This exhibition brings together five artists who have made works relating to the Tree. Throughout history Trees have held a particular fascination for artists not least because of the associated ideas of growth, nature resonating with human development and legacy.
On 18th April 2018, The Ashmolean Museum, the world’s oldest, put on display Ibrahim El-Salahi’s Meditation Tree, the first sculpture by the legendary modernist as part of his solo exhibition currently on display until September 2018. It fulfils his long-held ambition to render his drawn images in three dimensions and to play with their scale. The Tree series, which runs from the turn of the century to today (albeit with earlier incarnations), was inspired by the characteristics of a peculiar type of acacia tree called Haraz, indigenous to Sudan. It grows along the banks of the Nile and displays unique and inspirational characteristics. This series is an on-going investigation of the tree / body metaphor, a link between heaven and earth, creator and created; controlled meditations with the emphasis on the spiritual. It can also be viewed as a self-portrait and as a metaphor for artistic identity.
“It has been some time now, since I think the year 2000, that the idea came to me about this tree called Haraz… it’s a huge tree with a very, very soft pulp – and there is a legend around it. They say that Haraz tree fought against the rain. Because during the rainy season and the flooding of the Nile, it is completely dry, with dry leaves, nothing at all… then during the drought it comes out with blooms and with fruit and everything. This is the definitive statement. Like saying, ‘I am me! I am an individual! I do not follow what everyone is doing!... When everyone is going to be green let them be green, I am not.”
Ibrahim El-Salahi, A Visionary Modernist, Edited by Salah M. Hassan, Museum of African Art, 2012 / Tate Modern 2013.
Vigo will show the large oak Tree for the first time in this exhibition alongside the edition in aluminium (ed of 8). For museums and sculpture parks it is possible to commission large versions in different sizes which are carved in wood and then blackened using a Japanese technique called Shou Sugi Ban so that they work both indoors and outdoors in many environments. The first 10ft Tree was made in oak and features in the show. A second smaller version will be shown at Masterpiece which is 8ft and will be made using the same technique but in Douglas Fir instead of oak.
Ibrahim El-Salahi (b. 1930, Omdurman, Sudan) lives and works in Oxford, England. He was the subject of a major solo retrospective at Tate Modern in 2013, the first given by the museum to an African-born artist. He received the Prince Claus Award in 2001, and his most recent solo show at the Prince Claus Fund in the Netherlands curated by Salah Hassan has just finished. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago; The Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC; The British Museum, London; Tate Modern, London; The Guggenheim Museum, Abu Dhabi; Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE; The National Gallery, Berlin, and many others.
Daniel Crews-Chubb uses imagery that is repeated throughout history in different cultural contexts to create a conceptual figurative framework for his exploration of painting. The lions, the nudes, chariots, trees, deities and mythical characters are loosely rendered in his large-scale, mixed media works made through drawing, collage and painting. They embody a search for the authentic, the raw and the unrefined, and are subtly influenced by image-led consumer culture, Modernist painting, and the history of mark- making, from cave painting to expressionism and neo expressionism.
His repetition of figurative motifs becomes a vehicle for exploring the act of painting itself utilizing a repertoire of seemingly casual marks that are, in fact, worked and reworked to create hard worn, layered paintings that only achieve their final form when he arrives at a sense of balance or ‘rightness’. He uses oils, acrylics, spray paint, sand, charcoal and pastel with abandon on rough, stretched and re-stretched canvases, that he often scrapes back and over-paints many times.
"There is a visceral, even carnal, reaction to his work that feels as if it has been painted with mud and patina'd by time." -Mardee Goff, Curator, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art.
Crews-Chubb has drawn from his personal lexicon to create his most recent series of ‘Forest Paintings’. Large in scale, they depict hybrid forest creatures in fantastical landscapes, inspired by his travels and love of ancient artefacts. These paintings reference imagery as diverse as the sacred monkey forest in Ubud (Bali), Pre/ Colombian artefacts from his research in Mexico, through to the illustrations of flora and fauna from The Voynich manuscript - an illustrated codex hand-written in an unknown writing system from the 15th century. The Forest or Tree as a metaphor for growth and potential is of course a well-trodden artistic inspiration for good reason.
“Art is open to interpretation, for me it’s a personal journey as a maker, ideas overlap and change in the making, some days you don’t know whether you are going forwards or backwards with a painting, each decision is a reaction to the last - it’s all part of the process. I like to show these decisions, they are apparent on the surface. What is left is a painting that in its finished satire shows the viewer a moment in its production, it relates to being a human being with lots of questions, but not many answers” Daniel Crews-Chubb
Drew is known for wall based abstract sculptural installations most often based on the exploration and testing of the grid structure. These works incorporate created, manipulated and found materials constructed from fabricated wood, sheet metal, tree branches, roots, paper, raw cotton, rust, found objects and mud. These materials, his paint box in effect, are used to create work, which explores the environment, existence, history and memory.
Drew explores the themes he has developed over the last few years, breaking free from and manipulating the order of the grid whilst never quite fully escaping its core sanctity. Number 142L for example is comprised of a system of expansive small wooden elements, each fastidiously laid like a growing mosaic, emanating from the form like the bark of a rare ambiguous tree. It is a subtle, condensed and concentrated eruption of shapes and matter that displays a refined awareness and confidence of form. These works feel like New York trees made up of the man-made, natural found wood and the man made which has been softened and shaped by its history and experience. This body of work continues to explore the mutability of the natural world and cyclical nature of existence and the three black gesso works here displayed are of the same ilk as a work recently acquired by Tate Modern and currently touring museums in the States as part of the Pamela Joyner collection.
Drews work can be found in The Tate, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC), The Guggenheim Museum (NYC and Bilbao) St. Louis Museum, The Harvard University Art Museum, McNay Art Museum., Museum of Contemporary Art (Miami, The Weatherspoon Museum, The Barbara Toll Collection, The Rubell Collection, The Hort Family Collection, The Linda Pace Foundation, The Frankel Collection, Decordova Sculpture Park and Museum (Lincoln USA), Madison Art Cente, San Francisco Art Institute, the Museum of Fine Arts (Virginia), The Studio Museum in Harlem (New York), The Art Museum of the University of Houston, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution (Washington), Saint Louis Art Museum (Saint Louis), Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University (NY) Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, Columbus Museum, Knoxville Museum of Art and the Zacheta National Gallery of Art (Poland).
Following Duncan MacAskill’s third show at Vigo where he showed his DNA paintings conceived in the early nineties when RNA and DNA were a topical issue the sculpture exhibited was made in 1993 as part of an art installation for Nicole Farhi’s first shop.
The DNA paintings consisted of abstract marks, which echo the horizontal, slot-like patterning of discarded DNA gels. Fascinated conceptually, by how we are all an amalgamation of virtually identical constituent parts, yet at once all radically different, he sees these discarded unreferenced gels as visual abstractions of an individual’s genetic makeup, - comprehendible by an expert yet just shapes to the layman. They act as potent visual source for an artist preoccupied with what is left behind; incidental traces of life, movement and time. Using thinly cut pieces of card to apply the slivers of paint to his canvases, each work in the series shares a common thread of repetitive technique/ process associated with scientific investigation but cannot escape the crafted element of MacAskill's mark making. Like the DNA gels each one fundamentally looks similar but is essentially unique.
These are abstract portraits of unknown sitters, a tribute to both our strong commonality and total uniqueness. The Tree is a three-dimensional part of this series but in this case the elements of the sculpture are object trouves of metal found discarded by industry and collected on the streets.
Duncan MacAskill is a London-based visual artist whose work has been presented in a range of contexts, including a large-scale commission for Sadlers Wells and installations at Wapping Power Station, drawing collaborators from backgrounds spanning dance, theatre and sound.
For further information please contact Pia Austin-Little firstname.lastname@example.org.