I have been wanting to go to the White Cube Galleries for a while. There are two you see, a large one in London Bridge and a Smaller one in St James’.
I visited the St James’ one in early October , during the Vapours of Gasoline exhibition. The gallery itself is located in Mason’s Yard. One of the small London squares that you can easily walk pass the entrance to if you are not paying attention. The outside of the square is populated by expensive galleries, antique dealers and the like. Squatting in the centre is the a white and grey rectangular build, which is the gallery itself.
It is quite an ugly thing, more so for the incongruity of the setting. The space inside is pretty good though. On the ground floor you have a small squarish gallery and the downstairs, another small gallery and then a larger rectangular space. It is well lit and all very professional.
The show itself was rubbish. Very conceptual with the quite interesting when you first see it but then leaving you with nothing. So there were bath or sink drains set into the wall, neon portrait of two people shooting each other, an old cathode ray tv set not showing anything, oh and various canvases with bad jokes typed on them. Also there is porn. One of the downstairs rooms is just black and white porn photos. Shock and no substance. My favourite thing was a pipe with two pairs of handcuffs attached to it. No its not very good but it was my favourite thing.
It was one of those shows which you struggle to remember anything after you leave.
Then a few weeks later I went to the other branch in Bermondsey. It is a much bigger gallery, done up in a similar style, all polished concrete and white walls. A quiet and calming space. There are basically three rooms. The exhibition described here is on display until 12th November 2017.
In the first one which is called 9x9x9 is a light sculpture by Cerith Wyn Evans. It hangs, chandelier like in the centre of the room, framed very well by the door frame. You can enter and circle round it as it oscilates slightly in the breeze. A good light sculpture must have an interesting form that reveals itself as you see it from different angels. It also, and this is very important, must not be so bright that you cannot look at it for too long. The shapes of the bulbs themselves must be interesting and show some skill in assembly. This has all of these.
The largest gallery is the South Gallery. This features a large number of works by Damien Ortega. 29 of them in fact. Its good stuff. It can broadly be separated into the following categories. The first is casts of packaging done in concrete (a bit like Rachel Whiteread) but the casts are done of both sides to create a composite form. I liked these, particularly the way they were laid out with the objects from which they were cast.
The next categories are pseudoscience posters. I quite like this kind of stuff. I like the idea of an entirely imagined science and some of these put this forward in an interesting way.
Fitting in with this theme are a number of sculptures arranged like atoms, or planets. My favourite of these was a circular arrangement of concentric concrete slabs, arranged like an ancient amphitheater. You could saunter into the centre and swirl round to see it all.
Another one I greatly appreciated was a series of different sized concrete balls. There was an intriguing feature of this is that wherever you stood some of the smaller balls were always obscured by the larger so you could never see the whole from one place. This is an ancient Buddhist idea and nice to see it done again.
The final feature were three clock work type sculptures. Two were in fact identical but one was on its side while the other is vertical.
I spent allot of time in this room examining the various pieces and thought they were all good. You see this is how to do conceptual art. It doesn’t have to be entry and vapid. The ideas can have layers of meaning backed up with a skillful delivery.
The final gallery was the slightly smaller North Gallery which contained the work of Ann Veronica Janssens. The first thing that caught my eye was a Venetian blind sprayed gold. Initially I scoffed at this but I decided that I liked it after all.
Then there was a plastic box with water in it and two fluorescent rectangular door type things. The room is cunningly lit with a rainbowish light and this light interacts with all of the exhibits, especially the spray of chalk like substance on the floor.
I would happily see works by all of these people again. White Cube lowered and then raised my opinion of conceptual art.
On my way up I picked on the “fact sheets” about each artist. My goodness the pretension!
Incidentally on 11th November from 17:00 I am taking part in a group show at the Broomill pub. Details here and below.
William John Mackenzie
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.