of the gestures and the camera moving back and forth from individual to paper, as would a human eye, convince us that the machine before us can see, feel, hear and create as would any other human. Yet the independent robot does not exist, as Patrick Tresset carefully reminds us, and the author is not just the robotic arm you see before you, but both artist and programme combined. Robots and technology are purely another medium from which to produce Tresset’s art; a pen, a paintbrush, a tool.

This installation is not a commentary on robotics and technology itself, but a commentary on humanity and the creative process. The public sphere of the exhibition, where the public becomes part of the installation itself, creates a conversation; between audience member and themselves, with the robot and artist alike. We are perhaps asked to examine ourselves and our own projections more-so than the robot which initially impresses.

James Webster “Martyrs”

A sea of closed eyes. A wall of upturned faces and pained expression. A peripheral glimpse of genitalia.

Photo Credit - Vianney Le CaerContact - v@vlecaer.comMartyrs by James B. Webster, Porcelain & cement, 2018,Photo by V Le Caer, courtesy of Art Sablon

In this installation presented by Tomasso Brothers & Art Sablon opening in accordance with Frieze, British Sculptor James Benjamin Webster gives us “Martyrs”, porcelain busts inspired by Herma sculptures from the Roman Era.

Born and raised in Suffolk, James B. Webster moved to Florence, Italy to study sculpture under the guidance and teachings of Marian Lucchetti. Yet his new work is the beautiful composite of both the old and new.  Set in the heart of the Art Sablon Gallery, immersed and surrounded by classical art, “Martyrs” repositions the mythical creatures ‘Herma’ within a more contemporary gaze.

Inspired by the tragic events of the Manchester bombing and London Bridge attacks, Webster explores notions of sacrifice, contemporary fears and dangers. He explains that being a gay man can often engender its’ own specific dangers in our modern world as a result of the belief systems of others and so explores the martyrs that sacrifice themselves or are killed for their beliefs.

His previous work exposes a real interest in anatomy and in this installation, he explores the deconstructed body. Re-assembled within the realms and ‘relics’ of art, his “martyrs” are composed of a sculpted head; eyes often closed and with an expression that masterfully captures something caught between pain and pleasure. Their bodies are composed of 4 sided marble podiums, and genitalia attached and positioned at the middle.

Photo Credit - Vianney Le CaerContact - v@vlecaer.comMartyrs by James B. Webster, Porcelain & cement, 2018, Photo by V Le Caer, courtesy of Art Sablon

Beginning with a terracotta mould, Webster creates a plaster into which he then pours limoge porcelain, a material he describes as survivable and resistant to the effects of time whilst providing an important range of movement. He then works over the surface, eventually creating these intricate, fine and almost tangibly real works of art.

The artist questions the martyrs that have died for our rights and the ways we live now, as well as the way sculpture is revered. The Greek Herms were talismans, sculptures of heads, placed above a plain and landscape, believed to bring protection and safety to travellers. These four-sided columns, were a tribute to Hermes’, God of Travel, sacred number 4, and were sculptures to which to give thanks.

Photo Credit - Vianney Le CaerContact - v@vlecaer.comMartyrs by James B. Webster, Porcelain & cement, 2018, Photo by V Le Caer, courtesy of Art Sablon

Webster plays with this structure, positioning genitals and head in the middle and on top of the podiums accordingly; creating the illusion of the column as body itself. He breaks down human anatomy giving utmost importance to the reproductive and the neurological, as well as to the physically diverse and ‘accurate’.

The expressions capture a beautiful anguish, somewhere between life and death, between pain and pleasure; the fleeting moment, decision and resignation to die.

Sam Lewitt “CORE (“the work”)

Sand models of intricate detail. Mini kingdoms of cogs, parts, screws and wheels within themselves, placed on wooden crates as if part of a factory.

Sam Lewitt presented his work CORE (“the work”) as part of the artistic initiative BMW Open Work, curated by Attilia Fattori Franchini, at Frieze London this October. For its’ second year running, BMW invited one artist to exhibit artwork that enters into a dialogue with the company.

P90312208_highRes_bmw-open-work-by-fri[1] (1)Sam Lewitt-Open Work

The collaboration and title “Open Work”, takes inspiration from Umberto Eco’s essay by the same name, which looks at art as both open and closed, whether as a single meaning and definition from the artist themselves or open to public interpretation. Work looks at the idea of creation itself-the process- behind any object, artwork or engine alike.

In this case, Sam Lewitt, an artist interested in unveiling the elements and the inner workings of institutions, looks at the manufacturing cycle of the motor engine as an engine within its own right. An engine of a system. Using sand and aluminium, traditional and archaic casting materials, Lewitt presents beautiful sculptures of the very inner workings of the engines where nothing is left undetailed. Incredibly fine piping, corners, cogs, spins and the minute and particular motor parts are all realised in beautiful and fragile finishings. There is a real sense that should you touch the work it would all crumble away. In an interesting presentation of fragility within the stable, Sam Lewitt makes visible the often invisible, the inner core.

P90320955_highRes_sam-lewitt-material-[1]Sam Lewitt-Sand

BMW produce a mould of the pathways of the engine, into which aluminium would next be poured, hardening; so the inner core of sand could then be broken or shaken off. Sam Lewitt performs a flip-reverse of the process, exposing the building blocks of the end piece engine. In a clever “Mise en Abyme” of the production process as well as the commissioning of art itself, Sam Lewitt’s end product encapsulates both the beginnings and ends of the BMW engine.

Yet Sam Lewitt makes clear that this is a work based on rights and obligations, request and contractual agreements. He takes something that comes directly from BMW’s production line, and using art, is able to rework the property rights. and with this, the object itself. Lewitt exhibits two identical pieces in this installation, with the one entitled “work” belonging to him whilst the other belongs to BMW. He exposes the contract for the commission more so than what was commissioned itself- with the social relations inherent to the body of work becoming his medium, his tool.

In such Open Work, considers art, the artist, the commissioned and the commissioner, the set of rights and obligations within, the car, the history of the car, the inside, the outside and all that in-between. We are met with the visualisation of something so pertinent to our realities and yet so seemingly alien. Sam Lewitt makes visible the invisible building blocks of art, work and life.







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